PolitiFiction

The Wall Street Journal is piling on to the St. Petersburg Times’s PolitiFact for labeling “a government takeover of health care” as its “lie of the year”:

So the watchdog news outfit called PolitiFact has decided that its “lie of the year” is the phrase “a government takeover of health care.” Ordinarily, lies need verbs and we’d leave the media criticism to others, but the White House has decided that PolitiFact’s writ should be heard across the land and those words forever banished to describe ObamaCare.

It’s a good (if petty) point that a sentence fragment can’t really be a lie. But we’ll set that aside because the important point is that Obamacare is a de facto government takeover of health care.

I’ve noted that many times before (for example). What I want to note here is that the St. Petersburg Times seems to have made a major blunder. Their PolitiFact bit has been, all along, not about truth but about grading statements for ideological correctness from the liberal perspective, leavened with some straight-up fact checking to build credibility.

Their strategy works only as long as they can maintain their credibility. So far they’ve managed to do so. Around the last election they had an entire piece on NPR in which they debunked a bunch of Republican “lies” (and I think one or two Democratic ones in order to maintain credibility).

ASIDE: In that NPR piece (which I never blogged because I couldn’t find a transcript or audio online) they gave their worst “pants on fire” rating to a Republican Senate candidate (I think it was Dan Coats, but I don’t remember for sure) who said that Obamacare was going to force seniors into a government-run health care plan. This was absurd, they said, because Medicare already is a government-run health care plan. But that ignores Medicare Advantage, which is privately run. Obamacare imposes severe cuts on Medicare Advantage that essentially kill the program, which will force its participants into ordinary (government-run) Medicare. The cuts to Medicare Advantage were a big deal: Medicare Advantage represents almost a fifth of Medicare, and Senate Democrats had to agree to exempt Florida seniors from the cuts to get Bill Nelson’s vote for the bill. (The exemption was later revoked as part of the reconciliation shenanigans.)

By making such a patently indefensible statement in such a high-profile way, I think the St. Petersburg Times has gone a bridge too far. People are now noticing that PolitiFact (which they also call their Truth-o-meter) is anything but a fact check. It is now going to be common knowledge on the right side of the political spectrum that PolitiFact is worthless and Republicans will have ready ammunition to refute PolitiFact’s future pronouncements.

POSTSCRIPT: Reason is piling on as well, noting all the lies from the left that PolitiFact had to pass up.

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