I’ve often been critical of Politifact and other “fact-checking” operations, so Scott Johnson’s case study in how that outfit operates is no surprise to me. It’s quite instructive though. Johnson corresponded with two different experts who Politifact asked to comment on Mitt Romney’s statement that our navy is weaker than it’s been since 1917, and our air force is weaker than it’s been since 1947. Both experts told Politifact’s Louis Jacobsen that the claim was true. For example, Ted Bromund told him:
(1) This is not just technically true. It is actually true (unless you want to ding the Governor for saying 1917 when he should have said 1916). . .
(2) I find it a bit depressing that you only list considerations that — if they applied — would tend to make the Governor’s statement less accurate. I trust that you’ll also look for contextual factors that would add to his argument. . .
Considering all the technical, strategic, geopolitical, and cultural factors involved in US force structure would require a book, and involves judgments that are well beyond fact-checking. As a matter of fact, the Governor’s statement is correct.
Unfortunately (but unsurprisingly), Bromund’s trust was misplaced. Jacobsen continued shopping for experts until he found some who would say what he wanted. The result: He rated Romney’s accurate statement, not just false, but “pants on fire”.