Earlier today, I wrote an article highlighting how Texas Senator Ted Cruz took PolitiFact to the mat when they tried to rate something he said as “false” using arbitrary means. In the end, PolitiFact was not only proven false with their claim themselves, but it also exposed one of the biggest ways in which they generate false narratives in favor of the Democrat party.
The same principle that I’ve been repeatedly declaring about the media also applies to PolitiFact. It’s not a public service here for the good of our country, it’s a business with an agenda. It has a very clear bias, and that bias decides what it rates and how it rates things. This applies to pretty much any mainstream fact-checking site, including Snopes and Washington Post “fact-checker” Glenn Kessler.
But I want to make sure one of the biggest tactics in their playbook is clearly highlighted, and moreover, I want it to become something of a part of their brand name. “Pulling a PolitiFact” should be a common phrase when it happens.
The tactic is simple. Take a fact that’s inconvenient to the left in some way — it may be a narrative or a piece of history revolving around a popular leftist figure — then take the troubling issue and label it as “false” by zeroing in on something small like the way something was worded or even take a single tweet and make the issue revolve around something said within it. You then write an entire article around it but make sure that the headline makes it seem like the entire story is false. This includes the subsequent tweet.
Here are a few examples of what I mean.
Fox News’s senior political analyst Brit Hume once said that President Joe Biden was “senile” when describing his debate performances and noted that people suffering from senility can be fine for hours a time. His prediction was that if Biden does perform well at the debates, it will go a long way in proving his detractors wrong about the effects his age is having on him.
PolitiFact decided to jump on Hume’s use of the word “senile” and wrote an article with the headline “Geriatrics experts say Brit Hume’s claim that Joe Biden is ‘senile’ is wrong.” As you can imagine, they rated Hume’s claims as “false,” but reading the article itself shows the PolitiFact sleight-of-hand move we’re discussing there, by making senility into a broader term than Hume intended:
Senility is not a precise medical term, but is often used in place of the more precise and accepted medical term of “dementia,” said Kenneth Langa, Cyrus Sturgis Professor of Medicine at the University of Michigan Medical School.
Jurivich also said that decades ago, “doctors lacking knowledge at the time may have used the term ‘senile dementia’ as (a) component of aging, which we now know to be untrue.”
PolitiFact took Hume’s word “senile” and morphed it to make it seem like he claimed Biden had dementia, which doctors who looked at Biden said he didn’t have. With that bit of false premise, PolitiFact was able to rate Hume’s claim of senility as “false,” and made the headline and tweet make it seem as if Biden is not at all senile or suffering from mental degradation due to age.
Hume called out PolitiFact and made it clear that when he used the term “senile” that he meant the very definition of the word.
In fact I was using the word in its normal meaning, as per Merriam-Webster:
“1. : of, relating to, exhibiting, or characteristic of old age
especially : exhibiting a loss of cognitive abilities (such as memory) associated with old age.”
— Brit Hume (@brithume) March 31, 2021
It’s highly likely that PolitiFact knew what Hume meant, but they couldn’t let a narrative that was gaining a lot of traction among the populace just circulate like that, so they jumped on Hume’s claim, twisted his words, and declared it all false.
Another example revolved around Hillary Clinton and the horrible reputation she earned during the Watergate scandal.
In 2018, Clinton was still in the media after having lost to Donald Trump during the 2016 election. She was still looked to as the Democrat’s would-be leader, and her words were often looked at as the “what should have been” by biased talking heads and leftist blue-checks. However, the point conservatives (and indeed many Americans) wanted to make was that Clinton was wholly untrustworthy and had a reputation of being manipulative, unfair, and untruthful.
Birds of a feather and flocking together, PolitiFact leaped into action and pulled one of the most amazing feats in narrative driving history. They didn’t make it about Clinton’s reputation, they made it about the timing of her firing by making it seem like she wasn’t fired at all.
I’ll give you the quick and dirty version of this.
PolitiFact took a 2106 Facebook post that was gaining popularity in 2018 that highlighted what was said about Clinton by her supervisor, lifelong Democrat Jerry Zeifman, during the impeachment of President Richard Nixon. Clinton was one of the attorneys hired by the U.S. Judiciary Committee in 1972 to work the impeachment inquiry.
Zeifman made no effort to conceal his disdain for Clinton, and the story goes that he terminated her employment during Watergate due to her unethical behavior as told by PolitiFact:
The post continued: “When asked why Hillary Rodham was fired, Zeifman said in an interview, ‘Because she was a liar. She was an unethical, dishonest lawyer, she conspired to violate the Constitution, the rules of the House, the rules of the Committee, and the rules of confidentiality.’”
Despite Zeifman’s dislike of the young Clinton — who failed the D.C. bar exam that year and kept that to herself until 2003 — he didn’t have the power to fire her because she actually reported to the chief counsel of the impeachment inquiry. Zeifman was chief counsel of the House Judiciary Committee, thus Clinton didn’t report to him.
“If I had the power to fire her, I would have fired her,” Zeifman is quoted as saying during an interview.
This seems to run contrary to the claim that Zeifman made about terminating her himself at one point.
“I terminated her, along with some other staff members who were — we no longer needed, and advised her that I would not — could not recommend her for further positions,” he told Neal Boortz during an interview.
Are they contradictory? PolitiFact wants you to think so. They even throw in a quote from Washington Post reviewer Matthew Dallek who said Zeifman’s book on the matter would “excite conspiracy buffs.” Snopes even got in on the game and claimed that his recollection changed but notes that Clinton’s paychecks on the Judiciary Committee pay records showed Clinton being paid through Sept. 4, 1974, not long after the committee released its final impeachment report on Aug. 20, 1974.
The real story is a bit more simple than that. When Zeifman went to make some of the staff choices on the investigation more permanent, he informed Clinton that she was being cut loose and moreover, she wouldn’t be getting a recommendation from him. No, she wasn’t fired during the Watergate scandal, that much is true, but she was terminated and sent on her way in shame directly afterward, which was the entire point of highlighting the story in the first place.
The impression PolitiFact and other fact-checkers want to give you is “of course Hillary wasn’t fired during the Watergate scandal! Those Republicans are lying again!”
Again, the timing of the firing wasn’t the point. It’s a minor one compared to the fact that Clinton is an untrustworthy liar willing to do unethical things to get her way. PolitiFact making the firing claim the main point gives off the impression to those who wouldn’t click on the article that Clinton is innocent and the right is just making stuff up.
Should you click on the article, PolitiFact tells you what Zeifman said but goes into making Zeifman seem like an unreliable source. Should Clinton have tried her hand at running again in 2020, they needed her to be in tip-top shape with the public, thus this little magic trick by mainstream fact-checkers.
They pulled a PolitiFact.
They say the devil is in the details, but so is the truth, and these “fact-checkers” want to bury the truth under enough devilishness that you come away with false impressions. Next time you see a rating from these entities, a healthy dose of skepticism should come with it.