Liberal PolitiFact Ohio Labels Truth "Mostly False"

Left-leaning PolitiFact Ohio pronounced a factual claim from U.S. Senate candidate Josh Mandel, a Republican, “Mostly False” on October 10. When compared to past rulings, this is yet another piece of evidence the Cleveland Plan Dealer’s “fact checking” outlet is riddled with liberal bias and lacks any scientific processes.

In an October 10 Plain Dealer story, Washington correspondent Sabrina Eaton introduced Mandel’s claim that “Sherrod Brown missed over 350 official votes” with two paragraphs repeating Democrat allegations that Mandel has shirked his duties as Ohio Treasurer. Prominently featured in the online post was a “Truth-o-Meter” graphic indicating Mandel’s statement had been ruled “Mostly False.”

The full PolitiFact Ohio ruling was headlined by the statement in question, “We need a Senator who shows up to work. Sherrod Brown missed over 350 official votes.” In the 14th of 18 paragraphs, Eaton admitted, “There is an element of truth in Mandel’s claim: The ad correctly says that Brown has missed over 350 official votes.”

Incredibly, despite acknowledging the exact Mandel claim from the ruling’s headline was true, Eaton ruled the statement “Mostly False” after spending over a dozen paragraphs revisiting Democrat criticisms of Mandel, explaining Brown’s absences, and adding context to dispute what Mandel implied.

How could the factual accuracy of the specific claim being “fact-checked” be treated as merely “an element of truth”? Because PolitiFact Ohio has no standards for whether an exact statement or its presumed implications shall be ruled on, and PolitiFact Ohio has no standards for how much context may or must be considered.

For an example of a statement PolitiFact Ohio judged strictly by its incorrectly transcribed words, consider a November 2011 ruling on a Mandel claim that Brown was “out there egging on a lot of these protesters who are spitting on policemen and going to the bathroom on policemen’s cars at these protests on Wall Street and other places.”

The source for the quote, Mandel’s November 14, 2011 interview on The Rick Amato Show, remains available online. In his statement shortly after the 11 minute mark, Mandel clearly paused after the word “protesters;” a transcription error by PolitiFact Ohio changed the meaning of what Mandel said.

The pause in the interview, which should have been included in PolitiFact Ohio’s quote as either a comma or a dash, suggested Mandel was accusing Brown of “egging on” the Occupy Wall Street protesters – some of whom were, in fact, “spitting on policemen and going to the bathroom on policemen’s cars.”

Brown enthusiastically endorsed the Occupy Wall Street movement in an October 7, 2011 interview with MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, saying, “I think the energy coming out of the Wall Street protesters is always a good thing. When people non-violently speak out and stand for something, it’s good to challenge authority when they do that.”

Brown adopted Occupy Wall Street’s “99%” rhetoric for a petition on his campaign site that was public when registered Democrat Henry J. Gomez wrote the PolitiFact Ohio ruling, and remains there at publication following a year of violence and destruction from Occupy Wall Street protesters.

Nonetheless, Gomez ruled Mandel’s statement a ridiculous “Pants on Fire” lie, judging the exact words of a claim from which he had omitted a key pause.

In still another instance of PolitiFact Ohio twisting words and tilting evidence to portray Mandel as a liar while exonerating Brown, Plain Dealer Washington bureau chief Stephen Koff gave Mandel a “Pants on Fire” ruling for a December 2011 statement about energy policy.

“Even though the vilification of Ohio’s abundant coal, oil and gas disproportionately hurts jobs and energy prices here, Mr. Brown has chosen to side with Washington bureaucrats and fringe extremists in the attacks on our natural resources,” Mandel wrote in the December 2, 2011 issue of The Wall Street Journal.

The PolitiFact Ohio ruling’s headline cut the sentence in half, addressing only Mandel’s claim that Brown “has chosen to side with Washington bureaucrats and fringe extremists in the attacks on our natural resources.”

Although Mandel’s complete statement – cited in the body of PolitiFact Ohio’s ruling – specifically mentioned coal, Koff wrote absolutely nothing about coal, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), or the likely devastating impact of the EPA’s anti-coal regulations in Ohio. Instead, his PolitiFact Ohio ruling focused entirely on a single oil & gas fracking dispute in the southeastern part of the state.

Koff concluded, “when rhetoric gets ridiculous – when a public official running for office implies that an Ohio mayor, county commissioners, a major university president and a federal forest supervisor are fringe extremists – PolitiFact Ohio has one rating for it: Pants on Fire!”

Rulings against Mandel during the current U.S. Senate race provide the plainest examples of PolitiFact Ohio’s bias. Media Trackers has previously debunked all three of the “Pants on Fire” rulings handed to Mandel’s campaign by liberal Democrat Tom Feran over the course of the summer.

For additional coverage of PolitiFact Ohio, see:

Cross-posted from Media Trackers Ohio.