The Capitolist Court Investigates PolitiFact vs. AFP

by | Sep 20, 2016

PolitiFact has long held itself out as the arbiter of truth in politics, and indeed, those on both sides of the political divide point to the PolitiFact needle whenever it suits their cause. But in the case of Americans for Prosperity, the PolitiFact needle rarely points in the right direction.

In fact, the highest rating ever earned by Americans for Prosperity was a “Mostly True” rating given by PolitiFact New Hampshire over a claim in 2015 related to the state governor’s budget. Of the six possible ratings from PolitiFact (True, Mostly True, Half True, Mostly False, False, and Pants on Fire), more than 82 percent have been “Mostly False” or worse, and when it comes to Politifact Florida, 100% of the ratings have been mostly false or false.

Yesterday, AFP rang up another “False” rating from PolitiFact Florida, this time over an ad blasting Democrat Patrick Murphy for his support of ObamaCare, which AFP says resulted in 300,000 Floridians losing their health insurance.

That begs the question: Is AFP constantly spewing misinformation, or is PolitiFact pulling some of their own sleight-of-hand?

In this specific case, which can be read in full on the PolitiFact website, PolitiFact takes AFP to task over the following claim in a recent 60-second TV ad about Patrick Murphy:

“300,000 Floridians have lost their health insurance” as a result of Obamacare. –AFP campaign ad, September 14, 2016

PolitiFact then goes to great lengths in an attempt to debunk AFP’s claim, trying at one point to establish that the figure is probably only 60,000, and saying of AFP’s 300,000 figure, “we know it’s not correct,” while still admitting earlier in the article that Florida Blue sent cancellation notices to 300,000 people.

So how can PolitiFact conclude the number is false? Apparently they expect AFP to explain in their sixty-second ad that, okay, sure while 300,000 people with Blue Cross Blue Shield did in fact lose their coverage, golly gee, only 60,000 of them ultimately were forced out of Blue Cross Blue Shield altogether, and we think a lot of those poor victims of ObamaCare probably found insurance elsewhere.

Some claim that PolitiFact’s slavish devotion to pedantry has reached the point where it’s impossible to take the organization seriously. But it’s much worse than mere pedantics, which, after all, still requires hard and fast rules and details, no matter how minor. PolitiFact’s most recent post exposes much deeper flaws that run counter to their very existence as a credible outlet: inconsistency in their conclusions and cherry-picking their evidence.

The following statement from PolitiFact is a perfect example of how the organization moves the goalposts whenever it wants to:

So what happened to those 300,000 people in the succeeding three years? As it turns out, the vast majority of the 300,000 found coverage — with Florida Blue.

By PolitiFact’s twisted logic, the “vast majority” of those people didn’t lose their health care coverage at all. Sure, they were forced off the plan they had, and weren’t given a choice about it, but since they ultimately got a new plan, anyone claiming that 300,000 people lost their health plans is not telling the truth.

“That’s like saying if you are given a new wallet after you lost your old wallet, you never really lost your wallet at all,” says AFP Florida communications director Andres Malave. “Having access to a replacement does not mean you didn’t lose something — or in this case, have something taken from you — in the first place.”

PolitiFact is arguing the absurd position that a forced trade from one plan to another – regardless of value gained or lost – completely negates the indisputable fact that 300,000 people lost their existing health care coverage.

“Many of those 300,000 lost coverage they liked and had to replace it with substandard plans that featured higher deductibles and narrower provider networks, making it hard for them to use their so-called ‘new coverage’ at all,” Malave says. 

Worse still, is the irony that PolitiFact completely ignores their very own coverage of the 2013 PolitiFact Lie of the Year: “If you like your health care plan, you can keep it,” in which they wrote:

“If you like your health care plan, you can keep it,” President Barack Obama said — many times — of his landmark new law. But the promise was impossible to keep. So this fall, as cancellation letters were going out to approximately 4 million Americans, the public realized Obama’s breezy assurances were wrong.

And PolitiFact even went to great lengths to back up their “4 million” number, even though they were forced to acknowledge they really had no idea:

Also on Oct. 1, insurers started sending out cancellation letters for 2014. No one knows exactly how many people got notices, because the health insurance market is largely private and highly fragmented. Analysts estimated the number at about 4 million (and potentially higher), out of a total insured population of about 262 million.

Compare that last excerpt with PolitiFact’s exact opposite argument in their write-up about AFP:

That would leave at most 60,000 people — not 300,000 — who lost their health insurance as a result of that provision of the law. But even that number is probably high.

worthlessSo, which is it, PolitiFact?

Apparently, this oft-touted “fact-checking” unit has no problem changing it’s own mind regarding the validity of supporting facts and sources, depending on which way they want the needle to point.

We rate PolitiFact Florida guilty of excessive pedantry, selective evidence consideration, and inconsistent judgement.





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