McDonnell vs. McAuliffe, Politifact StyleMar 11, 2015
Politifact Virginia is treated as an independent fact checker of candidates and elected officials by the media and public at large. (Politifact is, in fact, done by members of the media.) But many conservatives have long questioned whether Politifact Virginia is truly unbiased. The Family Foundation was contacted by Politifact at least twice about statements we’ve made, and when we provided evidence substantiating the quotes, no Politifact article was done showing we were telling the truth. If we hadn’t been able to back up our statements, I’m guessing they would have been happy to hit us for not being truthful. Echoing the same concerns, the Republican Party of Virginia released a study several years ago questioning the objectivity of Politifact Virginia. That study reinforced conservative concerns, but was largely dismissed by the media as a political stunt because it was contrary to Politifact Virginia’s narrative of providing unbiased, fact checking. Politifact Virginia has continued with its coverage largely unencumbered by the criticism.
We were a bit surprised to see a recent Politifact that checked the veracity of a statement by a radio talk show host. A radio talk show host? Really?
But while Poitifact is reviewing relatively obscure radio talk show hosts, we haven’t seen many Politifact articles fact checking Governor Terry McAuliffe. It made us wonder exactly how fair and balanced they’ve been. Let’s compare Politifact’s coverage of Governor McAuliffe to its treatment of former Governor McDonnell.
Politifact maintains its “Macker-Meter” to track the promises made by Governor McAuliffe. It is tracking 17 promises that Governor-McAuliffe made on the campaign trail. The “Bob-o-Meter” tracked 48 promises made by Governor McDonnell. Now, to be fair, Governor McAuliffe didn’t really campaign on much more than Medicaid expansion. But, it is hard to believe that someone with the gift of gab like Governor McAuliffe has made only 17 promises worthy of Politifact tracking.
Perhaps more interesting, and certainly harder to explain away, is a comparison of the number of quotes Politifact evaluated over the first fifteen months of Governor McAuliffe’s and Governor McDonnell’s administrations. Once again, there is a surprising lack of equal treatment. Governor McAuliffe, famous for his ability to tell whoppers, has had five quotes evaluated by Politifact. At this time in his administration, Politifact had explored ten quotes from Governor McDonnell.
We’re sure Politifact has a dozen excuses to explain the inconsistent treatment of a liberal governor vs. a conservative governor, but for an organization that promotes itself as being an unbiased fact checker, the numbers don’t lie. We rate Politifact’s claim to be an unbiased fact checker as “Pants on Fire.”