PolitiFact Or PolitiBiased?Jan. 22, 2014
In the summer of 2012, the Republican Party of Virginia issued a scathing 86-page critique of PolitiFact alleging bias against Republicans and conservatives. This critique was made in the summer leading up to the election of Tim Kaine to the U.S. Senate. PolitiFact's legitimacy is directly tied to the perception that it is providing an unbiased fact-check of politicians. As you would expect, PolitiFact swiftly responded to the complaint:
The party takes issue with the fact that 26 of our last 36 rulings have concerned Republican candidates and elected officials. But Virginia is largely controlled by Republican politicians. The governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general belong to the party, as do eight of the 13 members of Virginia's congressional delegation, including House Majority Leader Eric Cantor. Both houses of the General Assembly are run by Republicans. In addition, the GOP fielded four candidates in its primary for the U.S. Senate this spring and sponsored three debates between them. Democrats, in contrast, handed their nomination to an unopposed Tim Kaine.
Well, times are a changing. Virginia now is largely controlled by Democrats. The governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general belong to the Democrats. Pending the outcome of the 6th Senate District special election (currently in recount mode with Democrat Lynwood Lewis holding a 9-vote lead over Republican Wayne Coleman), Republicans may control only the House of Delegates. With the retirement of U.S. Representative Jim Moran, it seems that every Democrat in Northern Virginia has declared for his federal seat. Quite a different political environment from just eighteen months ago. It's time to put PolitiFact to the test and see how fairly they review and critique liberals and Democrats.
On Sunday, PolitiFact launched its "Macker-meter" to track whether Governor Terry McAuliffe keeps his campaign promises. PolitiFact is going to track 17 promises "the Macker" made on the campaign trail. Of course, they tracked 48 promises for former Governor Bob McDonnell. Don't worry, PolitiFact has an explanation for this discrepancy of what they will monitor:
McDonnell — a 17-year veteran of elective office when he ran for governor — put out more than a dozen nuanced policy papers during his campaign. We could not find the same level of detail from McAuliffe, a first-time elective office holder who was criticized during last year's campaign for being light on policy.
In other words, Governor McAuliffe gets a pass because it is his first-time being elected to office. But he is not the political novice PolitiFact describes. They conveniently leave out his failed run for governor four years earlier and his decades of well publicized political experience.
PolitiFact also released its first promise check. Governor McAuliffe received a "promise kept" for signing an executive order putting restrictions on gifts, but because his executive order is only valid for one year, they will check back to see what happens next year. I may be mistaken, but I recall that promises Governor McDonnell didn't fully complete were given scores of "in the works" and PolitiFact checked back before determining if it was a promise kept. Double standard? Time will tell.
Regardless, this is great news for Governor McAuliffe. By failing to espouse specific, nuanced policy positions during the campaign, he will be lightly judged by PolitiFact. We'll leave the question of why the press corp did not call for the governor to task for failing to provide a detailed policy plan prior to the election for another day.