11.19.2014 1

PolitiFact’s tainted lie of the year

Politifact2By Rick Manning

The Tampa Tribune has set itself up as the arbiter of political speech through its PolitiFact.com feature that some naively take seriously.  Based upon their self-proclaimed excellence at determining the truth, the only responsible thing to do is to hold their self-described “Lie of the Year” over the past half-decade up to similar scrutiny with the benefit of time.

In 2009, the publication declared that Sarah Palin’s assertion that Obamacare would lead to government “death panels” as the lie or the year.  Of course, subsequent review of the law reveals that the law does set up a Medicare board that makes determinations over which treatments can be provided and which cannot.  This refusal to fund certain treatments which might be life-saving or life-extending due to a cost benefit analysis clearly makes one wonder if PolitiFact issued an apology to Governor Palin for this mischaracterization of her death panel statement.

In December 2010, PolitiFact.com decided that the contention that Obamacare represented, “a government takeover of healthcare” was their Lie of the Year. Given Obamacare architect Jonathan Gruber’s recently discovered admission that the system is designed to drive out private employer health plans within twenty years, and the knowledge that government regulations dictate what treatments can be received due to coverage terms, it is hard to hold on to the illusion that Obamacare was anything but a government takeover of health care.  When you add in the requirements that patient information be supplied by doctors to the government, and the inability to keep your doctor if you like him/her, the case that this was a government takeover of the health care system is hard to refute, even if they use private carriers to deliver the actual services.  The only question is can PolitiFact get four Pinocchios for its Lie of the Year Award for 2010?

PolitiFact actually got their Lie of the Year right in 2011.  The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) deliberately mischaracterized the Paul Ryan budget proposal as meaning that, “Republicans voted to end Medicare.”  The Ryan proposal clearly left Medicare in place, albeit with some cost changes to make it more affordable over the next forty years.

However, PolitiFact’s winning streak ended at one in 2012, when they chose Mitt Romney’s charge that President Obama “sold Chrysler to Italians who are going to build Jeeps in China” at the cost of American jobs as the Lie of 2012.  The ever diligent PolitiFact staff chose to believe a Chrysler spokesperson who assured them that they would not be making the extremely politically unpopular decision to begin Jeep production in China.  Just months after the presidential election, the Italian owned Chrysler Corporation announced that they were in fact going to build Jeeps in China.

PolitiFact defenders can contend that the Jeep factory in Ohio remains intact, but they cannot say that Romney was wrong in his contention that Jeeps would be made in China, and to deem it the Lie of 2012 reveals more about the judges than the statement itself. Particularly when you remember that the Obama Administration went on multiple national news outlets declaring that the killing of four Americans in Benghazi was motivated by an offensive YouTube video in a pre-election cover up.

Finally, PolitiFact woke up in 2013 to the unavoidably obvious lie of the half-decade, President Barack Obama’s promise that “If you like your health care plan, you can keep it.”  A lie that was obvious to anyone who read the August 2010 Labor Department regulations on employer health plans.

These regulations revealed in explicit terms that 69 percent of all employer health plans would not qualify under Obamacare no matter how much their users liked them.  So while PolitiFact got their Lie of the Year correct in 2013, it was at least three years after the Obama Administration itself revealed the deception –  too late to have any real meaning.

Finally reporting the truth well after it would have any impact on the public policy debate hardly makes up for PolitiFact’s three years of willful self-deceit, but they deserve some credit for eventually stumbling into the truth no matter how hard they tried not to see it.

Next month, we will get the official PolitiFact 2014 Lie of the Year.  Based upon the history of this pronouncement, it should be held in the same regard as a National Enquirer headline at the supermarket – except that is probably being unfair to the tabloid.

Rick Manning is vice president of public policy and communications for Americans for Limited Government.

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