Liberal 'Fact-Checking' Site States Comment From Ohio GOP Candidate Is True Before Ruling it 'Mostly False'

With the November 6 election drawing ever nearer, a race between Republican Josh Mandel and Democratic incumbent Sherrod Brown for an Ohio U.S. Senate seat is heating up, and a "fact-checking" website is throwing coal on the fire while adding evidence to the claim that PolitFact Ohio is "riddled with liberal bias and lacks any scientific processes."

That accusation comes from Brian Sikma, an analyst for the conservative-leaning investigative watchdog Media Trackers Ohio, which has been chronicling the liberal bias of that arm of the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

The latest example of the site's media bias took place last Wednesday, when the newspaper's Washington correspondent, Sabrina Eaton, reported on Mandel's claim that "Sherrod Brown missed over 350 official votes" while adding Democratic allegations that the Republican has shirked his duties as the state treasurer.

However, the full PolitiFact Ohio ruling quoted Mandel as saying: "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."

Nevertheless, Eaton ruled the statement "Mostly False," noting that the Republican's charge "omits critical facts that would convey a different  impression."

It doesn't mention those missed votes were spread over more than 19 years that includes Brown's time in the U.S. House of Representatives, and during that time, more than 10,000 votes occurred.

Also, the largest number of Brown's missed votes -- 83 -- took place in 2000, when he missed 13.7 percent of that year's votes after suffering broken ribs and vertebrae in a car accident and spent more than a week in a hospital.

"Knowing these facts, and that Brown missed 351 out of 10,074 votes since January of 1993, would give the listener a different impression," Eaton added.

Sikma responded to the article by asking:

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.

In addition, Mandel spokesman Travis Considine said the claim is "factual" and observed that Brown's missed-vote ratio is higher than the median rate for all members of Congress, which is 2.5 percent, while Brown's rate  is 3 percent.

""Why is it OK for Democrats to criticize Treasurer Mandel on meeting attendance but it's not OK to question why Senator Brown missed more than 350 votes?" Considine asked in an email. "Are you employing a 'different set of rules' for Brown and Mandel?"

Brown's campaign responded to the accusation with a news release that claimed Mandel is "desperately trying to distract from his own appalling attendance record" by attacking him.

The release said Brown's voting record would have been better if not for the car crash and the fact that he had to care for his dying mother in 2009, when Brown missed eight votes.

Meanwhile, the GOP candidate is running a state-wide 30-second advertisement in which the announcer says: "With 400,000 unemployed, we need a Senator who shows up for work" as the TV screen shows an empty chair.

"Sherrod Brown missed mover 350 official votes. When he finally showed up, he voted to raise his pay six times. Sherrod Brown, living by different rules than us," the spot concludes.

As NewsBusters previously reported, PolitiFact Ohio has often trumpeted information and statistics that favor Brown over Mandel, such as stating that the Democratic candidate supposedly tells the truth two-thirds of the time while the Republican lies two-thirds of the time.

Unfortunately, fact-checking is rapidly becoming just another way for liberals to vent their venom regarding Republican candidates. And the newspaper people behind the sites remain baffled as to why their circulations and website traffic are dropping like a rock.

Randy Hall
Randy Hall