NPR Brings on 'Nonpartisan' Politifact To Call Rick Perry a 'Pants On Fire' Liar

On Tuesday night’s All Things Considered, NPR turned to Bill Adair of the “nonpartisan” website Politifact to “truth squad” the Republican debate. Politifact is part of the liberal St. Petersburg Times newspaper. They found Rick Perry to be a “Pants On Fire” liar -- because he did not bow to the Democrats' imaginative "saved or created" job estimates.

Fact: the last time NPR brought in Politifact for some “facts,” it was All Things Considered on May 9, when reporter Ari Shapiro was dismantling Michele Bachmann: “Her political base loves her style, and it makes institutional Republican leaders cringe. Her rhetoric is always colorful and occasionally wrong. The nonpartisan website PolitiFact has evaluated 21 Bachmann statements. None were rated true or even mostly true. Sixteen were just false.” Would the listener really think this is a "nonpartisan" pattern at NPR?

NPR was not going to actually explore the 21 Bachmann statements. It just wanted to offer a cumulative sense of utter factual failure. So what did Perry say that was a “Pants On Fire” lie? Here it is:

RICK PERRY: He [Obama] had $800 billion worth of stimulus in the first round of stimulus. It created zero jobs.

MELISSA BLOCK: It created zero jobs. Now, Bill, you have looked at this claim from other Republicans before and you found it sorely flawed, I guess we could say. Pants on fire.

BILL ADAIR: Exactly. Yeah, we rated it Pants On Fire. It's just ridiculously false. Even if you look at the most conservative estimates from independent groups, the estimates range somewhere from 1.6 million to 3.6 million jobs. So there's no question there have been many jobs created by the stimulus.

But Adair had one caveat for this alleged failure of fact by Perry. Block explained: “One caveat, though, jobs that may have been created or saved, in other words, not new jobs necessarily, but jobs that didn't go away.”

Adair agreed: “Absolutely. In some cases, in fact, the way the studies have defined it, a job saved would be perhaps a government job that was going to be eliminated otherwise, and wasn't because of the stimulus money.” So if the concept is "perhaps" that nebulous, isn't it unfair to associate it with "pants on fire" lying, which suggests complete disregard and ill will on a clearly factual matter?

So how exactly, Politi-factually, do “studies” determine that a job is worth counting as “saved” instead of created? As James Taranto of the Wall Street Journal asserted, this is more political soft-shoe than hard data:

[T]he way these estimates are arrived at is not by counting actual jobs – of which, as the Romney chart points out, there are actually fewer than before the stimulus – but by assuming that so-called stimulus spending created jobs. That assumption may be accurate – it is possible that, as Obama and his supporters claim, even more jobs would have been lost absent the stimulus – but these estimates do not demonstrate it.

"Saved or created" is not a "fact," it is a cover-your-derriere campaign construct. It's not a fact, but a slippery, Clintonesque "politi-fact." When the media elite declared it is going to "truth squad" the Republicans, can they really say measures this politically elastic are equivalent to the "truth"?

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis