Is it possible for CNN's John Avlon to at least pretend to be impartial?
On Sunday's Reliable Sources, in the closing segment about PolitiFact's just announced new website PunditFact, Avlon showed three reports by the organization: one giving conservative author Ann Coulter a "Pants on Fire," another giving Fox News host Sean Hannity a "Mostly False," and a third giving MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell a "Mostly True" (video follows with transcript and commentary):
JOHN AVLON: If you're angry at the division and dysfunction in Washington, you already know that politicians deserve plenty of blame. But the rise of partisan media is a huge part of the problem as well.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GLENN BECK, COMMENTATOR: This president I think has exposed himself as a guy over and over and over again who has a deep-seated hatred for white people.
ED SCHULTZ, MSNBC HOST: The Republicans lie! They want to see you dead. They'd rather make money off your dead corpse.
RUSH LIMBAUGH, TALK SHOW HOST: What does it say about the college coed Sandra Fluke who goes before a congressional committee and essentially says that she must be paid to have sex? What does that make her? It makes her a slut, right?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
Notice he played clips of two conservatives to only one liberal? Beyond which, can you really equate Limbaugh calling Fluke a slut to Schultz claiming Republicans want people to die?
But that wasn't the last act of bias by Avlon:
AVLON: You know, the intense, ideological and sometimes unhinged voices who distort facts and inflame partisan passions. Don't be fooled, it's part of their business plan. They profit from polarization. There's plenty of outrage but not enough accountability.
That's why I was happy to find out that the folks at PolitiFact, a Pulitzer Prize winning fact checkers from the "Tampa Bay Times" are branching out to create PunditFact, a website that will fact check journalists, columnists and, yes, TV commentators. Now they've funded the project with grants from The Ford Foundation and The Democracy Fund, as well as individual donors, like the founder of Craigslist, set to officially launch in November, PunditFact will direct the truth-o-meter at the news business, where there is, unfortunately, a real need to help cut through the spin and establish the facts.
Take the current debate over the seriously screwed up implementation of healthcare.gov. Sean Hannity told listeners on his radio show that, quote, "In 45 out of 50 states, the average men are seeing their premiums double, going up 99 percent; women up 62 percent."
Now with all of those statistics, it sure can sound credible but PunditFact analyzed the data and the truth-o-meter found that Hannity's statement was mostly false.
Now over at MSNBC, Lawrence O'Donnell raised some eyebrows when pushed back on claims that the IRS will target people who fail to purchase insurance. Here's what O'Donnell said.
"The IRS has specifically been forbidden from ever actually pursing either civil or criminal remedies for people who don't purchase health insurance."
Well, it turns out that that statement is mostly true.
Finally, let's look at a claim from Ann Coulter in her syndicated column, saying that "No doctors who went to an American medical school will be accepting ObamaCare."
Now, sure sounds scary and Halloween's around the country. But perhaps not surprisingly, the truth-o-meter rated it a "pants on fire," a rating they explained in great detail.
First off - why two conservatives and one liberal...AGAIN?
And why did Avlon find it necessary to share exclusively negative reports about conservative pundits with a positive one about a liberal commentator?
Surely CNN could have found a conservative statement about ObamaCare PolitiFact rated positively such as the organization declaring Sarah Palin's remark about Obama having said the individual mandate wasn't a tax to be "True."
Avlon could also have shared PolitiFact finding Newt Gingrich claiming ObamaCare has never had majority support from the public was "Mostly True."
But NOOOO. The conservative pundits had to be "Pants on Fire" and "Mostly False."
And since this is supposed to be a program examining the media, maybe Avlon could have informed viewers that PolitiFact has its own bias problem. NewsBusters reported in May:
The Center for Media and Public Affairs at George Mason University has a new study noticing that the "fact-checking" site Politifact.com over the first four months of Obama's second term found Republicans were cited as dishonest three times as often as Democrats.
Even in the first three weeks in May, while the Obama scandals piled up -- from Benghazi to the IRS to the DOJ phone-records scandals -- Republicans are still being flagged as worse than Democrats, with 60 percent of the website's selective claims rated as false so far this month (May 1 – May 22), compared to 29 percent of their Democratic statements – a 2 to 1 margin. [...]
No one should assume that a fact-checking organization can only be assumed to be fair if it tries to employ a 50-50 partisan quota on who's mangling the facts. However, "independent" fact-checking groups run by "mainstream" media companies can easily be questioned about a liberal tilt.
It's this easy: when the "Pants on Fire" page presently displays 18 lies by Republicans or conservatives, and two by liberals or Democrats, perhaps there's some bias leaking in.
Something also to consider is the appearance that PolitiFact over-fact-checks conservatives versus liberals.
Page one of PF's Health Care fact-checks currently has thirteen conservatives and only five liberals. Nice balance, huh?
But it gets worse because of the conservatives fact-checked on page one, NOT ONE was found to be Mostly True or True. By contrast, the statements by all five liberals fact-checked were found to be Mostly True.
Do the folks at CNN and PolitiFact actually believe that not one liberal politician or pundit has recently made a comment about healthcare that was either Half True, Mostly False, or Pants on Fire?
With that in mind, try not to spit something all over your computer when you read Avlon's concluding remarks on Sunday's program:
AVLON: Now it's no accident that trust in media is on the decline at precisely the same time that partisan media has gained outsized influence. The independence and integrity of the news business has been compromised and we need to push back to earn that trust back, always keeping in mind some durable wisdom offered by Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, "Everyone is entitled to their own opinion but not their own facts."
Hey physician: heal thysef!