As their circulation numbers continue to decline, the self-described mainstream media has errected a new idol for Americans to worship: so-called “fact checking” websites which ostensibly exist to vet claims from all sides about political disputes.
A review of one such site, PolitiFact Ohio -- an arm of Cleveland's Plain Dealer -- shows that the supposedly non-partisan fact-checkers there have a distinct bias against the Republican running for Senate in the state, Josh Mandel, in comparison to his Democratic opponent, current senator Sherrod Brown.
The situation could have a serious impact not just on that race and Republicans' hopes to take back the Senate, but also GOP efforts to deliver the swing state's votes to Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.
Jason Hart, an analyst for the conservative-leaning investigative watchdog Media Trackers Ohio, found that each Senate candidate has received 22 PolitiFact rulings. More than a third of the citations for Brown and more than a quarter of the decisions for Mandel were written by Tom Feran, an Obama supporter who has called conservatives "wingnuts" and "yahoos."
After analyzing nine items from Brown and six statements from Mandel, Feran said that comments from the liberal Democrat are completely true half the time, while remarks from his conservative opponent are described as "ridiculously false" even more often than that, a difference Hart called "especially glaring."
In other words, Brown supposedly tells the truth two-thirds of the time, while Mandel lies two-thirds of the time.
Hart stated that part of that discrepancy is due to the fact that Brown's wife was a Plain Dealer columnist until she resigned after being caught filming Mandel at a Tea Party event.
However, comparing all 44 rulings on both candidates, PolitiFact's decisions perceived Brown as supposedly honest more than twice as often as Mandel, who receives "Pants on Fire" rulings six times as often as Brown.
Although the liberal tilt of PolitiFact Ohio rulings is less extreme when all Democratic and Republican statements judged since the summer of 2010 are considered, the difference remains profound. Only in the "Half True" category can Republicans be considered to have an advantage, but "Half True" statements are also half false.
In the "fact-checking" organization's two positive Truth-o-Meter categories -- "True" and "Mostly True" -- Democrats have an 18-point advantage. Democratic statements have received positive rulings 55 percent of the time, but the same applies to only 37 percent of comments from Republicans.
And examining the three negative categories -- "Mostly False," "False," and "Pants on Fire" -- shows that Democrats have a 14-point advantage. Comments by Democrats have received negative rulings 29 percent of the time, while 43 percent of GOP statements have been assigned negative rulings.
The cumulative result is a 32-point tilt in favor of the Democrats, who are described as honest 26 percent more often than they are dishonest, while Republicans are dishonest 6 percent more often than they are honest.
Using PolitiFact information, liberals argue that Republicans lie far more frequently than Democrats, but voter registration records suggest a more likely explanation, Hart noted. While there are no scientific selection or judging processes in place at the Plain Dealer, Media Trackers charges that Democrats heavily outnumber Republicans working at the publication.
Even though Brown, the Democrat in the race, has made Feran's rulings the centerpiece of this U.S. Senate campaign, journalists continue giving the liberal outlet undeserved credibility, Hart added.
These accusations of media bias will become more important as the November 6 election date draws nearer. Here's hoping that voters in the Buckeye State are more intelligent than its "fact-checking" operation believe.