PolitiFact has received a fair share of criticism from conservatives for their spin-heavy fact-checks. The liberal media, for the most part, has accordingly been dismissive of such conservative complaints. But now even The Daily Beast/Newsweek is joining in on the criticism, with contributor Megan McArdle joining conservatives in noting the fact-checker repeated repetition of a falsehood regarding the Lilly Ledbetter Supreme Court case.
Hans Bader of the Competitive Enterprise Institute and Jonathan Adler, law professor at Case Western Reserve University, have been aggressive with PolitiFact to correct their post on the subject and cite the legal documents they’ve provided showing what is being disseminated is misleading. McArdle, who voted for Obama in 2008, noted Adler and Bader in her post highlighting fact checkers, but more specifically, Politifact’s serial failure on this front. In her October 19 article -- published subsequent to the second presidential debate -- McArdle noted:
'the false claim about the lawsuit has been widely repeated, including by Lily Ledbetter, so I'm sure that the President, and the fact checkers, came by their misunderstanding honestly. But this is exactly why I object to calling this stuff 'fact checking'. . . and especially why I object to other journalists who say 'Fact checkers have said that this is [true, or not true]' without doing any of their own checking. The fact checkers are not subject matter experts; they're spending a couple of hours doing research on the internet. They aren't qualified to parse the various claims on hundreds of different topics, and they couldn't possibly be.'
Furthermore, she touched upon the subjective nature of fact checkers, who are often veteran liberal journalists like the Washington Post's Glenn Kessler:
I'm also not clear how the Obama administration's true-but-arguably-misleading statement that a spokesmen asked by a reporter about the Lily Ledbetter Act said "I'll get back to you" and didn't (happened, but the Romney campaign has elsewhere stated they would not change the law), gets a "mostly true", while the Romney campaign's true-but-arguably-misleading statement that oil production was down on federal lands (true, but the most recent year wasn't necessarily representative) gets a "half true". How exactly are they measuring the weight of these 'facts.'
So far, however, PolitiFact hasn’t changed their initial claim concering what Obama said about Ledbetter was “mostly true.” In fact, Politifact has gone after the Supreme Court since they “refuse to fix the false claim” stating that “employees are bared from suing over pay discrimination eve if they did not learn of the discrimination in time to sue.”
As Bader wrote on October 22:
Politifact ignored this language in the Supreme Court’s decision and ignored the fact Ledbetter knew for years of the pay disparity she later sued over, even though I have sent its staff the relevant pages of Ledbetter’s deposition and a link to the passage above in the Supreme Court’s decision. It has done so despite its claim to Professor Adler it would “review” the accuracy of its claims, and despite the fact “it would take no more than 10 minutes to read the relevant portions of the Supreme Court’s decision,” as Professor Adler noted last week. (PolitiFact’s erroneous claim occurred in a so-called “fact check” that cited the Supreme Court’s decision as one of its “sources,” and provided a hyperlink to the Supreme Court opinion that contradicted it. If PolitiFact actually had read the Supreme Court’s decision, as it claimed, it is hard to imagine it would have made such a gross error about what the Supreme Court actually said. PolitiFact’s false claim also was contradicted by Wikipedia at the time.)
Not content to make false claims about the Supreme Court’s Ledbetter decision, PolitiFact also has made plainly false claims about the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which addressed the Supreme Court’s decision in Ledbetter v. Goodyear insofar as it affected pay discrimination cases. Politifact claimed that law merely allows workers to sue within 180 days of “when discriminatory action was discovered.” In reality, that law allows employees to sue “decades” after discovering a discriminatory action that affected their pay, as long as they are still drawing a paycheck affecting that discriminatory action.
However, the “supposedly 'independent” PolitiFact is a project of the Tampa Bay Times, a liberal newspaper that just endorsed the President. Far from being 'independent,' PolitiFact employs highly-partisan 'fact-checkers' who are infatuated with left-wing causes like the Occupy Movement,” according to Bader;
For example, one of its fact-checkers, Tom Feran, publicly endorsed Obama in 2008, and has publicly said that conservatism is a 'cancer' that is synonymous with 'racism and patriarchy.' He refers to conservatives as 'wingnuts' and 'yahoos.' While there are plenty of things wrong with the Republican Party, PolitiFact has no excuse for its long line of blatantly false factual claims designed to help Democratic candidates.”
Additionally, “The Tampa Bay Times is owned by the Poynter Center, which recently treated a legal commentator who helped promote the Duke Lacrosse hoax (and smeared innocent falsely-accused people) as an 'expert' on how journalists 'should cover gender issues,' and defended her false claims.”
In all, Bader accuses PolitiFact of supplying the Democrats with talking points, which is also what Newsweek’s McArdle was saying as well.