Ohio GOP Senate nominee J.D. Vance has a new ad attacking Democrat Tim Ryan for proclaiming “I don’t answer to any political party” while, in Vance’s words, “Tim votes with Biden, Pelosi 100 percent.” This would appear to be a straightforward fact-check for PolitiFact’s Amy Sherman, but instead of simply labeling Vance’s ad “true” or “mostly true,” Sherman somehow managed to only give it a rating of “half true.”
Sherman cites two sources affirming Vance’s argument, “FiveThirtyEight, a website that analyzes data, including lawmakers’ records, found that Ryan voted with Biden 100% during the current Congress… ProPublica, an investigative news outlet, analyzed major votes by lawmakers and found Ryan voted with Pelosi 100% in the current Congress and the previous Congress.”
In order to justify anything other than a true rating, Sherman had to counter arguments that have nothing to do with Vance's claim:
One caveat: Pelosi rarely votes — a tradition among House speakers. That means the comparison between Ryan and Pelosi is based only on the votes in which they both participated. She voted fewer than 80 times during the 116th Congress (2019-21), making it much more likely that she and Ryan (or any Democrat) voted with her.
What Sherman doesn’t mention is that in the current 117th Congress, Pelosi voted 123 times and Ryan agreed with every single one of them. That comes out to 198 out of 198 for Ryan.
Sherman goes onto cite examples where Ryan supposedly diverges from Pelosi and Biden. One example is that “Ryan has also criticized Biden’s plan to eliminate student debt, saying it ‘sends the wrong message to the millions of Ohioans without a degree working just as hard to make ends meet.’”
She declined to mention this is a new position for Ryan who previously spoke well of even more radical student loan forgiveness plans. Another example Sherman gives is trade,—which got its own Tuesday PolitiFact article— but even if the two diverged on a vote, that would be 198 out of 199 or 99.5 percent which could reasonably still be rounded up to 100 percent.
Vance’s ad was also limited to the time since Biden took office, so Sherman citing votes from 2018 and 2014 to show Vance and Pelosi do not always agree is another example of Sherman rebutting an argument Vance never made.
The worst omission, from Sherman’s perspective, is that “the ad is that it snips out Ryan’s explanation of why he thought Pelosi should no longer lead the party. Vance’s ad does not account for Ryan’s notable decision to challenge Pelosi’s leadership after the 2016 election, leaving viewers without the full story.”
That was six years ago and using Sherman’s own ProPublica sources, from 2015-2016, when Pelosi was Minority Leader and voted more often, she and Ryan disagreed on only one major bill.
PolitiFact did not have a good day on Tuesday and their contribution to the Ryan campaign is part of a pattern. On the true side of spectrum, Vance has two, or 33 percent, such statements with four, or 67 percent on the false side. Because Ryan has been in Congress a while and ran for president, his cumulative numbers are higher, but the percentages are still the inverse of Vance’s with 15, or 92 percent true with one, or 6 percent, false.