PolitiFact Refuses To Give Rubio 'True' Rating For True Statement

April 17th, 2024 3:15 PM

It is a time-honored tradition that during campaign season, politicians will defend themselves by claiming that “since I took office” such-and-such has happened or attack their opponents by arguing that “since so-and-so took office” this has happened, but when Florida Sen. Marco Rubio tried that tactic against President Biden and his inflation record, PolitiFact slapped him with a “half-true” rating despite admitting his numbers were completely true.

The specific claim Rubio made was that “It's very misleading when (President Biden) says (inflation) used to be at 9%. This is compounding. It’s not like it went down from 9% to 3%. This is building month after month. The better way to think about it is that it’s 18%, 19% over the last three years."

In the “if your time is short” summary at the top of his article, Louis Jacobson wrote, “Inflation compounds and it has risen by about 19% over the last three years.”

If that sounds like the shortest and easiest fact-check ever, Jacobson was there to say not so fast, “compared with February 2020, the month before the pandemic began, and also compared with one year ago, wages have increased faster than prices.”

Jacobson then spends several paragraphs expanding on these points. Sandwiched between two graphs on wages and inflation, Jacobson claims, “One is to compare today with February 2020, the last full month before the coronavirus pandemic hit. The pandemic represented such an economic upheaval that February 2020 is a plausible benchmark for a ‘normal’ economy.”

Not only is Jacobson coming up with a novel excuse to avoid giving Rubio a “true” rating, but his stance that the pandemic must be taken into account when fact-checking political talking points is not one that he holds with consistency. In December, Jacobson gave Biden a “mostly-true” rating for a claim he made about manufacturing jobs created during his tenure. In January, when Biden attacked Trump for job losses during his presidency, Jacobson wrote a lengthy explainer piece, noting Biden omitted the pandemic, but refused to bring out the truth-o-meter.

In the first three months of 2024, PolitiFact fact-checked Republicans 63 times while only giving out “true” or “mostly trues” 12.7 percent of the time. By contrast, Democrats were fact-checked 39 times and given “true” or “mostly true” ratings 56.4 percent of the time. Based on how they treat Rubio, Biden, and pandemic-related economic statistics, we can see how.