PolitiFact's 'Truth-O-Meter' Has a Dramatic Democratic Party TILT

April 9th, 2024 11:00 AM


For International Fact-Checking Day on April 2, Eric Litke, the leader of the USA Today fact-checking squad, asked who should be fact-checking the fact checkers? His answer: “Everyone.” He argued: “Proper fact-checking requires critical thinking, deep reporting, precise writing and an obsession with fairness. But most importantly, it requires transparency.”

As a website, PolitiFact is fairly transparent, but studying its work does not lead everyone to find an “obsession with fairness.” Instead, we have repeatedly found in its articles the implication of the old Stephen Colbert joke that “reality has a liberal bias,” and therefore the liberals are routinely more honest and factual than the conservatives.

A NewsBusters analysis of the first three months of this year's PolitiFact articles that evaluated a named politician or public official with a “Truth-O-Meter” ruling reveals that the site fact-checks Republicans more often than Democrats and is much harsher in its opinions of the GOP side. It broke down like this:

REPUBLICANS (63 fact checks)

True/Mostly True: 8 (12.7 percent)

Half True: 8 (12.7 percent)

Mostly False/False/ Pants On Fire: 47 (74.6 percent)

In the month of March, it's especially emphatic: one on the True side, 15 on the False side.

Now compare it to the other Party:

DEMOCRATS (39 fact checks)

True/Mostly True: 22 (56.4 percent)

Half True: 7 (18 percent)

Mostly False/False/Pants on Fire 10 (25.6 percent)

Donald Trump was fact-checked 18 times (six in each month), and none were on True side, one was Half True, and the other 17 were Mostly False or worse, including four “Pants on Fire” rulings.

Joe Biden was checked 12 times, and the dominant ruling was “Half True” (six of those, or 50 percent). There was a True, a Mostly True, two Mostly False, and two False. Biden drew zero “Pants on Fire” warnings, and has only seven of those in the entire history of PolitiFact going back to 2007. Trump currently has 187.

These 2024 numbers do not include articles that they chose not to evaluate on their “Truth-O-Meter,” and that would include their ridiculous article on March 27 attempting to say it wasn’t “Pants on Fire” when Joe Biden referred to the collapsed bridge in Baltimore this way: “I’ve been over many, many times commuting from the state of Delaware either on a train or by car." PolitiFact helpfully relayed that the White House “clarified” it by saying that’s not what he meant.

If the count was expanded to include conservative-leaning opinion leaders, there were nine blogs about them and all nine of them were ranked as False. That includes three on Elon Musk, two on Tucker Carlson, as well as one for Franklin Graham, Sean Hannity, Benny Johnson, and Jesse Watters. That would drive the conservative/Republican total to 56 of 72 fact checks being Mostly False or worse (77.7 percent). There were no named liberal opinion leaders in this first quarter.

This is why we have an ongoing tag for "Fact-Checking the Fact Checkers." This doesn't mean we're hostile to Facts. It means the "fact checkers" are not "independent." They have all the same biases and messaging tendencies as liberal reporters.