Sorry, PolitiFact Oregon, but you need to check your facts.

Sorry, PolitiFact Oregon, but you need to check your facts.

By Scott Moore of Portland, Oregon. Scott is the Communications Director for Our Oregon and was a political reporter and news editor for the Portland Mercury.

For anybody still wondering just how much the Oregonian has shifted to the right since being taken over by N. Christian Anderson, here’s another exhibit in the long and ever-lengthening pile of evidence.

Even when our newspaper of record is discrediting false claims made by anti-tax ideologues, it STILL manages to promote false, anti-tax talking points.

Case in point: On Tuesday, the paper’s PolitiFact Oregon operation issued a takedown of some of Rob Cornilles’s claims about Suzanne Bonamici. But to get there, they decided to lead off with a bit of loaded rhetoric. “Tax increases remain unpopular with voters…” were literally the first words in the article.

There were no citations given for this claim, and certainly none of the context or nuance the PolitiFact writers demand from their subjects. Instead, we get a blanket statement about tax increases being unpopular. It’s the kind of statement that unfortunately becomes “conventional wisdom” solely because it’s repeated so often—despite being completely untrue.

Here are the facts:

The last time the popularity of raising taxes was tested statewide, they proved to be really, really popular. Measures 66 & 67 won with about 54% of the vote—a higher margin than just about any statewide politician in recent memory. (The results in CD1 were even slightly higher than the state average, at about 54.5%.) There’s no evidence to suggest that there’s less support for higher taxes on large corporations and the rich today than there was in January 2010.

Looking nationally, there’s been a cavalcade of polling in the past year showing that tax increases on corporations and the rich are extremely popular. Here’s just a few:

Clearly, the claim that “tax increases remain unpopular” is just plain false.

Sure, there are broad-based taxes that have failed in Oregon and elsewhere. If the claim was: “Despite wide support for targeted tax increases on the rich, broad-based tax increases remain unpopular.” PolitiFact would be in safe territory. But that’s not what they said. They issued a blanket statement that “tax increases are unpopular,” even though that claim is plainly False.

Between this and their patently ridiculous claim that Cornilles isn’t “the original Tea Party candidate”—despite those exact words coming out of his mouth and his clear courting of the Tea Party vote—one has to marvel at how N. Christian Anderson has turned the Fact Check page into the Opinion page.

Shouldn’t PolitiFact Oregon be held to the same standard of truth they claim to apply to everyone else?

Comments

  • (Show?)

    One wonders why PolitiFact Oregon should be held to a higher standard than other PolitiFact outlets around the country, particularly PolitiFact.com which is regularly and almost religiously misleading if not downright wrong.

  • (Show?)

    Well, this one is a no-brainer. It's a factual statement that can be evaluated by evidence.

    My bigger complaint is when they evaluate opinions through the lens of "fact-checking".

    A secondary complaint is when they nitpick facts that are tangential to the main point of a story.

    • (Show?)

      In my opinion, the problem with Politifact (all of them) is that they have a vested interest in something being some shade of "not true." If claims are true, Politifact isn't useful. So they extend their own existence by considering most things not entirely accurate and by choosing things to cover that they can claim to be partly not true.

    • (Show?)

      And,

      "The writers of opinions are free to check facts, but the writers of facts are largely prohibited from it. This only makes sense if you consider facts to be opinions, and opinions to be facts, which in turn seems to make the whole point of reporting on either rather pointless"

  • (Show?)

    Kari:

    I think the overall problem is that balance has replaced fairness. Too whom the media should be fair? They should be fair to the reader, and that means jettisoning balance in favor of fairness.

  • (Show?)

    Anyway, as I was writing. Being fair means placing at least some context on the major points of the subject. It isn't possible to fact-check everything that comes out of some politicians mouths without running out of column space. BUt maybe that will train politicians to not rely on a compliant media.

  • (Show?)

    I think the answer is clear. If a politician states what appears to be something that's untrue, reporters should push back -- either provide facts to back up the claim, or I'm not printing it.

    I've been on a lot of campaign conference calls where we're dialing things back after long discussions about whether we've got the facts to back up our claims.

    Pretty frustrating to then see opponents get away with complete BS and not get called on it.

    That's why it's so weird to see sites like PolitiFact attack opinions as if they're facts, or just plain flat-out get it wrong like this one. There are SO MANY untrue facts to go after.

    Of course, that may be why Democrats are so much crankier with PolitiFact than Republicans are. PFO tries to call BS equally between Ds and Rs - but the reality is that the Rs are constantly spewing non-facts while it's pretty rare for Democrats.

    Maybe we need a systematic scorecard on Politifact Oregon.

    • (Show?)

      Thats a great sentiment Kari but if we are going to have this discussion shouldn't we stop lying to ourselves about it. One of the reasons I refuse to support Obama again this time around is because he is such a shameless serial liar. The man just can't tell the truth and unlike politicians who we are quick to excuse by saying "well they all lie" Obama's record is one of a habitual, shameless liar, a man who will say anything to get what he wants.

      'How shameful is that for our society when this disgraceful record is never the subject of an editorial in the New York Times, the Washington Post, or CBS news? Richard Nixon was removed from office, and Bill Clinton impeached for a single lie. Who could look at Obama’s record without concluding that his lying is in a completely different league to theirs?

      President Obama evidently believes that he can solve any problem with a speech and a lie. But he really does not care whether what he says is true or not, nor does he feel any responsibility to honor the assurances and promises he makes. As a result, this nation is now in a position where it cannot believe a word that he says, and that amounts to an unprecedented crisis of confidence in the Presidency. Democratic government will atrophy if we allow lying on this scale to count as the business as usual of politics.

      When politicians lie they are usually trying to avoid political damage, or to make themselves look good. Bill Clinton lied to save himself from embarrassment. Hillary Clinton lied about being under fire in Bosnia to enhance her non-existent foreign affairs profile. Richard Nixon was forced from office because he lied to cover up his involvement in a political dirty trick. John Kerry lied about his Vietnam combat experience to shore up his anti-military reputation. But Barack Obama’s lies are far more corrosive and destructive, because they go the heart of legislation and governance, and as a result seriously undermine our trust in government. His lies generally take a specific form: they attempt to persuade people to vote for him or his policies by categorically assuring them that they need not have the anxieties that they have been expressing. The lies say, essentially: trust me, support what I want, and I promise that what you fear will never happen. But in every case it soon becomes clear either that he knew perfectly well that what the public feared would in fact happen, or that he was giving a firm assurance that he was in no position to give, or that he had no intention of following through on his promise'.

      This post was right on target but let's not fool ourselves into thinking that it's always the other guys and not us. People in glass houses shouldn't throw stones and I for one am sick and tired of every politician who lies whether it's David Wu or Rob Cornilles or anyone else.

  • (Show?)

    So the news flash is people don't mind tax increases on other people.

    • (Show?)

      I don't mind a tax increase on myself when I know it's needed. Hence my voting "yes" on Measure 66.

    • (Show?)

      thats excactly what this shows. The 99% have no problem raising taxes on the 1% but politifacts statement that a majority of people are against tax increases is probably correct

    • (Show?)

      This is popular right-wing drivel.

      The inference being made here is that people wll always vote to raise taxes on "other people" regardless of whether it is right/fair/just. This is of course completely false.

      For example, if the GOP controlled house put forth a bill raising taxes on the poor, only Rescumlicans would vote for it.

  • (Show?)

    There can be no higher law in journalism than to tell the truth and to shame the devil. --Walter Lippmann

  • (Show?)

    The NY times asks the question whether they should be journalists or entertainers. Why should we pay money to read their rag if they are just going to repeat what other people say and are too lazy and too irresponsible to exercise the profession of journalism? And why should Politifact be taken seriously or have any credibility if they make statements that are without foundation?

connect with blueoregon