By Tim Graham ~
Wall Street Journal columnist James Taranto has been a persistent critic of “nonpartisan” fact-checking websites run by liberal-media veterans. In Wednesday’s column, Taranto collected a devastating set of PolitiFact rulings that show how unabashedly mercurcial and political their “Truth-o-Meter” is.
Taranto (pictured) praised Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini for telling Bloomberg that healthy young people can conclude that spending money on beer makes more sense than buying overpriced health insurance. “As the rates rise, the healthier people pull out because the out-of-pocket costs aren’t worth it….Young people can do the math. Gas for the car, beer on Fridays and Saturdays, health insurance.” Taranto added:
Bertolini is a truth-teller by the standard of ObamaCare, a massive consumer fraud marketed under the slogan “If you like your plan, you can keep your plan.” Whereas a corporate executive who told a lie as brazen as that would be at serious risk of prison, when the country’s CEO tells a “political” lie, he faces little by way of accountability—including from the news media, which advertise themselves as advocates for the public interest answering power with truth.
Taranto said it’s one thing for liberals like Vox’s Sarah Kliff to complain that huge premium hikes for ObamaCare are caused by unhelpful people who aren’t signing up for ObamaCare the way they should. Then came the PolitiFact smackdown:
But purportedly nonpartisan media organizations have also engaged in boosterism for the fraud that is ObamaCare. In March 2012, the Senate Republican Conference put out a video called “ObamaCare: Broken Promises,” which said “that while President Barack Obama promised to ‘work with your employer to lower your premiums by $2,500 per family per year,’ his health care law ‘raises premiums in the individual market by $2,100 per family.’ ”
PolitiFact acknowledged that “the number does come from a Congressional Budget Office analysis, and it’s phrased accurately.” It nonetheless rated the statement “mostly false” on the ground that “it’s stripped of crucial context and distorts the truth.”
In July of the same year, Florida’s Gov. Rick Scott, citing the same CBO report, said “if you’re going to buy your own policy with these (health care) exchanges you’ll be paying 10% more . . . about $2,100 more for a family.” Again, PolitiFact said “mostly false”—this time because “what he doesn’t say is that these policies will have to offer comprehensive coverage. So people will pay more, but they’re also get more benefits.”
They were still at it in April 2015, when Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin said that during the Obama years, “the average cost of family health care premiums has increased by $4,154.” PolitiFact acknowledged “the figure is correct when comparing 2008 to 2014.” But still it said “mostly false,” claiming Walker should have used 2009 as his baseline (which would have yielded an increase of $3,459).
Later last year the fact-checkers showed signs of catching up to reality. In October 2015 Trump asserted that, “because of Obamacare ‘people’s premiums . . . are going up 35%, 45%, 55%.’ ” PolitiFact rated that statement “half true” — but what does that even mean? That they’re actually going up 17.5%, 22.5%, 27.5%? Or 70%, 90%, 110%?
It’s a familiar pattern. PolitiFact’s 2013 “Lie of the Year” was the central ObamaCare fraud: “If you like your plan, you can keep your plan.” As this column noted at the time, the site had previously certified the promise as “true” (2008), then equivocated and labeled it “half true” in both 2009 and 2012.
Everyone’s entitled to his own opinion, but “fact checkers” think they’re entitled to call their own opinions facts. As the president perpetrated a fraud on American consumers, journalists have often helped him along. They would never dream of doing the same for an unscrupulous CEO of, say, a beer company.
PolitiFact always seems to play the card of “Context” to arrive at whatever “Fact” rating lines up with their emotions.
A peek at their “Pants on Fire” ratings page shows that since August 1, they’ve thrown the “Pants” at Trump on 19 occasions, and Hillary Clinton only has three. Since September 1, the “True” page has four top ratings for Trump, and 14 for Hillary Clinton (plus three for her running mate Tim Kaine).