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Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Over the weekend, House Minority Leader Eric Cantor made a startlingly false claim:

“What we are trying to do is fund the government and make sure also that we take away the kinds of things that are standing in the way of a growing economy [and] a better health care, and all the while keeping our eye focused on trying to deal with the ultimate problem, which is this growing deficit.”

PolitiFact — the fact-checking bureau that takes pride in constantly offending both sides of the aisle — looked at this claim and decided that it was “Half True,” because though the deficit is shrinking, it is projected to rise in 2016.

“By this standard, Cantor is wrong,” PolitiFact wrote. “However, unless policies are changed, deficits are projected to grow again in 2016 and beyond, according to the CBO. On balance, we rate his claim Half True.”

This justifiably made a few people livid, including MSNBC’s Steve Benen, The Washington Post‘s Greg Sargent and The New York Times‘ Paul Krugman.

Salon‘s Brian Beutler said that this blatant error is probably a good thing, since most people aren’t actually aware the deficit is shrinking.

But the organization this mistake should upset the most is… PolitiFact.

In July, President Obama said “our deficits are falling at the fastest rate in 60 years” and PolitiFact rated this statement “True”:

Barack Obama said the deficit has fallen at the fastest rate in 60 years. While economists vary on how to best measure that decline, the president used an acceptable approach and his numbers are accurate. There are no statistical tricks in play.

As a wise man once said: Politifact, you’d better check yourself before you wreck yourself.

FULL DISCLOSURE:  PolitiFact once gave me a “False” for tweeting that they would have to lay off staffers after Michele Bachmann dropped out of the 2012 GOP primary.

  • sigrid28

    PolitiFact is hardly immune to competition, in a world where computer savvy, super smart millennials who are out of work could become Internet entrepreneurs overnight, creating with a better product to replace PolitiFact, one designed to do the job right. If PolitiFact does decide to toss its credibility out the window in order to suck up to the right-wing dominated media, it could always attach itself as a parasite, I mean satellite, to Fox News and the new CNN, Fox News Lite, along with right-wing radio celebrities and their lackeys, I mean staff. PolitiFact could change its name to something catchy, like PolitiPhony and probably make even more money than they are now in the service of the party that “will not be dictated to by fact-checkers.”

  • Sand_Cat

    I know MSNBC is suspect for many, but Rachel Maddow and others have regularly pointed out non-facts (i.e., serious distortions) by Politifact, not that anyone was listening, it seems.

  • ViaFabula

    I’m not seeing how this is inaccurate. They’re not comparing the same things as I’m reading it – Obama’s comment was that the deficit is dropping faster than it has in 60 years; Politifact’s judgment of Cantor’s statement was based on the fact that the deficit will rise at some point in the future. Obama never said the deficit is falling and will never rise again, and Politifact never said anything about the rate at which the deficit is falling. What am I missing?