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Oh, Those Pesky Truth Tellers

Memo Pad

Oh, Those Pesky Truth Tellers


That’s a big reason I remain a fan of PolitiFact. It’s not because I like public reprimands of my husband but because PolitiFact changes how some elected officials and candidates frame their messages and communicate with constituents.

In countless strategy discussions, the question looms: Will this pass the PolitiFact test?

Translation: Are we telling the truth?

It really is this simple:

If you care about being honest with voters, you’re going to be more vigilant about the truth and recalibrate what you say after PolitiFact takes you to task.

If you think voters are idiots, you’ll keep repeating lies no matter how many fact checkers prove you aren’t telling the truth.

In 2008, I interviewed PolitiFact’s editor, Bill Adair, after his staff had posted its 500th Truth-O-Meter rating. He told me then that it had taken time for him and his reporters to own their hard-earned authority.

“We were scared into a ‘false balance’ in the face of critics saying, ‘You guys are biased,'” Adair said. “It took us a while to find our voice and realize that once you have solid reporting, you should draw conclusions. It’s taken us a while to be courageous enough to say, ‘Facts are facts, and this candidate is wrong.'”

Last week, Tampa Bay Times Editor Neil Brown responded to recent criticism of PolitiFact with an op-ed, titled “You can handle the truth.”

“Today there is more fact-check journalism under way than ever before,” he wrote. “Reporters at Factcheck.org (one of the earliest and most credible initiatives), the Washington Post Fact Checker and other newsrooms are diving deep into the claims of politicians, asking the most basic question: Is it true?

“Why would there be a backlash against that? It’s all about power.”

He’s got that exactly right.

The only thing I’d add is that fact checkers, such as PolitiFact, can change the electoral equation — with your help.

Armed with the truth, the most powerful person in any campaign is you, the voter.

Connie Schultz is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and an essayist for Parade magazine. She is the author of two books, including “…and His Lovely Wife,” which chronicled the successful race of her husband, Sherrod Brown, for the U.S. Senate. To find out more about Connie Schultz (con.schultz@yahoo.com) and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.

Connie Schultz

Connie Schultz is a nationally syndicated columnist for Creators Syndicated. Schultz won the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for commentary and was a finalist for the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for feature writing. She has also published two books: Life Happens: And Other Unavoidable Truths -- a collection of her previously published columns -- and ...and His Lovely Wife: A Memoir from the Woman Beside the Man, which chronicled her experiences on the campaign trail with her husband, Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown.

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  1. Lynda September 14, 2012

    The entire Romney campaign seems to be running on the guess that the average American is just too stupid to know the difference between hyperbole and fact. I suppose that will work on the 30 something percent of GOPers who don’t believe Obama was born in America. When your base consists of that many loons anything just might be possible.

    1. Dominick Vila September 14, 2012

      I agree. Fortunately, the latest polls indicate President Obama is comfortably ahead, and most states, including Virginia, are going blue. When traditional GOP strongholds become toss ups, that force the GOP to spend money where they were hoping to save, and prevents them from spending as much as they wish in states where they think they have a chance. With the exception of most of the South and some Midwest states, Mitt is toast.

  2. Dominick Vila September 14, 2012

    Judging by what is going on in the “liberal” media, we need more fact checkers. Most media outlets are complicit in the ability of Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan to lie time and again, and nobody challenges them or seem to care. Is it because our media is owned by powerful individuals and journalists fear for their jobs if they don’t tow the line? Or should we assume journalism has been bought by the highest bidder?

    1. Ed September 14, 2012

      Yes Dominick it has, and not only that but our so called media is interested only in fanning the flames of controversy, not truth.

  3. Scott Brown September 14, 2012

    ‘false balance’ – I’m not a little disillusioned with our media entities’ acquiescing to claims of media bias for well over a decade now. It also seems sad that our news broadcasters are not better informed on the issues to challenge punditry or that news organizations themselves do not recognize this failing and make little effort to create shows/programs or formatting that may allow the complexity of the issues to be better explored other than allowing ever expanding panels of pundits expensive media to to ’advertise‘ talking points and legitimize agenda setting organs of the Right.

    It is my opinion that the agenda setting mechanism is completely corrupted. The argument against ‘main stream media’ (itself a straw man and pejorative term injected by the Right) implies (maybe explicitly states) that there is some sort of coordinated effort to present the news or set the agenda. This is hardly the case for whilst some media outlets may have a more liberal or moderate bias, it is absolutely not the case that this bias is coordinated with the same systematic mechanisms of the Right. Without resolution of this matter, the media will be subject to the criticism of media bias.

    It seems incomprehensible to me that journalists aren’t in the news room breaking down daily talking point memos and preparing in advance to challenge the logic, premises, and facts which underlie the bulletins. Why aren’t broadcast journalists first reviewing videos, interviews and writings of those they will be interviewing to better probe and challenge the guests? If the topics are too arcane for the broadcaster why aren’t the broadcast media organizations creating formats where experts (journalistic) can conduct the interview rather than just bringing on more pundits to argue talking points?

    You know in the 19th century when the US was considering the need for the establishment of a central bank to act as a lender of last resort to ameliorate the problems associated with commodity gold) currency and bank failures which were much more common then, there was a great debate across our country which involved all levels of society with farmers being well informed, their being most directly effected by the currency crisis and resulting deep and sustained recessions and depressions which characterized the age, and were able to discuss and debate the merits and problems with different banking models being considered at the time. What a sad state of affairs today when most folks have little interest, intellectual curiosity/acuity to digest the issues, debate them in reasonable ways and instead default to the, “how I feel” fear based reaction which allows all forms of insidious manipulation of which they are completely oblivious.

    Maybe all the above is silly because US citizens have really become as mendastic as it seems they’ve become. Whereby the the default response is just viewpoint cable where ill-informed media consumers seek more red meat to feed their post purchase consumer consumption needs.

  4. William Deutschlander September 14, 2012

    What one must understand is that Romney / Ryan beleives that they can invent their own facts to suit their own agendas. When one comes from an ENTITLED life they truly beleive they are ENTITLED to their own facts even though they have no basis in reality.

    That is precisely why those who are savvy and inteligent have branded Romney & Ryan as LIARS!

    1. Dominick Vila September 14, 2012

      I heard part of a speech by Romney this afternoon in which he proposed drilling horizontally instead of only vertically so that we can take advantage of our natural gas and coal reservoirs to solve our economic problems and reduce unemployment. I wonder where he has been the last 3.5 years. Domestic oil production is at a record high, especially in North Dakota, dependence on foreign oil is at a record low and Mitt Romney believes he can solve our problems by drilling horizontally? I am beginning to wonder if this guy is missing a screw or two! Needless to say, the small crowd applauded enthusiastically, presumably overwhelmed by his wit and vision…

      1. Joel Sorenson September 14, 2012

        Hey Dom look up the implications of horizontal hydro frac-ing….it absolutely destroys bedrock sub structure and poisons every water table it encounters. It’s a horrible idea and completely apprapo for Romney’s all for money screw the environment policy.

  5. pogo_patti September 14, 2012

    EVERYONE should be after the truth. I spend a lot of time doing just that…I get a lot of mail and phone calls with the tales even though I am for the President and am not bashful about saying so. I get about 5 emails a day from my Republican friends….I check them out and then tell them where to find the truth. They used to say, “See the Dems are doing thus and such, ” or “saying this and that” and I would have to search it out to make them listen. Now, they send me articles, or copies of emails I receive and ask me to check them out for them and I do. They might be Republicans but they do not want to publish lies in the name of truth or politics. If the President were lying, I would also tell that, but have not found lies to be a part of his programming. Anyone can make mistakes. Some people just love to lie.!

  6. onedonewong September 14, 2012

    Fact Checkers really, what I’ve seen is folks turning themselves inside out trying to justify baraks ad bidens multiple gaffs

    1. Warren Nicholson September 14, 2012

      Hey sock puppet, why don’t you check the facts and stop repeating lies.

      1. onedonewong September 14, 2012

        another obummer apologist

        1. english_teacher September 15, 2012

          So why don’t you present us with the facts, not the opinions, that support your statement? I look forward to seeing and evaluating them.

          1. onedonewong September 15, 2012

            I already have when I post the facts back me up

          2. english_teacher September 16, 2012

            Then where are they? If they’re on this thread, I don’t see them. If they’re on another, how am I supposed to know that and find them.

            So if you have facts to back up your statement, what are they?

          3. onedonewong September 16, 2012

            Looks like the day care center you work at has a perfect match with your IQ to the students

          4. english_teacher September 23, 2012

            You’re such a wit. I asked you a perfectly reasonable question and you can only reply with an insult. This only confirms that you’re not interested in discussion but rather in dissension and bullying.

          5. onedonewong September 29, 2012

            a foolish question deserves a foolish answer

  7. Angel September 15, 2012

    Continue the fact checking but it’s not enough …. The lies should be confronted and exposed publicly, leading to a Republican national embarassment where all medias should involve themselves being a part of fact checking. Can you imagine what Ryans nose would look like if he was Pinochio ?????


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