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Austin American-Statesman debuts PolitiFact Texas (The Texas Truth-O-Meter)

My local Austin American-Statesman has just added PolitiFact Texas. If this works as well as the one at the St. Petersburg (FL) Times and Barack Obama’s “Fight the Smears,” then in won’t exactly be about the truth. The plan is to make this nation-wide.

It’s sort of a Snope with, unfortunately, a little Media Matters under the hood. The project has already won a Pulitzer Prize (for whatever that’s worth nowadays).

From the press release:

Announcing PolitiFact Texas!
By Bill Adair
Published on Wednesday, January 13th, 2010 at 8:40 a.m.
Starting today, politicians in Texas will have to face the Truth-O-Meter.

We are proud to announce the launch of PolitiFact Texas, a partnership with the Austin American-Statesman to fact-check the 2010 campaigns in the Lone Star State.

PolitiFact Texas uses the same journalistic approach and reader-friendly design as our main site. It is integrated with PolitiFact.com and uses our Truth-O-Meter to rate the accuracy of statements by candidates, elected officials and political parties.

You’ll find it has the same spirit and distinctive voice as the national site. Check the Texas home page today and you’ll find a lively mix of items ranging from Gov. Rick Perry’s claim that the state accounted for 70 percent of the nation’s new jobs in 2007-08 (False), to Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison’s claim that she quadrupled the number of border patrol agents (Barely True).

Initially, PolitiFact Texas will focus on the 2010 elections, but we expect it will expand to fact-checking state and local officials as they govern.

The Statesman, a highly regarded (LIBERAL–B.P.) newspaper in the Texas capital, has assembled a top-notch group of journalists for the PolitiFact Texas team. It is led by veteran political writer W. Gardner Selby and includes writers Ciara O’Rourke and Meghan Ashford-Grooms. The site will be edited by John Bridges and Brenda Bell. Much of the work that you see on PolitiFact Texas will also be published in the Statesman’s newsprint editions.

The Texas site is the first of PolitiFact’s planned expansion to the state and local level. Our parent, the St. Petersburg Times, already is publishing Truth-O-Meter items on Florida races in the newspaper and on PolitiFact.com.

PolitiFact.com has an Obameter and a new story today, “Rating Obama’s promises at the 1-year mark.” Look at this:

Tracking Obama’s promises
91 Promise Kept
33 Compromise
14 Promise Broken
87 Stalled
275 In the Works

Here’s a similar trick. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg keeps track of his campaign promises every year, and every time he grades himself at 90%. You can do that by counting little promises that no one really cares about many, many times. Then the big one–BLOOMBERG LIED THROUGH HIS TEETH ON TERM LIMITS–gets counted as just one, if it gets counted at all.

Look at this crap that the St. Petersburg Times considers a “kept” promise:

No. 502: Get his daughters a puppy

Give me a break! And some of the promises are crazy, wasteful ideas (like closing Gitmo) that are better “broken” than “kept.”

Just looking at top two on PolitiFact Texas, we see that Republican Governor Rick Perry has “Pants on Fire” while Democrat Governor-wannabe Bill White gets a “True.”

PoltiFact has been knowingly wrong on Glenn Beck:

Glenn Beck 1, Politifact 0
Politifact at the St. Petersburg Times has a contest for readers to vote for the “Lie of the Year.”

But one of the nominees is not a lie.

Reporter Angie Drobnic Holan cited as a “lie” Glenn Beck from his July 22 TV show. She wrote: “John Holdren, director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, ‘has proposed forcing abortions and putting sterilants in the drinking water to control population’.”
(…)

So actually it is Politifact — not Beck — that lied. Holdren proposed the very things that Beck said he proposed.

I am puzzled by why Poltifact somehow felt that this book’s age — three decades old — somehow excuses Holdren.

Here’s another Glenn Beck example, from Sublime Bloviations:

Wednesday, December 09, 2009
Grading PolitiFact: Glenn Beck and the White House visits
Sometimes PolitiFact concerns itself with the literal truth of a statement. Sometimes the focus falls on the underlying argument. Sometimes both receive attention. Perhaps a throw of the dice determines which happens. Maybe it depends on whether the PolitiFact staffers like the person involved.
(…)
The grades:

Louis Jacobson: F
Greg Joyce: F

The PolitiFact team did some good work providing context for the meaning of the White House visitor log data. But flubbing the context of the Beck quotation forbids the granting of a passing grade.

CLOSING THOUGHTS:
I think PolitiFact is a Media-Matters-wolf dressed in non-partisan clothing. It’s fine in theory, but in practice, it’s been biased toward liberals, just like the newspapers that carry it.

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