The mainstream media fact-checking outfit PolitiFact may have just performed the "flip-flop" of the year. The group, which has outlets in several states, named as "Lie of the Year" President Barack Obama's now infamous claim that under ObamaCare if you like your current health insurance, you can keep it. The presidential claim has been made a lie by the reality of thousands of Americans receiving health insurance cancellations due to new ObamaCare regulations.
What makes PolitiFact's rating astonishing is that in October of 2008 the group rated the exact same statement by then-candidate Barack Obama as "True." Obama made the claim at a presidential debate in Nashville while he defended the proposal that was ultimately enacted into law in the Affordable Care Act.
Obama's 2008 debate statement was:
"No. 1, let me just repeat, if you've got a health care plan that you like, you can keep it. All I'm going to do is help you to lower the premiums on it. You'll still have choice of doctor."
"Obama is accurately describing his health care plan here. He advocates a program that seeks to build on the current system, rather than dismantling it and starting over."
But now in 2013, PolitiFact writes of the same claim, this time repeated by the President as he touted his signature domestic legislative accomplishment:
"Boiling down the complicated health care law to a soundbite proved treacherous, even for its promoter-in-chief. Obama and his team made matters worse, suggesting they had been misunderstood all along. The stunning political uproar led to this: a rare presidential apology."
Then came the dagger thrust of the fact-checker:
"For all of these reasons, PolitiFact has named "If you like your health care plan, you can keep it," the Lie of the Year for 2013."
PolitiFact's flip-flop on such a major issue again highlights the questionable nature and dubious value of the brand's work. Repeatedly the alleged and self-appointed fact-checkers have revealed through incomplete facts, biased reasoning, or cherry-picked sourcing that they are editorialists, not journalist. The ratings assigned by the group are not products of some scientific process, but a willy-nilly concoction of fancy and perspective.
Expect no apology to come from PolitiFact. At least when President Obama was finally, repeatedly, unarguably confronted with the error of his rhetoric he offered a humble - if forced - mea culpa.