PolitiFact, the political fact-checking project of the Tampa Bay Times, announced Thursday they were adding two former Florida Congressmen as contributors, and immediately faced their own fact-checking from what seemed like the entire Twittersphere, voicing some very strong opposition to one of the choices.
According to the article on PolitiFact’s website, the two former Congressmen, Republican David Jolly and Democrat Alan Grayson, were selected to be the first “reader advocates,” part of “a series of experiments to try and improve trust and credibility in fact-checking.”
“David and Alan are both particularly qualified, we think, to critique the work of PolitiFact, because they’ve been subject to our fact-checks as members of Congress,” wrote PolitiFact’s Aaron Scharockman.
Big news! Former Florida U.S. Reps. @DavidJollyFL and @AlanGrayson have agreed to serve as reader advocates for PolitiFact. They'll be critiquing our work and publishing on https://t.co/6iAcZZN0ud. Read why we're doing this, and let us know what you think. https://t.co/XBEjhDez7j
— PolitiFact (@PolitiFact) February 1, 2018
Few objected to Jolly’s selection. Grayson, on the other hand — well, his name set off a firestorm of outrage. PolitiFact’s initial tweet with the news quickly became an example of The Ratio, with response tweets (almost all of which were negative) outnumbering retweets by a factor of over seven-to-one at the time this article was written.
At the beginning of his political career, Grayson had been cheered by many liberals for his pugnacious communication style and he proved to be a prolific fundraiser for himself and other Democratic candidates around the country. Republicans rolled their eyes at his outlandish comments, like claiming the Republican health plan was “die quickly!” among other nonsense. Eventually, though, even the most diehard partisan Democrats found him a bit much to take and he found himself out of office again after losing to Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-FL) in the Democratic primary for Florida’s Senate seat in 2016.
"hiring alan grayson is a good idea" pic.twitter.com/u4es6vjZ1Q
— Alazar Moges (@zarzarbinkss) February 1, 2018
Beyond Grayson’s nutty comments — and far more troubling — are multiple reports of abrasive, if not abusive behavior. His divorce from his second wife Lolita seemed to be one scandal after another, including accusations of bigamy and decades of domestic violence. It makes Grayson a tough sell in these #MeToo times.
Several members of the media also responded to PolitiFact’s announcement with their own reports of Grayson’s horribleness.
At a time when the credibility of journalism is under attack, @PolitiFact is supposed to help us understand true from false. @AlanGrayson who shoved a reporter for uncovering years of police reports of alleged domestic abuse has no place in such a role. https://t.co/1WN6TYQrPR
— Josh Wolf (@_joshwolf) February 1, 2018
— Jake Sherman (@JakeSherman) February 1, 2018
If only you were some sort of fact checking organization, then you could have discovered this prior to hiring Grayson. Oh well.https://t.co/HrhW6gk2q5
— Mike Flacy (@mikeflacy) February 1, 2018
— Alex Burns (@alexburnsNYT) February 1, 2018
Other readers pointed out the multiple times that PolitiFact has branded Grayson himself a “Pants on Fire” liar.
This is awkward.https://t.co/1WOiPwU6Nr
— Adrenochrome Harvester (@ClenchedFisk) February 1, 2018
Having met both Jolly and Grayson on multiple occasions, and having had the intense displeasure of being represented in Congress for two years by Grayson, I have to agree with the Twitter reactions: Jolly is a fine choice (although there is a fair objection to be had that they should also add a Republican who supports Trump), but Grayson is an absolutely terrible choice for this role.
UPDATE: Barely two hours after making the announcement, PolitiFact came to their senses and dumped Grayson, deleting their tweet and posting several new ones explaining the decision.
Follow Sarah Rumpf on Twitter: @rumpfshaker.
[Cross-posted at The Capitolist.]