With the election approaching, candidates and others are making political statements. Lies or truth, we hear claims in speeches, soundbites, commercials, emails, and on Facebook. PolitiFact helps to sort it all out. I've just finished watching the Republican and Democratic conventions, listening to ex-presidents and other politicians go on and on about their track record, point fingers at the other guy, and boast about their accomplishments. Let's face it, we've lived through enough elections to know that, at their best, politicians are exaggerating or stretching the truth to make themselves look good, and at their worst, what they are saying are bold-faced lies.
The PolitiFact app for iPhone and Android, and the Politifact website displays a list of the latest statements made in speeches, commercials, interviews, emails, and viral Facebook posts. Directly following the conventions, I was able to check the PolitiFact app to see if each party's rhetoric, blame, and boasts were true. If your Facebook wall looks like mine as impassioned friends post videos and articles, it's a great relief to be able to get the facts.
The PolitiFact Truthometer and Report Cards
Each statement is rated on the Truthometer—from True to Mostly True, Half True, Mostly False, False and (Liar, Liar) Pants on Fire. The rating is supported with a statement of the findings including background information and where the facts were obtained. You can look up statements by the Latest claims, by the Rulings ratings of truth or lies, and by the People who made the statement (along with a report card of percentage of Truths and Pants on fire statements for each person). You can also look up claims by subject from healthcare to the economy, to Iraq, legal issues, jobs, elections, and the environment.
Obamameter Promise Meter and GOP Pledge-O-Meter-These features are report cards of promises that were made and what percentage were kept, broken, compromised or still in the works.
Flip-O-Meter- rates recent statements by each candidate that have been flagged as possibly contradicting earlier promises or claims. It is not meant to pass judgement, rather just to report the contradictions. Rated No-Flip, Half-Flip, or Full Flop, it compares what the candidate said before with what they are saying now.
Can you trust PolitiFact?
The PolitiFact website was launched in August of 2007 as a project of the Tampa Bay Times (previously the "St Petersburg Times") to fact-check statements made by members of Congress, the White House, lobbyists and special interest groups. The website won a Pulitzer Prize in 2009 for their coverage of the 2008 campaign.
Bill Adair, Editor of the Tampa Bay Times explained to me that it grew out of his guild as a political reporter.
"For too long I had passed along exaggerations and falsehoods from politicians. I decided it was time to do more fact-checking. I also wanted to create a new form of journalism that harnessed the power of the Web."
The non-partisan Tampa Bay Times newspaper is independently owned. The editors and reporters behind PolitiFact are not beholden to any corporation, news group, political party, and have no hidden political agenda.
In using the PolitiFact app over the past couple of weeks, the rulings and findings appear to be balanced. I don't think it's a good idea to get into examples of statements and finding that might get people fired up. It's better if you go to the PolitiFact website to judge for yourself.
Which political claims are researched?
Certainly bias can be created if the PolitiFact people only researched certain claims that would make a candidate look bad. Again, that hasn't been my experience. If you want a claim researched you can email PolitiFact from its website.
PolitiFact uses certain criteria to choose which statements are listed. Statements on PolitiFact must: have verifiable facts, make a significant claim that can leave a particular (misleading) impression, likely be repeated, and make you wonder if the statement is true. Claims are examined with close attention to whether the exact wording is precise but above all explore the statement in the context in which is was said. The reporters and editors behind PolitiFact compare labor statistics, claims about the growth or failure I the Economy, verify political records, and just about any other fact they can get their hands on.