Politifact Ponders If Word Choice Even Matters While Refusing to Fact Check a Blatantly False Statement
This is not a parody. This actually happened.
You may recall a few days ago when Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris (among others) were dinged for blatantly lying about the death of Michael Brown. They claimed it was the fifth anniversary of his “murder” even though multiple investigations found he attacked a police officer, tried to get his gun, and then charged the officer.
5 years ago Michael Brown was murdered by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri. Michael was unarmed yet he was shot 6 times. I stand with activists and organizers who continue the fight for justice for Michael. We must confront systemic racism and police violence head on.
— Elizabeth Warren (@ewarren) August 9, 2019
You’d think such an obvious lie would be gold for the media and fact-checkers. After all, they are just unbiased umpires calling balls and strikes, right? In reality, it only illicited a few mentions. Simply ignoring the statements even happened was the strategy of the day.
Then Politifact came along, smeared themselves in honey, and ran through the bear exhibit. BTW, if Politifact is “fact-checking” this article, that’s a joke. Politifact did not actually smear themselves in honey and run through a conglomerate of bears.
NEW: Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren called Michael Brown's killing in Ferguson a "murder." Legally, it wasn't. How much should this word choice matter? https://t.co/Gnv0ZBFCZspic.twitter.com/H3usKiPyCy
— PolitiFact (@PolitiFact) August 14, 2019
The article starts off by showing the two tweets by Warren and Harris, one of which I posted above. They then get into their analysis of the matter. Remember this is a “fact-checking” website.
After these tweets came out, PolitiFact heard from numerous readers who asked us to check whether Harris and Warren were correct in calling Brown’s death a “murder.”
There is no question that Wilson killed Brown, and there’s strong evidence that it was not accidental.
No one has claimed the shooting was an accident, so of course there’s strong evidence it wasn’t. It was a justifiable homicide. The officer had been attacked and then was being charged by Brown. Both the local and DOJ investigations found this to be what happened. There is zero evidence to the contrary.
In discussing the case with legal experts, however, we found broad consensus that “murder” was the wrong word to use — a legal point likely familiar to Harris, a longtime prosecutor, and Warren, a law professor.
Ok, so Warren and Harris lied. They get the pants of fire rating, correct? Nah, they chose not to even rate it.
Because the significance of Harris’ and Warrens’ use of the word is open to some dispute, we won’t be rating their tweets on the Truth-O-Meter.
This is insanity. Every fact check includes some point of dispute. There is not actual factual dispute about what happened to Michael Brown. Just because some liberal professor says that the legal designations shouldn’t matter, that does not mean a lie ceases to become a lie.
This has nothing to do with whether it’s *factual* to say Michael Brown was murdered, and everything to do with whether it furthers a social cause to call out people who say so. Why the hell is this in a fact check? pic.twitter.com/1j4f2E3lQs
— Alex Griswold (@HashtagGriswold) August 14, 2019
Politifact ended with this quote.
“Focusing on the language opens up the opportunity for some to discredit the conversation about police brutality and the criminal justice system in general,” Leopold said.
If the facts of a case open up the opportunity to discredit a narrative, that means the narrative is suspect. It doesn’t mean you ignore the meaning of words and tacitly endorse the idea that word choice doesn’t matter.
While this article by Politifact isn’t a parody, it certainly reads like one. Politifact has never, ever given any Republican this kind of benefit of the doubt. We’ve seen some fact-checks of Republicans that defy all good faith analysis, with truthful claims being twisted to assign lesser ratings. Yet, here’s two top tier Democrat candidates for 2020 blatantly lying and Politifact won’t even rate their statements. It’s a double standard that’s incredibly obvious.
Laughably, Politifact claims that Elizabeth Warren is very honest, never rating one of her claims below a “half-truth.”
I guess they didn't want to break up Warren's record pace https://t.co/8gq50sjN0o
— David Rutz (@DavidRutz) August 14, 2019
It’s easy to have that kind of record when Politifact refuses to fact check any knowingly false statement by Warren. The game is rigged in this case.
This is the kind of thing that kills faith in the media. If a supposed fact-checker can’t be trusted to ding a Democrat on such an obvious lie, no one will trust them on anything. This was a jump the shark moment and Politifact is still hurtling through the air, skis flailing about. For their sake, I hope they rethink this and put out a new fact check on this matter.
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