Rulings from PolitiFact Ohio, the Cleveland Plain Dealer’s “fact checking” operation, are often brilliant examples of why a recent Gallup poll showed cratering trust in America’s news media. Journalists at the Plain Dealer and major newspapers across Ohio present PolitiFact Ohio as an objective source without justification and in the face of mounting counter-evidence.
Media Trackers has previously exposed the extreme liberal beliefs of PolitiFact Ohio writer Tom Feran, part of a staff where Democrats outnumber Republicans 4 to 1. A brief analysis of several recent PolitiFact Ohio rulings targeting Republican U.S. Senate candidate Josh Mandel affirms PolitiFact Ohio’s lack of credibility.
On August 13, PolitiFact Ohio published a ruling written and researched by one of its regular contributors. The ruling concerned a statement from a Mandel television ad released in May: “[U.S. Senator Sherrod] Brown sent billions of our tax dollars to foreign countries.”
The Mandel ad cited a Washington Times story about the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), the 2009 “stimulus” spending bill championed by President Obama and Sherrod Brown. PolitiFact Ohio reported that one specific ARRA program paid nothing, and gave Brown a pass on others, noting that “grant money was distributed under a program administered by the Energy Department and Treasury, and not by Congress.”
PolitiFact Ohio continued, “Brown, who is not mentioned in the Washington Times article, was actually one of the senators who called for the Obama administration to suspend the program indefinitely ‘until the law can be fixed so that funds only flow to projects that will create jobs in the United States.’”
While this would appear to confirm that Brown’s vote for ARRA enabled exactly what Mandel’s ad claimed, PolitiFact Ohio treated this as an aggravating instead of a mitigating circumstance.
PolitiFact Ohio made no mention of the Republican National Committee’s “Obamanomics Outsourced” website, which was covered at The Huffington Post and elsewhere when launched in July. The GOP website lists far more foreign ARRA spending than the few projects PolitiFact Ohio focused on.
When the Mandel campaign pointed to foreign aid as further support for its statement, PolitiFact Ohio set to work absolving Senator Brown of any responsibility for foreign aid spending. PolitiFact Ohio even cited Sen. Tom Coburn, writing that a Coburn report recommended cutting $192 billion in overseas spending over ten years, “which still would leave a multi-billion dollar foreign operations budget annually.”
In short, PolitiFact Ohio conceded that Congress has sent billions of tax dollars to foreign countries during Sherrod Brown’s time in the House and Senate – and then ruled the statement “Brown sent billions of our tax dollars to foreign countries” a “Pants on Fire” lie anyway.
The Mandel ad made no mention of ARRA or the word “stimulus,” but PolitiFact Ohio opined that justifying the statement with foreign aid was “a ridiculous stretch from what the ad implies, which is that Brown tried to hide that he irresponsibly sent billions or our tax dollars to foreign countries.”
PolitiFact Ohio tallied up only several of the eighteen PPACA taxes identified by the conservative Heritage Foundation before completely shifting gears and declaring it would judge the “biggest tax increase in history” statement by comparing the Congressional Budget Office’s 2019 PPACA revenue projection with its 2019 GDP projection.
PolitiFact Ohio disregarded the trend of federal programs growing wildly beyond expected costs, made no attempt to account for how the severely indebted government will pay for PPACA exchanges or expanded Medicaid enrollment, and made no mention of the more than $500 billion PPACA will take from Medicare in its first decade.
After looking at a single year of Congressional Budget Office estimates in a vacuum, PolitiFact Ohio wrote that PPACA’s tax increases “would have to nearly double just to match the 1982 increase under Reagan.”
PolitiFact Ohio labeled Mandel’s assertion that PPACA “will likely go down as the biggest tax increase in history” another “Pants on Fire” lie.
On June 15, PolitiFact Ohio ruled on a statement from the same Mandel TV spot the “fact checkers” further dissected on August 13. The Mandel ad claimed “Brown gave huge bonuses to executives,” a version of the common criticism that many companies receiving ARRA and Troubled Asset Relief Program funds later paid their executives huge contractually-obligated bonuses.
PolitiFact Ohio wrote, “Brown did vote for the final version of the stimulus bill. But to label the stimulus bill as a vote to give ‘huge bonuses to executives’ isn’t just inaccurate and misleading, it’s ridiculous.”
Ultimately, Sherrod Brown voted to give taxpayer funds to companies which then “gave huge bonuses to executives,” but PolitiFact Ohio disliked the logic of Mandel’s assertion so much that they deemed it another “Pants on Fire” lie.
These two months’ worth of Mandel “Pants on Fire” rulings amount to three times the number of “Pants on Fire” rulings PolitiFact Ohio has given Sherrod Brown in more than two years.
What do the rulings have in common, aside from their scathing criticism of conservative Josh Mandel? All three were researched and written by liberal Democrat Tom Feran, and have been widely utilized for the “Josh Mandel is a liar” narrative favored by journalists covering the Senate race.
This is how PolitiFact Ohio operates. Liberal journalists including Tom Feran – an Obama enthusiast who has called conservatives “yahoos” and “wingnuts” on a personal Twitter account – decide which evidence to include or discount. Liberal journalists choose, on a case-by-case basis, whether to painstakingly judge the exact wording of a statement, or whether to judge what a statement “implies.” When a statement is ruled misleading, liberal journalists decide whether to call it “Half True,” “Mostly False,” “False,” or “Pants on Fire.”
In 2011, Sherrod Brown’s wife resigned from the Plain Dealer after she was caught filming Josh Mandel at a Tea Party event. Overwhelming evidence suggests the Plain Dealer’s “fact checking” publication deserves no better.
For a more in-depth look at recent PolitiFact Ohio rulings, see Jon Cassidy’s “PolitiFact or Fiction” series at Ohio Watchdog.