From its July 2010 launch through 2012, PolitiFact Ohio gave positive rulings to over 54 percent of Democrat claims and less than 39 percent of Republican claims reviewed. As Media Trackers has previously shown, the Cleveland Plain Dealer’s “fact checking” arm is a thinly-veiled opinion page which reflects the liberal bias of its curators.
The graphic on the right lists a breakdown of all PolitiFact Ohio rulings on statements by Democrats and Republicans, with the percentage for each PolitiFact.com “Truth-o-Meter” category rounded to the nearest whole number.
Instead of providing objective true or false checks of simple political statements, Plain Dealer reporters follow PolitiFact.com’s complex but completely unscientific process.
PolitiFact Ohio chooses claims to review based on a combination of reporters’ preferences and feedback from the left-leaning newspaper’s readers. Considering varying degrees of context – and judging claims loosely or painstakingly based on journalists’ whims – PolitiFact Ohio describes claims as “True,” “Mostly True,” “Half True,” “Mostly False,” “False,” or “Pants on Fire.”
In the two positive Truth-o-Meter categories, Democrats had a 15 percentage point advantage from PolitiFact Ohio based on all rulings through December 31, 2012.
In the three negative Truth-o-Meter categories, Democrats had a 14 point advantage.
Without rounding, the tilt against Republicans was slightly worse. A total of 38.34 percent of Republican claims were given positive rulings, while 42.29 percent of Republican claims received negative rulings.
Democrats were given positive rulings 54.59 percent of the time and negative rulings 29.19 percent of the time.
Although PolitiFact Ohio had “fact-checked” 68 more Republican claims than Democrat claims, Republicans received only 5 more “True” rulings than Democrats. Democrats received 9 more “Mostly True” rulings despite the disparity in the overall total.
“Fact checkers” include or exclude – and emphasize or downplay – supporting evidence based on their own personal biases. Rulings are determined based on the resulting commentary-laden editorial pieces, and a Truth-o-Meter graphic is tacked on.
Plain Dealer columnist Tom Feran offered the latest example on January 2, with a “fact check” introduced by two paragraphs about the Medicaid eligibility expansion called for in President Obama’s 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
Rather than simply check the factual accuracy of the claim, “Individuals with mental illnesses die an average of 25 years earlier than those without a mental illness,” Feran used PolitiFact Ohio as a platform for the narrative that Ohioans suffer as a result of Medicaid eligibility restrictions.
As usual, Feran’s journalistic curiosity did not extend to asking who will pay for more Medicaid benefits with the federal government already $16.4 trillion in debt.
In the face of extensive quantitative and qualitative evidence PolitiFact Ohio leans left, Ohio’s major newspapers made it all the way through 2012 without showing any skepticism of the Plain Dealer’s “fact checking” outlet.