The Instigator
RoyLatham
Pro (for)
Losing
23 Points
The Contender
F-16_Fighting_Falcon
Con (against)
Winning
37 Points

Politifact is biased

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Post Voting Period
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after 17 votes the winner is...
F-16_Fighting_Falcon
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 12/2/2012 Category: Politics
Updated: 1 year ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 10,686 times Debate No: 27695
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (107)
Votes (17)

 

RoyLatham

Pro

Politifact is a web site [1. http://www.politifact.com...] that claims to determine the truth of political statements. They are one of several sites including snopes, factcheck, and the Washington Post Factchecker that claim to sort out political truth. Politifact claims to find lies made both by Democrats and Republicans, but the question in this debate is whether they lean towards the Democrats or maintain the fact checking impartiality that they claim. I will affirm that they are biased overall in favor of Democrats. My opponent will argue that they are not biased.

"Bias" is a particular tendency or inclination, especially one that prevents unprejudiced consideration of a question; prejudice. [2. http://dictionary.reference.com...]

I don't doubt that Politifact believes they unbiased. The question is whether they in fact treat both sides equally.

Thanks to my opponent for accepting this debate.

In this debate I will number references sequential from the start of the debate. This allows citing a reference in a previous round by just giving the number of the reference without also giving the round number. Con is not obliged to use my numbering system.

Rules

This opening round is for definitions and acceptance only. I will give the Pro case at the start of the second round.

Standard debate conventions apply. I list them here for the benefit of new debaters and readers. I believe there is nothing tricky or eccentric. Both sides agree to the following rules, and that violating the rules is a conduct violation, with anything contrary to the rules to be ignored by readers judging the debate:

DR 1. All arguments must be made in the debate. Evidence may be cited or linked from the debate, but only in support of arguments made in the debate. Arguments made in Comments are to be ignored.

DR 2. Source links or references must be included within the 8000 characters per round limit of the debate. No links or sources are permitted in comments.

DR 3 Any term not specifically defined before use is to be taken with the ordinary dictionary definition of the term that best fits the context of the debate.

DR 4. No new arguments shall be made in Round 4. Pro may rebut previous arguments using new evidence solely for that purpose, but no new arguments are allowed. Con may not present any new evidence in R4.

DR 5. DDO site rules always apply. Neither side may add or modify rules for the debate once the challenge is accepted.

F-16_Fighting_Falcon

Con

I thank RoyLatham for instigating the challenge. It is an interesting topic of discusssion and I look forward to the debate. As agreed on by PM, I will add two new definitions:

prejudiced:
Having or showing a dislike or distrust that is derived from prejudice; bigoted.

Prejudice:
a. An adverse judgment or opinion formed beforehand or without knowledge or examination of the facts.
b. A preconceived preference or idea.
Debate Round No. 1
RoyLatham

Pro

Background

All errors are lies. Understand that PolitiFact and others in the fact checking business call any false statement a lie, whether there was an intent to deceive or not. Thus if you took a school test and scored 80%, then you lied about 20% of the questions. That meaning of lie as any falsehood has made it into the dictionary, so I don't question it here. Just important to understand the hyperbolic prose. there is some tendency to reserve the word lie for what fact checkers think is a major falsehood, but none attempt to prove an intent to deceive.

Politifact has moved sharply left. PolitiFact began as a relatively impartial fact checker. “As a partnership of Congressional Quarterly and the Tampa Bay Times (then the St. Petersburg Times) formed in 2007, the outfit won a Pulitzer Prize for its coverage of the 2008 election. The partnership dissolved shortly after when The Poynter Institute, the parent company of both outfits sold off CQ. ...The Florida journalists carried on alone, and their liberal tendencies became more obvious as the “Pants on Fire” rulings piled up on one side.” [3. http://www.humanevents.com...] Incidentally, Politifact won it's Pulitzer prize the year after the CEO of Times Publishing was appointed to the Pulitzer board. [4. http://www.americanthinker.com...]

Politifact is biased, not crazy. PolitiFact is sometimes correct in their judgements. Nonetheless, they are incapable of being consistently impartial because of their ideological slant. Moreover, to maintain any pretense of impartiality, they have to find some fault with Democrats. No one would believe that there is any large class of politicians that is always truthful. All need to prove is that they are overall biased in favor of Democrats over Republicans.

1. By Washington Post Standards, PolitiFact is biased

The Washington Post is regarded as one of the three most prestigious newspapers in the United States. They run The Fact Checker [5. http://www.washingtonpost.com...] that rates the truth of political statements much in the manner of PolitiFact. The Post is widely regarded as a liberal paper, though more balanced than the leftist Tampa Bay Times that sponsors PolitiFact. The Tampa Bay Times has not endorsed a single Republican candidate in this century for any of the three most important positions in Florida. [6. http://florida.mediatrackers.org...]

The Post's ombudsman Deborah Howell wrote in 2008: " "I'll bet that most Post journalists voted for Obama. I did. There are centrists at The Postas well. But the conservatives I know here feel so outnumbered that they don't even want to be quoted by name in a memo ... opinion was still weighted toward Obama. It's not hard to see why conservatives feel disrespected.” [7. http://www.washingtonpost.com...] The Post has a mix of liberal and conservative columnists, and while they endorsed Obama in both 2008 and 2012, they have endorsed some Republican Congressional candidates running for office in Virginia.

The Fact Checker rates the two Parties overall as equally likely to lie. PolitiFact rates Republicans twice as likely to lie as Democrats. [8. http://washingtonexaminer.com... ] The Fact Checker finds Democrats more likely to tell big lies than Republicans. They award Pinocchios based upon how extreme they they rate a falsehood, with four Pinocchios the worst. "... 61% of Democratic statements also received three or four Pinocchios (the least truthful categories), compared to 48% of Republican statements." That's not a major difference, but The Fact Checker thinks Democrats are more likely to tell big lies than Republicans.

PolitiFact awards its "Pants on Fire" ratings to statements which it judges not just false, but ridiculous. "In the three years since the end of the partnership with CQ [Congressional Quarterly], PolitiFact has found a total of 323 conservative claims to be untrue, with 119 of those getting Pants on Fire. In the same time, it’s found 105 liberal claims to be untrue, with just 13 deemed Pants on Fire," [3 op cit] So Politifact thinks Republicans are nine times more likely to tell a big lie than Democrats, compared to The Fact Checker assessment that Republicans are about 20% less likely to tell a big lie. It's not plausible that the Washington Post has an extreme Republican bias. Politifact is therefore biased.

2. Politifact uses biased interpretations

Politifact shows its bias by interpreting what someone "really said" without proving what was intended.

a. "By 2010, PolitiFact was giving False ratings to statements that were true, such as U.S. Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky saying that federal workers make an average of $120,000, compared to a private sector average of $60,000. Paul used total compensation figures, which PolitiFact found misleading. The arbiters arbitrarily decided that salary alone is the valid figure, which would be news to the Internal Revenue Service." [3]

b. "When a Republican Congressional candidate in Oregon named Rob Cornilles said his opponent “votes 98 percent of the time with the Democrats,” he was ready for a challenge by PolitiFact Oregon, which is run by the Portland Oregonian. Cornilles’ source for the figure was the Oregonian’s own “Your Government” website, which tracks floor votes. Nevertheless, ... PolitiFact Oregon reporter Janie Har managed to find the claim just Half True, because “voting with your party 98 percent of the time doesn’t mean you necessarily voted against the other party.” The claim was 100% true, the "fact checker" decided that is was supposed to imply something other than claimed.

c. PolitiFact ruled that Republican references to President Obama initial sequence of foreign policy speeches as a "apology tour" were completely false because a formal state apology require an explicit expressed statement of apology. [9. http://www.politifact.com...]. Politifact doesn't question that the President implicitly apologized by renouncing past policies and promising to change to new policies that avoided the errors of the past. PolitiFact did not quote any Republican as claiming that Obama made formal state apologies, so PolitiFact had to assume that was what was intended, and that therefore an ordinary informal apology did not count. Politifact might have ruled it half true, an informal apology but not an official state apology, but they instead decided that an informal apology is no apology at all.

d. "The Congressional Budget Office estimates that Obamacare “represents a gross cost to the federal government of $1,762 billion,” or $1.76 trillion, over the next decade, and that the costs will grow over time. Yet PolitiFact still managed to dismiss that bedrock number as something to be dismissed. In critiquing an advertisement that attacked the program’s costs, PolitiFact editor Angie Drobnic Holan wrote that “the $1.76 trillion number itself is extreme cherry-picking. It doesn’t account for the law’s tax increases, spending cuts or other cost-saving measures.” On paper, the Obama administration projects that new taxes and Medicare cuts will offset the new program’s costs for a while. But that doesn’t change the cost of “up to $2 trillion.” That would make the statement True, of course. Incidentally, the CBO’s 10-year cost figures will be closer to $3 trillion in a few years, if current forecasts prove accurate." [3]

--
Comparison to The Fact Checker is enough by itself to establish the bias of PolitiFact. I have given examples to show how that bias affects their reporting.


F-16_Fighting_Falcon

Con

1) Large sample size and comprehensive coverage

The accuracy of reporting generally increases with increase in sample size. Politifact has a very large sample size of 820 facts checked during the 2012 presidential election campaign [1]. This is 3 times more than Pro's preferred Fact Checker, which rated 267 facts [2]. In addition, Politifact is staffed by a team dedicated primarily towards researching and checking facts[3]. The Fact Checker on the other hand is staffed by two reporters [7][4]. Michael Dobbs, the founder of Fact Checker admits to being often overwhelmed by the deluge of political information [7] due to the small staff size. It is no wonder then, that Fact Checker was unable to provide coverage comprehensive enough to match Politifact's standards which accounts for the discrepancies.

Quantity is not the only factor however; quality matters as well. A quick glance at the front page of the Fact Checker shows a significant number of irrelevant facts checked as opposed to relevant scholarly ones. Examples include Obama's comments on Sesame street [5] and Romney's misfire on the national anthem [6]. While Politifact also checks occasional irrelevant facts, a glance at [1] shows that most of its facts are well-sourced and based on economics and politics. At best, the Fact Checker's individual claims are of similar quality. The sheer number of facts checked by Politifact however allows it to provide a more comprehensive coverage.


2) The Fact Checker isn't unbiased or liberal

Nearly every article for the Fact Checker has been written by Glenn Kessler or by his predecessor and founder Michael Dobbs [8]. Pro says that many employees of the Washington Post (WP) voted for Obama. It is irrelevant. It doesn't make Glenn Kessler an unbiased/liberal reporter.

Furthermore, pro offers this "proof" of WP's impartiality through Ombudsman Deborah Howell of the WP and tries to establish that the WP is either liberal/neutral. However, Howell herself has a conservative bias. In 2006, she got involved in a dispute with her readers over her claims that lobbyist Jack Abramoff who took millions of dollars from Native American tribes “had made substantial campaign contributions to both major parties” [9]. However, according to Howard Dean “the Federal Election Commission (FEC) reports show that there is no evidence that Jack Abramoff ever gave any democrat any money” [10]. After being proven wrong Howell responded by saying that Abramoff 'directed' contributions to both parties. Yet, when readers of her blog pointed out that there was no evidence that Abramoff directed contributions to democrats [11], the management of the WP shut down and pulled all comments from the blog [12]. WP's ombudsman made false claims in favor of Republicans and when called out, she and management covered it up. Pro uses Howell's testimony to prove that the WP is neutral. It is unreliable.

Prefer my evidence that WP has a conservative bias. Robert Parry of Consortium News which provides independent investigative journalism writes that the WP is creating a negative frame for the Obama administration by portraying the recession as an Obama problem while declining to mention in those articles a 6.2% drop in GDP in the fourth quarter of 2008 that the starting decline occurred under Bush not Obama [13].

Politifact ends up pointing out more Republican lies than Democratic ones simply because it is true. Pro claims that it contradicts the results of the Fact Checker but the WP isn't neutral, the Fact Checker is understaffed, and covers about 1/3 the number of facts covered by Politifact.


3) Responses to Pro's examples

a) Rand Paul claims that federal workers are paid double that of private workers (120k for federal vs 60k for private). However, he added benefits to salary by doing the calculations himself. He based his analysis off of figures from The Bereau of Economic Analysis (BEA) [14]. His methology was to divide total compensation (salary and benefits) of all Federal employees by the number of current employees to get the per capita total. This is misleading because it includes the compensation paid to retirees but only divides by the number of current workers. So, the number is wrong [14]. Politifact was right.

b) Rob Cornilles claims that Democratic state senator Suzanne Bonamici "has talked about separating herself from her party but the reality is she votes 98 percent of the time with the Democrats in Salem. I don't know how that represents bipartisanship; that represents to me more of the same.[15]"

Cornilles used that 98% vote as a reason to argue that his opponent isn't bipartisan. Legislators take many votes that are routine so Democrats and Republicans often vote the same way on many issues. Politifact compared Bonamici's votes with the Democrats as well as her votes with 3 selected Republicans with strong Republican stances. It was found that Bonamici voted with the Democrats 98% of the time and she voted with the Republicans an average of 80% of the time. However, Cornille neglects to mention that Bonamici often voted with the Republicans.

Politifact rated this statement as a Half-True statement which means “partially accurate but leaves out important details or takes things out of context.” Pro's source skates over the part where Cornilles deduces a conclusion of partisanship while ignoring the number of times Bonomici voted with the Republicans.

c) Apology Tour: Pro has not given any statement that he claims is an apology. In a point about semantics, this is important. If Pro does so, I will refute it next round.

d) Affordable Care Act (ACA): A television ad from a group called American Commitment claimed that the ACA “could cost upto $2 trillion, double what we were promised. [16]” They mentioned that their claim was from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). To provide some background, the claim made by the ad about “double what we were promised” referred to the contention that the latest estimates released by the CBO in March 2012 were double the estimates originally released by the CBO in 2010. This is false for 2 reasons:

(i) The ad was considering gross cost from 2012 to 2022 (for 11 years) which was $1762 billion as opposed to net cost of $1252 billion [18]. It does not factor in the offset of $510 billion in receipts and other budgetary effects. CBO writes in its publication that while the gross costs are higher, the offsetting budgetary effects are also higher leading to a very small increase in net cost. Pro claims that there offsets are projected by the Obama Administration “on paper” and are temporary. He is wrong on both counts. The offsets have been projected by the CBO and have been projected for the entire 10-year duration[18]. With that point negated, it can be seen that using gross costs is essentially cherry-picking for political gain since they represent only part of the effects of the ACA as opposed to all of it.

(ii) The ad compares apples to oranges. It compares a 10-year period (2010-2019) with an 11-year period (2012-2022). Calculations performed on a uniform 8-year time span (2012-2019) for both the original “promise” and the latest results and found out that the gross costs increased by only 8.6% and the net cost actually declined by 0.64% [22].

The CBO which the ad cited rebutted the charge that the costs have doubled [20]. Politifact correctly labeled this statement false.

Sources

[1] http://tiny.cc...

[2] http://tiny.cc...

[3] http://tiny.cc...

[4] http://tiny.cc...

[5] http://tiny.cc...

[6] http://tiny.cc...

[7] http://tiny.cc...

[8] http://tiny.cc...

[9] http://tiny.cc...

[10] http://tiny.cc...

[11] http://tiny.cc...

[12] http://tiny.cc...

[13] http://tiny.cc...

[14] http://tiny.cc...

[15] http://tiny.cc...

[16] http://tiny.cc...

[17] http://tiny.cc...

[18] http://tiny.cc...

[19] http://tiny.cc...

[20] http://tiny.cc...

[21] http://tiny.cc...

Debate Round No. 2
RoyLatham

Pro

C1. Sample size and comprehensive coverage

Con claims "The accuracy of reporting generally increases with increase in sample size." Con does not not say why accuracy of reporting increases with sample size, and there is no reason to believe that it does. What increases with sample size is the accuracy with which the bias is known. For example, suppose a coin is loaded so that on average "heads" comes up two-thirds of the time. If the coin is flipped 10 times, it might record six heads and four tails. A thousand flips might shows 660 heads and 340 tails. What is getting more accurate is the ratio of heads to tails approaching 2:1. Flipping the coin a lot is not going to make it a fair coin. The bias just becomes more clear and harder to dispute.

If staff size brought accuracy then People's Daily ought to be one of the most accurate news sources in the world, because their news organization covers all of China. In the U.S., News Corporation, owners of Fox News and The Wall Street Journal, is the largest news organization [10. http://en.wikipedia.org...], so by Con's theory it should be the least biased. The size of an organization says nothing one way or the other about bias.

Michael Dobbs, the Washington Post's original fact checker whom Con referenced said that the Post has a staff of two compared to six at Politifact, "To make up for these deficiencies, I attempted to draw on the more specialized knowledge of other Post reporters and the Washington think-tank community. .. I was also assisted by my readers, ... But I could certainly have benefited from “support networks”, such as the recently established 'Public Insight Network' which aims to connect reporters with knowledgeable sources trusted by other journalists." [Con's ref 7] With one-third of the dedicated staff, The Fact Checker checked 32.6% as many cases. We would expect 33.3% from a staff of two rather than six. Given the much larger staff of reporters to draw upon at the Post, the quality of the checking is likely to be higher.

Dobbs being "overwhelmed by the deluge of political information" meant that he didn't have time to check as many claims as he would have liked. He put as much or more effort into checking each claim considered as Politifact.

Con tells us his "quick glance" convinces him that Politifact checks on more substantial issues than Fact Checker. Except he hedges that " At best, the Fact Checker's individual claims are of similar quality." If Con wants to make that claim he needs a comprehensive study, not his quick glance that reveals they are at best equal. In any case, why are more-trivial issues likely to more or less biased than than less-trivial issues?

C2. The Washington Post is not a conservative publication

Con is not the only person in the U.S. to think that the Washington Post is a conservative newspaper, but there are not many others.

Objective analysis shows the Post to be moderately left-of-center. "... a UCLA-led study, which is believed to be the first successful attempt at objectively quantifying bias in a range of media outlets and ranking them accordingly." [11. http://newsroom.ucla.edu...] The study, published in peer-reviewed journal, judged media by how often they referenced sources that were also referenced by Congress people who had been rated liberal or conservative by Americans for Democratic Action. The ADA scores lawmakers based on their voting records, with 100 most liberal and zero most conservative. The results showed 18 of 20 media outlets to be left of center, "Most of the outlets were less liberal than Lieberman but more liberal than former Sen. John Breaux, D-La. Those media outlets included ... The Washington Post." Fox News and The Washington Times, the Post's conservative competitor, scored right-of-center.

Liberals widely acknowledge that the media has a liberal bias. [12. http://www.mrc.org...] "Are reporters biased? There is no doubt that — I’ve worked at the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and worked here at Politico. If I had to guess, if you put all of the reporters that I’ve ever worked with on truth serum, most of them vote Democratic.”— Politico's Jim VandeHei

Con claims that Post ombudsman Deborah Howell was a conservative. She voted for Obama twice, so there is no chance of that. Con relies solely upon Howell having reported that lobbyist Jack Abramoff had directed contribution to Democrats as well as Republicans. Wikipedia now cites Howell's claim as fact, "Of the approximately $85 million in tribal money entrusted to Abramoff, ... over $4.4 million since 1999 were directed to at least 250 members of Congress, primarily Republicans in leadership positions or on relevant committees, and Democrats with standing connections to Native American interests (in a 2:1 GOP ratio)." [12. http://en.wikipedia.org...] Wikipedia goes on to cite contributions given to Sen Harry Reid by Abramoff clients. Con says Howell was fired for this bit of truth telling. What the incident shows is the Post's liberal slant that could not accept an accurate assessment.

Con tells us that the Washington Post once failed to blame the economy on George Bush. If that isn't conservative bias, what it could be?Four years out and $6 trillion in stimulus later, it's reasonable not to point to Bush at every turn.

Comparison of The Fact Checker with Politifact clearly establishes Politifact's bias. It is not plausible that Republicans really tell nine times as many big lies as Democrats, but the Fact Checker was so biased as to find them about equal. The bias is with Politifact.

Examples

1. Con points to a factcheck.org articles that strains to refute Sen. Rand Paul's claim that Federal workers are paid twice what those in private enterprise receive. Paul's reference was a study by the Cato Institute that used BEA data to compute total Federal compensation at $123,049." The factcheck.org argument is in two parts, "First, BEA says the figure is inflated by including compensation that is actually paid to benefit retirees, not just for current workers. The figure is at least several thousand dollars too high, by our calculations." But Paul had said Federal workers were getting $120,000, several thousand below the source figure. Then factcheck.org went on to argue that Federal workers were better educated and had more experience than private sector workers, so Federal workers deserved more.

But whether or not they deserve more is a different argument, not a simple fact. Federal workers are also nearly impossible to fire, so their job security is worth a great deal, incomparable in the private sector. That could have made Paul's claim an underestimate. The article also notes that Federal retirement benefits are indefinite.

2. The question is whether the projected costs of Obamacare nearly doubled. Obama claimed it would cost $900 billion for ten years; CBO later estimated $1.7 billion and is now approaching $3 trillion. The arguments for the claim being false are details at the 10% error level amid much greater unknowns and ever-rising costs.

3. "The average high temperature in Phoenix in July is 106 F." Fact check that with Politifact methods and you get "That's only half true, because it's dry." Additional arguments are not fact checking, they are expressing politics. In the case of 98% partisan, if the 80% of non-partisan votes is subtracted, then the record is 90% partisan on votes where it mattered. Why didn't Politifact do that simple math?

4. Politifact admitted they used the standard of "a formal State apology." No one claimed that. The supposition is by itself partisan bias.

5. CBO is acknowledging that the ten year estimates of Obamacare costs were based upon taxes being collected upfront and benefits paid out later. Rising costs accurately reveal the great extent of the front loading. Honest fact checking would have pointed that out.
F-16_Fighting_Falcon

Con

C1) Large sample size and comprehensive coverage

A larger sample size creates a wider selection of topics and facts as opposed to selectively choosing facts where Republicans have told the truth. Pro's coin example is not analogous. A good analogy would be a situation where 1000 coins are flipped and lie on the ground. Checking 820 of those coins and concluding that there are 9 times more heads than tails is far more accurate than checking 267 of those coins and finding out that there are an equal number of heads and tails.

Pro makes an unwarranted claim that Dobbs put as much effort into checking facts as Politifact did. Dobbs spread himself very thin by checking 267 facts just by himself and his assistant. Compare that to Politifact using a staff of 100 members to check 820 facts. We can see that not only did the Politifact staff have more time per fact, they also were able to check facts in their area of expertise as opposed to Dobbs who had to be a Jack of all trades. Furthermore Pro conflates the experience of other Post journalists that Dobbs took assistance from with regular staff at politifact. An occasional favor doesn't compare to a full-time staff member.

I have never argued that a large staff size makes an organization unbiased. I argued that it makes them more competent. I've used this competency of Politifact compared to the lack of it at WP to explain the differences between WP and politifact. WP is a small organization which does not have the human resources necessary to accurately check facts.


C2) The Washington Post isn't unbiased or Liberal

Deborah Howell has a conservative bias. A vote for Obama by itself doesn't make someone a liberal as they could have previously voted for Bush. To show bias, a comprehensive evaluation must be made. In the wikipedia page that Pro cited, there is a list of 14 politicians who have received direct contributions from Abramoff and every one of them is a Republican. Harry Reid had no direct involvement with Abramoff. What Pro is referring to was that Reid received money from Native American tribes represented by Abramoff's firm which is a stretch at best. Compare this to Howell saying that Abramoff "had made substantial campaign contributions to both major parties," and FEC reports that show that there is no evidence that Jack Abramoff ever gave any democrat any money shows that she is biased in favor of Republicans. Her cover-up of this incident by the Washington Post management shows that bias extends to the Washington Post as well.

Pro claims that liberals “admit” to there being liberal bias but his source is that of a conservative website known as “Media Research Center, The Leader in Documenting, Exposing and Neutralizing Liberal Media Bias.” It cites a bunch of journalists claiming that there is liberal bias. Nowhere does it say that the journalists themselves are liberals, so Pro's point is a leap from “some journalists claim that the media is biased” to saying that “liberals acknowledge there is a liberal bias.” The site itself is biased considering its goal is to find “liberal media bias” not any media bias.

Compare that to my evidence from Consortium News which provides independent, investigative journalism and shown that the WP is conservatively biased by blaming the recession on Obama while facts show that the recession started in the Bush administration. Pro claims that it is reasonable since it has been 4 years since Obama held office. Yet, the reports dates back to March 2009 negating Pro's point and showing clear evidence of bias.

We can see that when Pro's claim of a “liberal media bias” is countered, the UCLA study holds no water. The reason is that the UCLA study claims that 18 of 20 media outlets primarily cite the same sources as liberal congress people. However, all this shows is that liberal congress people cite the same sources as news outlets in general. The UCLA study uses circular reasoning. The sources cited by liberals being in line with 90% of news outlets make the liberal congress people more likely to cite journalistic quality sources as opposed to making the news outlets liberal. Their demarcation between what is liberal and conservative is off since as an 18-20 split which shows that the WP falling on the liberal side has little merit.


C3) Examples

1) Rand Paul: First, listening to Paul, one would be led to believe that the average federal employee earns an annual salary of $120,000. The average annual salary is $81,000. Paul's figure includes the benefits, health insurance, and even pensions to factor into it. Whether or not, the benefits and pensions are factored in depends on the wording and context of the claim. Paul says “I would freeze federal hiring. I would maybe reduce federal employees by 10 percent. I’d probably reduce their wages by 10 percent. The average federal employee makes $120,000 a year.” From this statement, it is clear that the audience would assume that the $120,000 are wages. Paul did not mention that he included benefits. IRS data separates the wages from benefits as they are two distinct things.

Secondly, as shown by fact-check, the $123,000 is the number which Rand Paul got not from the BEA but from a libertarian think tank called CATO whose mission is to "to increase the understanding of public policies based on the principles of limited government.” They have a bias towards making it seem like the Federal workers are earning more [22].

2) Rob Cornilles: Cornilles had not just mentioned the 98% as a statistic; he used it to support a claim of partisanship while omitting important information to mislead the voters. Pro claims that Bonamici voted with democrats on 90% of the votes that matters. This is not the claim made by Cornilles. He used an inflated number of 98%. The 98% would have been accurate at determining partisanship had Cornilles also mentioned the number of times Bonamici voted with the Republicans. Hence the half-true rating. Politifact were not fact-checking my opponent, they were checking Rob Cornilles.

3) Apology tour: Terms like “apology” need to be appropriately defined in order to be fact-checked. How would Politifact define it? There are hundreds of dictionaries and many levels and interpretations of the word in the common language. As a fact-checking service, Politifact chose the definition “a formal state apology” considering that the person accused of giving the apology is the president. They then proceeded to check whether Obama's statements match this claim. Pro has not given a single example of an apology from Obama even when asked so he concedes this point. His entire argument is based on an assumption that Obama had given “informal” apologies and a further assumption that the GOP had claimed that Obama had given an “informal” apology neither of which are true.

4) Affordable Care Act: First, the ACA doesn't actually cost $1750 billion. It costs $1250 billion net. The remaining money comes back through penalties, receipts, and other budgetary effects. Pro tries to discount them by saying that they are done merely “on paper” and “by the Obama administration.” I refuted both of these points by showing that these came straight out of the CBO projections. With that point negated, Pro has no ground to stand on considering the gross cost instead of net cost.

Second, Pro's numbers are based off of comparing a 10 year period to an 11 year period. As I have explained, over a uniform 8 year period (the only period common to both analysis), the net costs actually declined by 0.64%. Pro says taxes are collected upfront and benefits paid out later should be mentioned. It has nothing to do with the truth of the ad which made no such claims.

Sources
[22] http://en.wikipedia.org...
Debate Round No. 3
RoyLatham

Pro

1. By Washington Post Standards, PolitiFact is biased

The Washington Post is one of America's most reputable and prestigious newspapers. The Post's Fact Checker finds the amount of lies told by the two Parties to be about equal, while PolitiFact finds Republicans more than twice as likely to lie. For just major lies, Fact Checker finds Democrats to dish up whoppers slightly more than Republicans, while PolitiFact finds a preposterous nine times as big ones told by Republicans as Democrats. The Tampa Bay Times that runs Politifact is a minor far left publication that has never found a Florida Republican worth endorsing. Con has contested none of these basic facts, and that's all that's necessary to prove that PolitiFact is biased.

Con's argument is that. unknown to virtually anyone but Con, the Post is really an ultra-conservative paper biased heavily in favor of Republicans. This would be a great surprise to, among others, the Washington Examiner, the Post's conservative news competitor. Con offered no studies or expert opinion or even inexpert opinion to support his argument. I provided both an objective peer-reviewed academic study and numerous expert opinions supporting the Post being left-of-center in it's politics. The Post is certainly not as far left as the Tampa Bay Times, but nonetheless to the left.

Con made several arguments that attempt to somehow relate to the sample of 820 PolitiFact determinations being larger than the 267 by Fact Checker. First Con seemed to be arguing that a larger number was more likely to be unbiased on the grounds that larger organizations producing more output are more to be trusted. The massive and biased Chinese news organization People's Daily shows that to be untrue.

Con then supposed the Post checks fewer facts because they are exercising selection bias in what they check, so they pick cases where Republicans look good. Con's claim is unsupported. Fact Checker has to consider all the main issues or their readers would lose interest and the major omission would be conspicuous. With 535 politicians in Congress alone, and most of them voluminous talkers, there are tens of thousands of opportunities to check statements. All the fact checkers have to cover the big issues, so if there is selection bias it is more likely with PolitiFact.

Con's [R2-3], the Politifact web site, gives their staff as six. Con says Fact Checker has a staff of two. Con's [R2-7] also gives the PolitiFact staff as six and the Fact Checker staff as two. So six people at Politifact checked 820 items, 137 per staff member. Fact Checker did 290 items with two people, 145 per staff member. However, the Washington Post has a much larger staff of field reporters to call upon for support, a fact not denied. There's no reason to believe PolitiFact more accurate.

In the last round, Con said PolitiFact had a staff of 100, which is wrong. Con previously claimed that Fact Checker considered more trivial issues than Politifact, but he could produce no evidence beyond his "quick glance" and dropped the point.

2. The Washington Post is left-of-center

The UCLA study established that the Washington Post is a moderately-left publication. Con claims that the UCLA study used circular reasoning, but they did not. Their starting point in determining what is liberal and what is conservative was the Americans for Democratic Acton, a self-described liberal organization, who rates lawmakers based upon voting records. The study followed directly from that. The study found 18 of 20 media outlets biased left of center, with the Post among the group of liberal publications nearer the center. Note that the UCLA study passed peer-review for publication, which it could not have done were it circular.

Expert opinion claiming the Post to be left-of-center includes Deborah Howell, a Post ombudsman who said she voted for Obama twice and knew the Post staff was mostly liberal. Con argues that Howell must really be conservative because she erroneously claimed Jack Abramoff donated to Democrats when in fact Abramoff had only directed (about a third) of his client contributions to Democrats. She admitted the error in saying Abramoff donated directly. The Abramoff matter is minor in the overall scheme of things, and it is an impossible for a conservative to have voted for Obama twice.

Con argues Howell might have voted for Bush. Sure, and she might be keeping slaves in the basement too, but it's unsupported speculation. No conservative is going to claim they voted for Obama.

I pointed to an article that quotes a dozen well-place media liberals admitting that the press has a liberal bias. Con fallaciously argues that the quotes should not count because they appear in a publication with a conservative bias. However, because each quotation includes the reference to where the person made the statement, it makes no difference who collected the quotes. The quotes are referenced and accurate. In this debate, should all of Con's references be discounted because biased-Con assembled the list? No, the references stand on their own.

Con cites no study and gives no examples, other than the one concerning Howell, that Fact Checker has a conservative bias.

3. Examples

1. PolitiFact argued that Rand Paul's claim of that Federal workers "make" $120,000 was a lie because the $120,000 is total compensation and not just salary. Let's try that out. Warren Buffett's salary is $100,000. His total compensation is $63 million. [http://online.wsj.com...] It is misleading to interpret "make" as "salary" rather than total earnings. If PolitiFact wanted to explain the difference between "salary" and "total earnings" it would be fine for them to do so, but to claim that Paul lied by using the more accurate figure of total compensation is clear bias.

Politifact said Paul included payments to current retirees, and that error made Paul's figures "several thousand dollars" too high. But Paul had claimed $120,000 rather than the $123,000 his source provided. There was no significant error.

PolitiFact used an incorrect and misleading interpretation of "make" to make Rand Paul a liar.

2. The Republican claimed a Democrat voted with her Party 98% of the time, which was the absolute truth. PolitiFact said that was misleading because 80% of the time both Parties voted alike. The fact was accurately stated so it was unquestionably true. However, PolitiFact's "correction" was clearly misleading. Readers were supposed to believe that if the 80% was not counted, then the Democrat would be seen as non-partisan. If PolitiFact wanted to be fair, they would have stated that the Democrat was 90% partisan according to their way of figuring it. That's a trivial difference which they chose to conceal.

3. We should assign the common dictionary definition to words that are otherwise undefined. Politifact didn't do that. They decided to use the definition of "official state apology" as the meaning of "apology," because only then could they condemn "apology tour" as a lie. However, "official state apology" (or the corresponding definition) doesn't appear in any ordinary dictionary. They did not cite anyone who used "apology tour" as using the meaning they assigned. They used semantics to get the result they wanted. Using the obscure definition admits that the ordinary definition was met, because semantic dodges are only used when common usage leads to a loss.

4. A fact checker is supposed to sort out misleading statements for the benefit of readers. The important fact of Obamacare is that it was set up with taxes starting before benefits to make the economics of the first ten years look better than the true operating costs. PolitiFact worked to obscure that important fact rather than reveal it.
Since the first year of Obamacare has virtually no costs, whether it is included or not makes no difference.

-----

Comparison to a less-biased fact checker shows PolitiFact is biased.
F-16_Fighting_Falcon

Con

C1) Large sample size and comprehensive coverage

The large sample size from Politifact prevents intentionally or unintentionally checking only facts where Republicans have told the truth. Pro misunderstands this to mean that a larger number is more unbiased because larger organizations are more to be trusted. This is not the case. A larger sample size increases the chances of checking a better selection of facts. Checking 827 of 1000 coins to find twice as many heads as tails is more accurate than checking 260 of them and finding an equal number of heads and tails. A larger sample gives a more accurate representation of the population than a smaller sample. This is where the WP fails. With a small number of facts checked, their numbers are skewed. Pro says that unless the FactChecker checks important facts, readership will suffer. It has - Politifact is much more popular.

A large organization size (more staff per fact) increases competency. Politifact has a staff of 100 [3]. They come from different fields and different areas of expertise. Pro has conceded my point that Glenn Kessler needs to be a Jack of all Trades and that occasional favors from other reporters do not compare with a full time staff. His example of the Chinese newspaper tries to argue that a large staff size doesn't mean less bias. I haven't argued this. My argument here is for competency, not bias.


C2) The Washington Post isn't Unbiased or Liberal

With regard to the bias for any publication, I can see 4 possibilites: conservative, liberal, unbiased, or undertermined. I don't have to prove that the Washington Post is conservative. All I need to prove is that they are neither unbiased nor liberal. This is because if there is enough doubt about the bias of the WP for it to be undetermined given all available information, we can simply extend my point about competency. Politifact is more competent than WP which accounts for any discrepancies of facts.

Nevertheless, I have shown with enough examples how the WP has a conservative slant. The independent Consortium News show evidence of WP's conservative bias towards Obama. Pro responded by arguing that it has been 4 years since Obama took office but I have shown that there are articles as far back as 2009 that blame Obama for the recession a mere two months after he took office. Pro drops it.

I have shown how Deborah Howell despite voting for Obama wrote articles slanted against Democrats and covered up concerns of readers. Native American tribes represented by Abramoff's firm gave money 2/3 to Republicans and 1/3 to Democrats. Abramoff himself gave money only to Republicans and no money to Democrats according to the FEC [10] [11] [Pro Rd 3 12]. Howell misrepresents this and claims that Republicans and Democrats received equal money from Abramoff. Furthermore, she and WP management shut down the blog and removed comments which was uncontested by Pro. Based on this coverup, Howell's credibility counts for little. She is also an employee of the WP, not an objective outsider like Consortium news. Weigh this against Consortium news whose credibility is uncontested.

Pro jumps from “some journalists claim that the media is biased” to saying that “liberals acknowledge there is a liberal bias.” Pro made no attempt to justify the jump. Googling “conservative media bias in the United States” yields similar results. Pro's contention is dependent on the argument that liberals “acknowledge” media bias. Since he hasn't contested that the journalists claiming media bias aren't liberals, this nullifies the point.

I agree with the ADA conclusions; they simply show how congresspeople were rated and doesn't address my rebuttal. The validity of the UCLA study is dependent on there being liberal media bias. They mark off the separation between liberal and conservative publications at 18-2 rather than 10-10. Without external proof that there is liberal media bias, the WP falling on the liberal side has little merit because I am arguing that their demarcation is off. It could just as well be that liberals merely cite journalistic quality sources resulting in the study having circular reasoning. Pro merely points out that the study was peer-reviewed appealing to authority. This is a debate and it is essential to argue the merits of the study regardless of peer-review since I have contested it. Pro hasn't attempted to do so thus concedes the point.


C3) Examples

1) Rand Paul: Let's try out Pro's Warren Buffet example. “I would maybe reduce Warren Buffet's wages by 10%. He makes $63 million.” Now as you can see, my statements imply that his wages themselves are $63 million. The context in Rand Paul's case clearly shows that he is intentionally or unintentionally leading the audience to believe that he is referring to wages.

Pro says at the beginning of Round 2 that all errors are lies. Rand Paul did not get his numbers from the BEA but from a libertarian think tank, CATO [14]. The numbers are erroneous for several reasons. Firstly, as I showed, CATO's original research and opinions are biased because they have an agenda to limit the power of the government which Pro conceded. Secondly, the actual number provided by CATO was $123,000 but it included benefits paid to retirees without accounting for them. If you eliminate the retirees the figure is between $109,268 and $116,168 [14], not $120,000 making the term “several thousand” misleading. This is a triple-bind for Paul; he not only used total compensation instead of wages but inflated that number while getting analysis from a source whose credibility Pro couldn't defend.

2) Rob Cornilles: The statement checked by Politifact was a compound statement where Paul also implies that voting with your party 98% of the time was partisan while omitting the fact that both parties voted together on many issues. The claim of partisanship was false and omitted vital information. Pro later claims that the real number is 90%, yet this is not the number mentioned by Paul. A half-true rating is justified when Pro needs to change the numbers to make it fit.

3) Apology tour: Pro claims that we should assign a “common dictionary definition” to the word apology. I ask which dictionary definition is appropriate? The best choice of term depends on the context. In this case, the president was accused of beginning his term with an apology tour. It is reasonable to assume that the GOP were accusing Obama of apologizing on behalf of the USA, as opposed to personally. The GOP never specified that Obama had given an “informal” apology. In the absence of such clarifications, formal definitions trump informal ones. Further, Pro has not given a single statement which he claims is an apology despite being asked twice.

4) Affordable Care Act: It is standard procedure for taxes to be counted before benefits and nothing unexpected. It is not the job of fact-checking organizations to provide the details of the internal workings of a Health Care plan. More importantly, the setup of taxes/benefits is the same from 2010 to 2012 so it is irrelevant to the claim saying that costs have doubled. Pro has now dropped that the ad compared a 10 year period to an 11 year period. He also dropped that net costs must be considered over gross costs.


Conclusion

Politifact's numbers being different from WP is accounted for by competence. The WP is not a liberal or unbiased publication. They have been criticized of having conservative bias by independent publications. They are known to coverup unpleasant issues. Pro has been unable to defend the validity of the UCLA study when faced with a rebuttal. He appeals to a peer-review as opposed to debate the issue with me.

All the examples given by Pro shows republicans fudging the numbers or making misleading claims. Pro has gone so far as to change the numbers in an attempt to make them fit. Fact-checking websites check the validity of facts and do not allow for this. Pro has been unable to prove any instance of Politifact bias.
Debate Round No. 4
107 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by YYW 1 year ago
YYW
Some developments in the news:

http://www.weeklystandard.com...
Posted by BWhite 1 year ago
BWhite
F-16_Fighting_Falcon wrote:
"If Politifact actually did that, it would no longer be an unbiased fact checker keeping our politicians in check but rather a brown-nosing media outlet bending over backwards to make the politicians look good."

No, PolitiFact would not be bending over backward to make politicians look good. PolitiFact would be using the normal principles of interpretation (best practices) to interpret the statements they fact check. It is by following such methods rigorously that fact checkers can minimize the effect their biases have on their work. And, in practice, it doesn't make politicians look good unless the fact check only looks at whether a statement is technically true. But who does that? Clear speech is a positive, and I think it's obvious to most everyone that politicians are often adept at misleading people by the use of true statements (carefully employed in fallacious arguments).

It begs the question to simply claim PolitiFact's interpretation is "reasonable." You do give a reason beyond that, but it's not particularly good. You're apparently asking us to believe that presidents don't give informal apologies. But you don't even really believe that yourself, do you?
Posted by RoyLatham 1 year ago
RoyLatham
If they thought it did not meet the standard definition, they would not have used the "did not meet the definition of a formal state apology," they would just have said he never apologized for anything. The standard definition of an apology, in every dictionary I checked, is an acknowledgement of wrongdoing ("we have <list of bad things>") and a promise not to repeat the wrongdoing (new policies, "we won't torture"). So I think PolitiFact should have used any dictionary on the web.

I think it's impossible to deny that Obama acknowledged error in past policies and promised to change them. Do think he never acknowledged past US bad behavior? Do you think he failed to promise to change?

The "formal, state apology" is not in any dictionary. If you have a dictionary that lists it, provide the reference. If you cannot find a dictionary or fail to cite it, you have granted my point. I grant the theoretical possibility that it might be in some dictionary of jargon.

I think you should answer my question. Are you willing to let your debate opponents define what your words mean? And if you object is that whining?
Posted by F-16_Fighting_Falcon 1 year ago
F-16_Fighting_Falcon
@ Roy, you are making a lot of assumptions.

You are assuming that Politifact agrees that Obama's tour meets the dictionary definition of an apology tour. This need not be the case. Politifact did not compare the GOP's claim with a dictionary definition at all. They defined apology in an appropriate way and showed that Obama's tour did not meet that definition.

Considering that Obama is the president of the United States, I find "formal, state apology" an appropriate definition.

Different dictionaries define words in different ways. Which dictionary would you have politifact use? If they used a specific dictionary, you could simply argue that they should have used another dictionary which shows the GOP in a more favorable light. There is no "right" dictionary to use.

You are further assuming that Politifact implicitly concedes that Obama's tour met the dictionary definition. They don't do so. You are making this assumption based on your perspective. I pointed out that there are different perspectives - i.e. discrete and continuous. From my perspective, there is no implicit concession. So, it really depends on making a lot of assumptions.
Posted by RoyLatham 1 year ago
RoyLatham
F-16, are you prepared to accept debate opponents defining the words you use as they see fit? And your whining should be dismissed if they misinterpret what you intended?

The "formal state apology" definition does not appear in any standard dictionary, and the default assumption is that standard English is being used. Also, the formal apology definition is not true while the standard definition is true; that's a clue to the intent.
Posted by F-16_Fighting_Falcon 1 year ago
F-16_Fighting_Falcon
If Politifact actually did that, it would no longer be an unbiased fact checker keeping our politicians in check but rather a brown-nosing media outlet bending over backwards to make the politicians look good.
Posted by F-16_Fighting_Falcon 1 year ago
F-16_Fighting_Falcon
Okay, so are you saying that romney said it was an informal, personal apology? At this point, you are stretching to make it fit.
Posted by BWhite 1 year ago
BWhite
The question, rather, is what clues were given at all about the type of apology. In Romney's book he goes on at length about it. There's nothing indicative of formal apology. Rather, Romney cited Obama's pattern of criticizing the United States. Is it reasonable to take Romney's concept of an apology as described and insist that it means formal state apology? Seriously?

The fact checks of Romney are fascinating, because they are essentially one fact check repeated. In the original, PolitiFact cited one "expert" on apologies (their term), of which one was a foreign policy wonk: conservative Nile Gardiner. Gardiner said Obama was definitely apologizing. PolitiFact discounted Gardiner's opinion after soliciting it and did so without explanation. Apparently, PF simply preferred the explanation offered by three liberal apology experts. Perhaps three out of four represents expert consensus to PF. But since they never say so, that's just conjecture.
Posted by F-16_Fighting_Falcon 1 year ago
F-16_Fighting_Falcon
What clues did the GOP give in context to make it seem like they were claiming that "apology tour" referred to informal, personal apologies?
Posted by BWhite 1 year ago
BWhite
Yes, we welcome comments. If you're having trouble posting then send us an email to the posted address and we'll see that it gets published.
17 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Vote Placed by TheElderScroll 1 year ago
TheElderScroll
RoyLathamF-16_Fighting_FalconTied
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Total points awarded:03 
Reasons for voting decision: see comments please
Vote Placed by ax123man 1 year ago
ax123man
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Reasons for voting decision: see comments
Vote Placed by UltimateSkeptic 1 year ago
UltimateSkeptic
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Reasons for voting decision: I was open to the possibility of the websites being biased. This debate required a more steep set of evidence for PRO, simply because motive is hard to prove (liberal motive) & bias has to be proved without a reasonable doubt (otherwise it is a coin toss, and pro loses for not proving the case). The spelling, grammar, and sources seemed to all be fairly even. Pro's case was built on Rs and Ds lying the same amount, but that the website showed differently and also on the point that they interpret data more liberal than not. Though it looks likely that the panel of checkers were more liberal than not, that doesn't mean they can't be honest individuals (just as if they were conservative) and it would also have a more liberal interpretation (human nature). Only the first of these assertions actually proves bias, and it was not proved beyond a reasonable doubt. Because of this, CON received the vote. More debates like this would be nice, someone needs to fact check the fact checkers!
Vote Placed by Muted 1 year ago
Muted
RoyLathamF-16_Fighting_FalconTied
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Reasons for voting decision: (Edit: See comments)
Vote Placed by DeFool 1 year ago
DeFool
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Total points awarded:06 
Reasons for voting decision: A high score by Con, which cannot be justified in this RFD alone. I will give my reasons for voting in the comments section. Please consult them there prior to assuming that I am voting frivolously.
Vote Placed by Jarhyn 1 year ago
Jarhyn
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Reasons for voting decision: PRO committed AD-HOM circumstantial, and straight up lies about statistics in reference to sample size and completeness; it's well established in statistics that accuracy generally increases with increased sample size over the population size. Further, CON rightly noted that reality is simply more flattering to liberals than conservatives. Most importantly, PRO fails to understand that as long as the facts checked are accurately characterized, they are doing their job of checking facts. In noting that the WP has clearly committed acts of clear bias (censorship), CON's case is made that WP is biased; any further claims of PRO using WP as a standard candle of lack of bias is destroyed. Further, PRO continues to use the UCLA study, which has been discredited by CON, and he uses argument from authority from people with a clear conflict of interest.
Vote Placed by Maedis 1 year ago
Maedis
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Reasons for voting decision: I feel like Pro made more convincing arguments, although Con did a good job refuting some statements, it just wasn't enough.
Vote Placed by emospongebob527 1 year ago
emospongebob527
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Reasons for voting decision: Counter.
Vote Placed by Brenavia 1 year ago
Brenavia
RoyLathamF-16_Fighting_FalconTied
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Reasons for voting decision: Because.
Vote Placed by Maikuru 1 year ago
Maikuru
RoyLathamF-16_Fighting_FalconTied
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Reasons for voting decision: New RFD in comments.