Context matters -- We examine the claim in the full context, the comments made before and after it, the question that prompted it, and the point the person was trying to make.
--Principles of PolitiFact and the Truth-O-MeterOr not.
|(clipped from PolitiFact.com)|
The fact checkers:
Sue Owen: writer, researcher
W. Gardner Selby: writer
John Bridges: editor
PolitiFact maintains a bad habit of applying its standards inconsistently. This fact check of a statement by San Antonio mayor Julián Castro serves as an example of one common variety of PolitiFact's inconsistency. Many raw facts have little significance when considered alone. But often politicians will use an apparently true fact in constructing a fallacious or questionable argument. PolitiFact's principles assure us that PolitiFact takes such factors into account (see epigraph above). In practice, that often isn't the case.
On with the fact check:
Addressing the delegates assembled in Charlotte, N.C., Castro said that San Antonio residents recognize the value of investing in pre-Kindergarten and student college loans. "We're investing in young minds today to be competitive in the global economy tomorow [sic]," Castro said. "And it's paying off. Last year the Milken Institute ranked San Antonio as the nation's top-performing local economy."PolitiFact Texas does "examine" the context after a fashion. The quotation of Castro succinctly illustrates his point: Investing in pre-K and student college loans paid off in that San Antonio's economy leads the nation in the Milken Institute rankings.
That's Castro's obvious point, and PolitiFact does enough fact checking to show that his point is highly suspect:
The San Antonio Express-News credited the city’s rise to reasons "including military base realignment, drilling in the Eagle Ford Shale and the growth of health care" in a Dec. 16, 2011, news story.But military base realignment, producing shale oil and expanding the health care job sector are pretty much the same as "investing in young minds." Aren't they?
Texas’ rise in the ranks, the Express-News wrote, came partly because of downturns in other parts of the country. The story quoted research economist James Gaines of Texas A&M University’s Real Estate Center: "Our growth rate and advancement isn't all that wonderful. We've managed to stay flat or have very small positives. But because everybody has so many negatives, we look so much better."But aren't those downturns in other parts of the country ultimately because of their failure to match San Antonio's investment in pre-K education and student loans?
PolitiFact provides no evidence in support of Castro's claimed cause-and-effect relationship. Instead, we get a ruling based entirely on the raw claim about San Antonio's ranking which completely ignores Castro's underlying point:
San Antonio hasn’t just been holding steady in the economic downturn; it’s been gaining ground, even compared to other Texas cities. Castro’s statement rates True.If the rest of the nation wants to keep up with San Antonio then maybe we'd better increase our investment in education. Hmmm?
PolitiFact editor Bill Adair, from January 2012:
About a year ago, we realized we were ducking the underlying point of blame or credit, which was the crucial message. So we began rating those types of claims as compound statements.Adair referred to claims associated with an executive's tenure, such as "Since X became governor, crime has decreased 50 percent." Such claims imply that the executive carries some significant share of responsibility for the change. In this case, Castro did not explicitly claim personal credit at all, but he did offer an explanation for San Antonio's economic performance--an explanation that jibes with the Democrat Party's prescription for helping the economy.
PolitiFact presented evidence that severely undercut Castro's point, yet gave him an unqualified "True" rating.
That's the kind of thing you get with PolitiFact. Bias in story focus contributes heavily to the resulting "Truth-O-Meter" ratings.
Sue Owen: F
W. Gardner Selby: F
John Bridges: F