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PolitiFact Isn't Partisan? Pants On Fire

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AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File

At their recent "United Facts of America Festival," PolitiFact interviewed Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va. Their executive director Aaron Sharockman began with some light humor, telling Warner he was one of the more accurate members of Congress. Sharockman complimented Warner for having zero "Pants on Fire" rated claims.


Warner joked: "That feels like it should be a low bar. Unfortunately, I don't think it is."

It's not exactly a tough bar. In fact, my review of all PolitiFact pages for current U.S. Senate Democrats finds that almost (SET ITAL)every(END ITAL) Democratic senator has zero "Pants on Fire" ratings.

Four Democratic senators have one flaming-pants demerit in the PolitiFact archives: Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Majority Whip Dick Durbin, Kirsten Gillibrand and Sherrod Brown. No Senate Democrat has more than one. That's right: Bernie Sanders has none. Elizabeth Warren has none. Ethically challenged Robert Menendez has none. Even Vice President Kamala Harris has none.

In fact, 16 Democratic senators (plus independent Angus King of Maine, who caucuses with the Democrats) have zero ratings on the "False" side of the meter. Some have zero ratings whatsoever: Sens. Tom Carper of Delaware, Mazie Hirono of Hawaii, and Martin Heinrich and Ben Ray Lujan of New Mexico.

Most Democratic senators don't even have double-digit fact-check totals. By my calculations, 33 of the 50 members of the Democratic caucus have fewer than 10. Dianne Feinstein's been in the Senate since first being elected in 1992, and she has eight overall. Patty Murray was also elected that year, and she has two -- a "True" and a "Half True." Patrick Leahy came to the Senate in 1975, and he also only has a "Mostly" and a "Half True."


You could guess that seniority doesn't matter much, since PolitiFact arrived in 2007, but it should mean they are more important members of Congress. This just shows you that PolitiFact is kind of bored with fact-checking most of Congress, even the leaders. Schumer has only 22 fact-checks overall.

That changes if you run for president. Sen. Ted Cruz has 149 fact checks, and Sen. Marco Rubio has 164. The only Democratic senator like them is Bernie Sanders, with 169. But then there is the matter of how many times they're tagged as "Mostly False" or worse. Bernie has only 44 on that "False" side of the ledger, while Rubio has 71 and Cruz has a robust 100. Rubio has five "Pants on Fire" ratings, and Cruz has 11, while the entire Democratic half of the Senate has only four.

Add it up, and Bernie was rated on the "False" side about 26% of the time, compared with 40% for Rubio and 67% for Cruz.

At least Cruz has only 149 fact-checks. Former President Donald Trump has 932. Trump has 161 "Pants on Fire" ratings. Overall, he was on the "False" side 74.4% of the time.

Last July, in one of their YouTube videos entitled "What Is PolitiFact's Agenda?" PolitiFact editor-in-chief Angie Drobnic Holan insisted, "The PolitiFact agenda is: Don't take sides with any politician or party." She claimed: "We're independent, and we work hard to find the truth. So, we follow the facts wherever they take us, regardless of who made the claim."


Fact-check? Pants on Fire.

PolitiFact is transparently selective in its "fact-checking" targets and "Truth-O-Meter" ratings. Liberals love to claim that conservatives just lie a lot more, and they've used PolitiFact to claim that somehow, inveterate liars such as Hillary Clinton are the most honest politicians. All of that underlines that PolitiFact is a liberal media outlet.

Tim Graham is director of media analysis at the Media Research Center and executive editor of the blog NewsBusters.org. 

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