The Virginia Republican Party has compiled an attack on PolitiFact’s Virginia operation that is virtually unbloggable. An 86-page document with a cover page stating, “TO THE COMMONWEALTH OF VIRGINIA: A COMPREHENSIVE ANALYSIS OF POLITIFACT VIRGINIA’S QUESTIONABLE OBJECTIVITY,” it starts with a two-page memorandum and a three-page table of contents. Even Rachel Maddow has never produced a PolitiFact critique as exquisitely formatted.
The gripe: PolitiFact Virginia, which is based at the Richmond Times-Dispatch, is biased against Republicans and soft on Democrats. In the words of the massive document:
The information in the following comprehensive report shows that leading Republican figures and our allies have been repeated targets of biased rulings — lacking in objectivity — by PolitiFact Virginia and have no reason to believe that treatment will change.
While the Republican Party of Virginia respects the Richmond Times-Dispatch, the paper’s editors, publisher, and its well-deserved reputation for fairness, we cannot continue to stand by while this bias persists, unfairly influencing Virginia voters’ perceptions of key state officials and potentially skewing election coverage and results.
PolitiFact Virginia has responded with a statement that reads, in part:
The party takes issue with the fact that 26 of our last 36 rulings have concerned Republican candidates and elected officials. But Virginia is largely controlled by Republican politicians. The governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general belong to the party, as do eight of the 13 members of Virginia’s congressional delegation, including House Majority Leader Eric Cantor. Both houses of the General Assembly are run by Republicans. In addition, the GOP fielded four candidates in its primary for the U.S. Senate this spring and sponsored three debates between them. Democrats, in contrast, handed their nomination to an unopposed Tim Kaine.
So it’s no surprise that during the first half of this year, we spent most of our time rating Republican statements.
Refereeing this particular skirmish entails a back-breaking act of media criticism — poring over multiple PolitiFact Virginia rulings, examining supporting documentation, interviewing the Republican Party as well as PolitiFact officials.
To narrow the scope of its inquiry, the Erik Wemple Blog will start out by exploring only the most fascinating of the Republican Party’s allegations — namely, that PolitiFact Virginia attempts to bury good ratings about Republicans and tout bad ones. To put the allegation in the party’s own words:
PolitiFact Is More Likely To Dump Positive Republican Rulings Late On A Friday, Or Over The Course Of The Weekend, As Well As Save Negative Republican Rulings For Publication During The Week (Monday Through Thursday)
If ever there was an attack on PolitiFact that merited a fact-check, well, the Virginia Republican Party has supplied it. Time to serialize this thing. Stay tuned for installment No. 2.