Bill Adair, the boss of PolitiFact, said to me last week in response to all the pressure put on his site’s fact-checks by MSNBC host Rachel Maddow:
When we’ve been criticized in the past, we have looked at our work and in a few cases have changed our ratings. I don’t know if we’ll do that this time.
Well, they did.
PolitiFact has revised its rating of a statement made earlier this month by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) that a majority of Americans are conservative. That assertion, ruled PolitiFact, was “mostly true,” even though research cited by the Web site showed that more than 50 percent of Americans hadn’t identified as such.
Maddow, along with many, many others, hammered PolitiFact over this. How could the site have rated the statement even close to “true” when the numbers that PolitiFact itself cited didn’t show a majority?
The revised ruling? “Half True.”
Just “half true”? If you’re going to change the ruling, why not go all the way and acknowledge that there’s no data to support anything approaching a “true” verdict?
Because the fresh ruling cites some research that was absent from the previous one: a Politico-George Washington University Battleground Poll from last November showing 61 percent of Americans calling themselves very or somewhat conservative, with 34 percent saying they are very or somewhat liberal. In other words, Politico saved PolitiFact.
So by the two polls, he was incorrect. By one, he was correct and we find support for his underlying point that there are more conservatives than liberals. On balance, we rate this claim Half True.
We’ll have to see tonight whether Maddow is okay with this adjustment.