This study is from George Mason University, a lesser college in the Washington, DC area that is known as a hotbed of conservative activism. So take anything you ever hear from “GMU” with a huge grain of salt. Often there’s a conservative bias, and funding stream, underlying folks from that university.
This study, by the self-proclaimed non-partisan “Center for Media and Public Affairs” – which has been accused of conservative ties in the past – finds that media fact-checkers found Mitt Romney and the GOP lied twice as much as Democrats. It’s some coincidence that the study came out just a few weeks after the Republican party collectively decided that it’s time to start tearing down fact-checkers.
In any case, the study found that the fact-checkers rated Romney and the GOP liars twice as much as they rated Dems as liars. While conservatives will surely say this is a sign of the fact-checkers’ inherent bias, it’s just as likely that fact-checkers are finding twice as often that the GOP lies because the GOP lies twice as often as Democrats do.
The study examined 98 election-related statements by the presidential candidates, their surrogates, and campaign ads fact-checked by PolitiFact.com from June 1 to September 11. Major findings:
PolitiFact checked the assertions of Democrats slightly more often than those of Republicans (54% vs. 46% of all statements).
However, PolitiFact rated Democratic statements as “mostly true” or “entirely true” about twice as often as Republican statements — 42% true ratings for Democrats vs. 20% for Republicans.
Conversely, statements by Republicans were rated as entirely false about twice as often as Democratic statements – 29% false ratings for GOP statements vs. 15% false ratings for Democrats. (This includes categories labeled “false” and “pants on fire.”)
The same pattern holds for statements made directly by the presidential candidates and their campaigns. A majority of the Obama campaign’s statements (55%) were rated as true or mostly true, compared to one out of four statements (26%) by the Romney campaign.
The difference is even greater at the other end of the spectrum, where 26% of the Romney campaign’s statements were rated as either false or “pants on fire,” compared to only 5% of the Obama campaign’s statements.
Get ready for Republicans to, coincidentally all in unison, denounce the fact-checkers, in a massive playing of the refs designed to push fact-checkers further to the right. But the larger point remains: What are fact-checkers to do if “hypothetically” one party is taken over by extremists who have decided that the only way they can win is to lie?
I think back to 2004 when pundit/journalist Mark Halperin, who was then with ABC, wrote a famous memo in which he warned ABC staff not to simply assume that both sides in the 2004 presidential race were being equally dishonest.
In October 2004 the Drudge Report published a memo Halperin sent to ABC News staff about coverage of the U.S. presidential election directing them not to “reflexively and artificially hold both sides ‘equally’ accountable” and that both John Kerry and George W. Bush used “distortion” in their campaign, but that Kerry’s distortions were not “central to his efforts to win.” Halperin was criticized by conservatives who used the memo to reinforce long-standing complaints of media bias.
Conservatives had a conniption fit. But what if Halperin was right. Or more to the point, why should we assume necessarily that Halperin was wrong? Why is it impossible that one political party, one presidential candidate, could lie more than the other?
If we’re willing to believe, and we do, that some candidates pulled their punches and were “too nice” during their campaigns, then why wouldn’t the opposite also be true, that some candidates are too negative, and too willing to lie?
Mitt Romney’s first ad of his presidential campaign was a lie about President Obama (that was the infamous ad in which Romney took Obama quoting McCain and made it look like Obama had come up with the quote himself). Obama didn’t do the same for his first ad.
Mitt Romney chose to devote his entire convention to a lie, “you didn’t build it.” Barack Obama’s convention theme was “bringing Americans together.”
Mitt Romney is now, yet again, suggesting that the foreign-seeming Barack Obama is a socialist (he’s using the code-phrase “redistribution of wealth”). When has President Obama suggested anything equally offensive about Mitt Romney?
Some people are more dishonest than others. And some of them run for President.