An economist who formerly worked with the fact-checking site PolitiFact as one of the website’s go-to sources for fact-finding says he quit over the company’s Left-wing bias.
Brian Riedl, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, told The Daily Wire that he worked with PolitiFact over a decade ago when the fact checking site had first launched. Riedl said PolitiFact journalists consulted him on dozens of articles and ratings before he stopped working with the fact-checking site over its bias.
“Conservatives have a right to be suspicious of PolitiFact because their reporters openly shared their biases with their sources,” Riedl told The Daily Wire. “They would start with a rating and then ask their sources for ammunition to justify a preset rating. It was brazen.”
PolitiFact approached Riedl around 2007 to see if he would be a regular expert source for reporters to call for fact checking. At the time, Riedl was working as an economic expert at the conservative think tank The Heritage Foundation and had developed a reputation for being critical of former President George W. Bush’s financial policy.
“I had established a pretty notable reputation in Washington for pummeling President Bush for runaway spending, and it got me a lot of media love at the time — that I was a Heritage Foundation employee who was criticizing a Republican president,” Reidl said.
“For a lot of reporters, the best source is a conservative willing to trash Republicans. They came to me and basically thought that because I had criticized Bush so much on runaway spending, that I would provide a veneer of bipartisan credibility by trashing republicans in their fact-checking,” he explained.
“When I started criticizing Obama for the same thing a few years later, suddenly all the reporters didn’t like me,” Reidl continued.
Riedl stated that PolitiFact reporters revealed their bias in several ways. According to Riedl, reporters would explicitly ask for quotes hitting Republicans, or they would ask if Riedl knew of any outrageous statements from Republicans that were ripe for fact-checking.
Riedl said many times reporters would consult with him only to disagree with his assessment and leave his comments out of their articles. Reporters would go “expert shopping,” or contact specialists with similar biases to the reporter in order to substantiate a preset narrative. He said that many articles he consulted on were published without his comments, but they contained remarks from different experts who had voiced opinions critical of the GOP or conservatives.
“They were employing double standards. They were using straw men. They were presetting the rating before they talked to people,” Riedl recalled. “And their response was if you are not going to give us the ammunition and arguments we want, then we’ll find someone else who will.”
In 2013, The Center for Media and Public Affairs at George Mason University reviewed the ratings of 100 PolitiFact articles from the first four months of former President Barack Obama’s second term. The researchers, using PolitiFact fact checks, reported that a “leading media fact-checking organization rates Republicans as less trustworthy than Democrats.”
The researchers did not audit the fact-check ratings, nor did they process through which sources PolitiFact had chosen to consult or which statements the site chose to fact check. Beyond the researchers’ topline takeaway, they admit that the best their study can show is “how individuals, groups, political parties, etc. are portrayed in this increasingly important genre of political journalism” (emphasis added).
The findings, at least, are as supportive of Riedl’s claims as those of the university researchers. According to the researchers:
PolitiFact rated 32% of Republican claims as “false” or “pants on fire,” compared to 11% of Democratic claims – a 3 to 1 margin. Conversely, Politifact rated 22% of Democratic claims as “entirely true” compared to 11% of Republican claims – a 2 to 1 margin.
A majority of Democratic statements (54%) were rated as mostly or entirely true, compared to only 18% of Republican statements. Conversely, a majority of Republican statements (52%) were rated as mostly or entirely false, compared to only 24% of Democratic statements.
Despite controversies over Obama administration statements regarding Benghazi, the IRS and the Associated Press, Republicans have continued to fare worse than Democrats, with 60% of their claims rated as false so far this month (May 1 – May 22), compared to 29% of Democratic statements – a 2 to 1 margin.
This study’s findings are similar to those of a previous CMPA study, which found that PolitiFact gave more negative ratings to the Romney campaign than the Obama campaign during the 2012 presidential election campaign.
“Through the years, I have continued to follow their ratings, and a lot of the same people are still there — and their ratings are a joke,” Riedl said. “They make huge elementary factual mistakes in their fact checks. It’s all motivated reasoning.”
“When you read their fact checks, it is painfully obvious that they often decided on the rating first and backward reasoned their way through intellectual logical backflips, trying to come up with any way to justify the rating,” he continued. “They’re a joke.”
The title of this article has been revised for clarity. The economist was a source for Politifact, not a fact-checker.