John Loughlin slams ‘agenda-driven’ PolitiFact

March 14th, 2011 at 11:56 am by under General Talk

Former state Rep. John Loughlin received a dreaded “Pants on Fire” rating from PolitiFact last summer during his unsuccessful campaign against David Cicilline for Patrick Kennedy’s 1st District seat. PolitiFact said Loughlin was wrong to describe it as common for people illegally crossing the U.S.-Mexico border to do so carrying drugs.

Loughlin fired back in Anchor Rising’s comments section over the weekend, saying subsequent events offered further proof for his claim but he couldn’t get a new hearing:

I presented all of this exculpatory evidence to Politi-Fact and was told “well, we already covered that story so we don’t want to go back and re-hash it.” These low-lifes called me a liar and didn’t have the guts to go back and correct their error. I can only conclude it was because Politi-Fact is agenda driven journalism at its very worst.

That seems like a serious charge. I don’t know if Loughlin is right in this case , but new facts come to light all the time, and PolitiFact prides itself on weighing all the facts and providing an unbiased judgment – and has already gained considerably clout by doing so.

I asked Tim Murphy, PolitiFact’s editor and a widely respected journalist in his own right, if he would respond to Loughlin’s claims or shed some light on whether there is an appeals process in the PolitiFact system. Murphy was good enough to call me back, but he declined to comment, citing a general policy against doing so.

For what it’s worth, I don’t think PolitiFact’s judgments are agenda-driven (and yes, I know AR’s contributors will disagree and say that’s because I’m part of the MSM). I also think the site is doing some terrific work – see, for example, Pete Lord’s Feb. 27 piece on pension law. Still, perhaps the project could use a bit more transparency – maybe a blog to tackle critiques of its rulings?

(Double disclosure: Loughlin is a WPRI-TV contributor, and Projo/PolitiFact is a WPRI news partner. So I guess they cancel each other out.)

Update: The Providence Phoenix’s Dave Scharfenberg weighs in with his thoughts, and wonders whether judging hyperbolic statements like Ken McKay’s represents “the best use of PolitiFact’s time.”

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8 Responses to “John Loughlin slams ‘agenda-driven’ PolitiFact”

  1. Bryan White says:

    I share your curiosity about Loughlin’s account of his interactions with PolitiFact, Tim. But don’t go putting too much faith in PolitiFact. Aside from the selection bias problem recently highlighted by Eric Ostermeier, for any given week I typically find at least one major flaw in PolitiFact reporting.

    Look up the recent PolitiFact (Virginia) review of a statement by Morgan Griffith. It’s a great example. It should be hard to do the reporting that badly without a predisposition to accept facts unfavorable to Griffith (combined with a naive dependence on information from the organization Griffith was chastising with his comment).

    I hope that Loughlin will produce evidence backing his claims about PolitiFact’s reluctance to consider contrary evidence, since his reported experience is pretty close to what I get (apathy, condescension).

  2. Bryan White says:

    “citing a general policy against doing so.”

    ProJo policy or PolitiFact policy? Did Murphy provide any indication?

    Lovely transparency, eh?

    1. Ted Nesi says:

      Not clear, though in fairness to Murphy, he left me a voicemail message so I didn’t put the question straight to him.

      As a general rule, The Journal doesn’t speak to reporters, so it could be a strictly Projo policy as opposed to a PolitiFact-wide one.

      1. Bryan White says:

        Thanks for the rapid reply.

        “The Journal doesn’t speak to reporters”

        Maybe they know something about reporters we don’t. ;-)

      2. Ted Nesi says:

        No joke – I wouldn’t speak to me either!

  3. [...] > PolitiFact won’t comment after Loughlin calls it ‘agenda-driven’ [...]

  4. [...] from local conservatives. ted Nesi, over at WPRI, mentions former GOP Congressional candidate John Loughlin's recent criticism. Here is another, from William A. Jacobson, who offers this critique on his "Legal [...]

  5. Pat Crowley says:

    there’s a solution, you know, to all the negative rulings for conservatives from Politifact….stop making stuff up.