After many years of writing columns, about 15 years just with WND, PolitiFact finally came calling.
Operated by the Tampa Bay Times in affiliation with other media nationwide, PolitiFact is perhaps best known for its assigned ratings that range from “True” to “Pants on Fire.”
The process of getting rated by PolitiFact confirmed many of my suspicions about the way the media work today, particularly the social media.
The fact checking process started with an email from a reporter named Amy Sherman.
Wrote Sherman, “Hi: For PolitiFact I fact-check articles that Facebook users flag as potentially online hoaxes.”
In the past, you see, those on the left have been able to shield themselves from unpleasant information. No one stumbles on Rush Limbaugh or WND.
Despite the fact that the left created and manages the social media, its operatives cannot completely control the flow of information. In a shared space like Facebook, inconvenient truths sneak through.
One such truth was contained in a headline I wrote for the Sentinel, a regional Midwestern news service I co-edit.
The offending headline read, “Greitens accuser admits photo session may have been a ‘dream.'”
In the way of background, Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens has been charged with criminal “invasion of privacy” by a Soros-funded St. Louis prosecutor for allegedly taking a nude photo of a mistress and threatening to blackmail her with it.
Sherman continued, “I am fact-checking your headline that pertains to the Eric Greitens case. Can you send me a full transcript of the deposition showing when the woman made this comment?”
These “Facebook accusers” had apparently flagged my headline not as hyperbolic or inaccurate but as a potential hoax.
I responded as follows: “Amy, for some people, a hoax is anything they disagree with. I do not have the full deposition. I relied on the excerpts in the attorney’s official filing.”
I continued, “It is for this reason I used the subjunctive in the headline ‘may have.’ The Daily Mail, among others, did the same thing in its headline.”
The Daily Mail headline was pretty blunt: “Hairdresser-mistress who accused disgraced Missouri governor of taking racy photo to blackmail her now admits she might have DREAMED seeing him with a camera phone.”
I concluded, “We do not traffic in hoaxes at the Sentinel.”
The quote that triggered the hoax accusation was undeniably real. The “mistress” was referring to the photo incident at the heart of the criminal case against Greitens. Defense attorneys made the quote public during an open court motion.
It reads as follows: “I haven’t talked about it because I don’t know if it’s because I’m remembering it through a dream or I – I’m not sure, but yet, I feel like I saw it after that happened, but I haven’t spoken about it because of that.”
The “dream” angle should have been the lead in any story about this sensationalized case. It dramatically undercut the case against Greitens.
As is their habit, however, New York Times editors buried the natural lead under the more liberal friendly headline, “Court Filing Says Woman in Greitens’ Affair Unsure of Memory.”
The Kansas City Star headline was even more comforting for its left-of-center readership, “Greitens’ lawyers challenge credibility of woman allegedly photographed while nude.”
The Sentinel put the “dream” in the headline. So did the Daily Mail. The Star cited the quote in the 10th paragraph of the story. The Times waited until the 17th paragraph.
The deposition from which the quote was excerpted is nine hours long. The Times did not have access to it. Nor did PolitiFact. That did not stop PolitiFact from coming to the following conclusion:
“News articles state that the woman made that comment during a lengthy deposition. Since we don’t have a transcript of the deposition, it is difficult to evaluate her comment but it appears to be cherry-picking from a deposition that lasted several hours. We rate this claim Half True.”
PolitiFact borrowed the cherry-picking trope from the prosecution. The Times article included the following, “A spokeswoman for St. Louis Circuit attorney Kim Gardner said Monday that Greitens’ attorneys had ‘cherry picked bits and pieces’ of the woman’s nine-hour deposition ‘to attack her credibility.'”
This same spokeswoman, however, claimed that prosecutors “have complied with all evidence-sharing rules.”
PolitiFact should have known that prosecutors had not been playing by the rules. They had withheld a video deposition and the notes associated with it and lied about the same.
On Monday of this week, prosecutors were back in court admitting they had made “egregious mistakes” in sharing evidence. They begged the judge to forego “the ultimate sanction of dismissal.”
Said Reagan Secretary of Labor Ray Donovan after being dramatically cleared of corruption charges in 1987, “Which office do I go to get my reputation back?”
The judge in the Greitens case rules today, Thursday. If he dismisses the case, even if he doesn’t, I am hoping PolitiFact will tell me to which office I go to get the other half of my “True” back.