13 September 2008

Pants on Fire

Back in June, I noted how Snopes.com had collected many more internet rumors, and many more false rumors, about either of the remaining Democratic candidates for President than about the Republican candidate. Even after the arrival of Sarah Palin on the national scene--an unknown figure creates an information vacuum that sucks in rumors--that pattern has kept up.

Internet rumors are often untraceable, and rarely show a direct connection to the candidates' organizations or parties. But other websites track statements from the campaigns themselves, and they're showing the same difference between the Republican and the Democratic campaigns.

PolitiFact is a website created by the St. Petersburg Times and the Congressional Quarterly which rates political statements by their truthfulness. The lowest rating is "Pants on Fire," and that page catalogues especially shameful, obvious lies.

As of this afternoon, Barack Obama's face never appears on that page, indicating that he didn't make any statements that rate such harsh criticism. Since May, when the tickets settled down, John McCain has produced four "Pants on Fire" lies. Furthermore, in that same period there have been only two whoppers from all sources about the Republican ticket, nine about the Democratic ticket.

FactCheck.org is another website that tries to be scrupulously neutral in vetting political statements. It doesn't rate statements on a "meter" of truth and falsehood like PolitiFact, but analyzes them in detail. As with the other two sites, counting the statements in recent months shows a significantly higher number of false or exaggerated statements coming from the Republicans than from the Democrats.

The McCain-Palin organization recognizes the public's respect for such organizations, enough to have created an advertisement called "Fact Check" that quoted FactCheck.org--but only in a dishonest way. As FactCheck replied:

With its latest ad, released Sept. 10, the McCain-Palin campaign has altered our message in a fashion we consider less than honest. The ad strives to convey the message that FactCheck.org said "completely false" attacks on Gov. Sarah Palin had come from Sen. Barack Obama. We said no such thing. We have yet to dispute any claim from the Obama campaign about Palin.
As Adam Reilly of the Boston Phoenix points out with some indignation, FactCheck did a roundup of reports about Palin that mixed up mainstream media and internet rumors, but still had no statements from the Obama-Biden campaign to dispute.

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