Misstatements, let’s call them, are nothing new in American politics.
For most of American history, political debate has been raw. In 1800, President John Adams ran for re-election against challenger Thomas Jefferson. Both were icons of America’s fight for independence. But according to a 2011 CQ Press report about lying in politics, Adams partisans painted Jefferson as the anti-Christ. Jefferson partisans accused Adams of wanting to start a monarchy.
If PolitiFact had been around then, both accusations would have been rated “Pants on Fire.”
Eight years ago, the Tampa Bay Times started PolitiFact as a national truth-telling service, “a fact-checking website that rates the accuracy of claims by elected officials and others who speak up in American politics.” It was a hit. It coupled calm, matter-of-fact assessments with a saucy rating system that ranges from “true” to “pants on fire.” In eight years, PolitiFact has rated nearly 12,000 statements. In 2009, it won the Pulitzer Prize for national reporting.
Now PolitiFact is coming to New York. The Buffalo News, in partnership with the Tampa Bay Times, will produce PolitiFact New York – the 17th state PolitiFact.
Here’s how it works: PolitiFact New York will be a statewide service. We will have a reporter in Albany who will research and write as many as three fact-checks a week. The aim isn’t to nitpick but to select statements that are newsworthy and significant. They may come from speeches, news stories, press releases, campaign brochures, TV ads, media interviews, widely circulated emails or social media. Most will be statements made by politicians, activists or others in the political arena. Most will be statements about statewide issues, but we will fact-check all levels of government, from towns and cities to our U.S. senators.
The ratings – PolitiFact’s Truth-O-Meter – are carefully vetted. Our PolitiFact writer will recommend a rating, but each will be reviewed by a panel of three editors. Leading PolitiFact New York will be News Deputy Managing Editor Stan Evans, who is in charge of our local news report, and Enterprise Editor Patrick Lakamp.
Part of the appeal of PolitiFact: It is independent and nonpartisan. PolitiFact’s last three “Lies of the Year” reflect that. In 2013, it was President Obama’s statement, “If you like your health care plan, you can keep it.” In 2014, it was exaggerations about Ebola. In 2015, it was the campaign misstatements of Donald Trump.
It will be a few weeks before New York fact-checks start appearing in The News and on politifact.com/new-york. In the meantime, we will start publishing some national PolitiFact stories in the pages of The News. See something you think should be fact-checked? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Buffalo News, in partnership with the Tampa Bay Times, will produce PolitiFact New York, to assess and rate the accuracy of statements made in the political arena.
Story topics: Mike Connelly