PolitiFact checks politicians’ lies so you don’t have to

By NINA GREEN

“I was not lying. I said things that later on seemed to be untrue.”
— Richard Nixon

There is something innate in running for and holding public office that drives politicians to stretch the truth. With the mid-term elections approaching, Washington is in the midst of a dung-slinging competition. Candidates and party leaders are getting worked into a frenzy, spouting half-truths and even full blown lies in the hopes that their opponents will suffer as a result.

So how does a reporter weed through all the deception to find the truth? Enter PolitiFact.com, the 2009 Pulitzer Prize-winning website that monitors the validity of politicians’ statements. A project of the St. Petersburg Times, PolitiFact researches the validity of statements made by members of Congress, the president, lobbyists, pundits and just about anyone else who voices their opinion in Washington. Comments are rated on The Truth-O-Meter as either True, Mostly True, Half True, Barely True and False, with those comments that are utterly ridiculous and false receiving the lowest score of Pants on Fire.

For example, when California Sen. Barbara Boxer said “As the CEO of HP, [my opponent] Carly Fiorina laid off 30,000 workers,” PolitiFact rated the statement as mostly true because indeed 30,000 jobs were outsourced from HP when Fiorina was CEO.

PoltiFact also keeps tabs on President Barack Obama with the Obameter. There they track what campaign promises the president has kept, compromised on, broken, stalled, and those that are still in the works. Users can then click on each category to view the various promises and PolitiFact’s explanation as to how they have been kept, broken, stalled, etc.

While PolitiFact could be, and probably is, used by journalists, I think it appeals more to those who enjoy following the goings on in Washington. It is designed more to entertain than to provide a database of checked facts. However, if I ever needed to write a story on politics, I’d probably scope out the site, just to make sure I had all my facts straight.

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