When Politifact isn't so factual
A PolitiFact piece headlined "Allegations of fraud and misconduct at Nevada Democratic convention unfounded" is going around. I'm not going to link to it because most people have seen it, and I don't want to give it the clicks. But I spent a fair amount of time looking through it last night, and I don't think it is fair. Here are my thoughts.
First, it is not by the national Politifact team but by a TV reporter in Nevada. That TV reporter was interviewed by his own colleagues for a story in which he says the Democratic party chair is being used as a "scapegoat." In other words, he already had an opinion about events.
Second, he talked to only two people for the Politifact piece: Roberta Lange, the Nevada state party chair, and Annette Magnus, owner of a PR firm and a Hillary supporter who calls Roberta Lange her "mentor and friend." In other words, the two people this reporter talked to were on the same side of the dispute.
The reporter did not talk to a single Sanders delegate who was at the convention. He mentioned one, Erin Bilbray, but did not talk to her, nor to Nina Turner, who spoke there and stayed the entire day, nor to Dan Rolle, a Nevada Sanders delegate who is running for Congress, nor to Angie Morelli, who spent hours and hours on the signature gathering effort that the state party dismissed.
The reporter did say the Sanders campaign didn't return a call - however, the central campaign was not the right people to call. This was a Nevada issue. Sanders himself was campaigning in Puerto Rico that day and may not have even gotten the message.
The dispute here was between the Nevada Sanders supporters and state party officials. Nevada Sanders supporters did not think state party officials ran the convention fairly.
- They felt they had been treated unfairly before the convention when party officials set a deadline to file to run for the state executive committee, then moved the deadline earlier without telling them.
- They thought the temporary rules for this convention gave the chair too much power and were not adopted according to proper procedure.
- They tried to change those rules by gathering signatures from 20% of all delegates (including Hillary delegates), but the party officials would not allow them to even present the petitions.
- They thought the process for disqualifying their 58 members was unfair, but party officials refused to hear that objection as well.
Obviously party officials thought their processes were fair, which is the subject of the entire dispute.
If you are a reporter trying to determine the truth behind a dispute between two sides, shouldn't you talk to people on both sides? That is journalism 101. This reporter did not do that. He talked only to one side, and presented their views as "fact." He accepted their views as objective because they are party officials.
However, the entire dispute started because the Sanders delegates did not think the state party officials were fair. The reporter tried to summarize the Sanders delegation objections, but because he did not talk to them directly, he ended up glossing over their concerns.
In a time of high controversy that is under a national spotlight, it is imperative for a piece that purports to show objective facts to be as fair and impartial as possible for all parties involved. Talking to people on only one side of a dispute does not accomplish that. In my opinion, this piece should not run under the Politifact banner.
Instead, I am going to post a video in which Rachel Maddow does what Politifact didn't, which is to talk with people on both sides. On one side is veteran Nevada politics reporter Jon Ralston, who should be more objective but also took one side by talking only to state party chairs and labeling Sanders delegates as "rabble rousers without a cause." On the other is Sanders delegate Angie Morelli who describes how the state party refused to look at their petitions.
Image credit: Independent Voter Project