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.

how-reliable-are-fact-check-sources-26635.jpgThe 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

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edg's picture

the Bernie Sanders equivalent of the "Dean Scream", something that can be twisted and run on infinite loop and used to drum the candidate out of the race, thus clearing the path for the Anointed One. It is sad and disgusting, and the worst thing is they're likely going to get away with it.

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ccbohio's picture

I think you are exactly right. And we Sanders supporters need to set the record straight.

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edg's picture

Even Stephen Colbert was making jokes last night about Sanders supporters throwing chairs around. The meme is out there. It's going to take a lot to get the record straightened out.

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tourniquet's picture

they've tried to do that with -eeeeverythinggg- that has happened with sanders, his campaign or has supporters that could be vaguely construed as controversial.

i can imagine scumfuck brock at one of those big helm wheels, like on a pirate ship, shouting "ARR WE'VE GOT 'IM NOW BOYS, BLOW IT UP ON SOCIAL MEDIA!!"

(cue the flying monkeys)

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GIANT ALL-CAPS SIG

edg's picture

So far, though, this is the only one that has any legs. It's into the 5th day now. Hopefully it won't survive the weekend.

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jorogo's picture

but completely confounding, is that Bernie Sanders was not there yet gets full credit for what is a near-totally false narrative. Is anyone talking about that?

Actually, maybe that is the worst.

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"If I sit silently, I have sinned." - Mossadegh

Shahryar's picture

and by the way, Politifact also ran a crazy piece about Bernie doing better head to head vs Trump than Hillary does. They twisted themselves into pretzels to make it "mostly true" instead of "true". How? By invoking the Hillbot claim that maybe if the Repubs attacked Bernie he might someday in the future possibly not do as well.

http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2016/mar/08/bernie-s/...

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because after all, there have indeed been some totally false allegations bandied around with respect to events at the NV caucus.

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The earth is a multibillion-year-old sphere.
The Nazis killed millions of Jews.
On 9/11/01 a Boeing 757 (AA77) flew into the Pentagon.
AGCC is happening.
If you cannot accept these facts, I cannot fake an interest in any of your opinions.

actually were truthful and told the real story and timelines of what actually happened to Politifact. Like that Counterpunch piece:
http://www.counterpunch.org/2016/05/18/the-faux-fracas-in-nevada-how-a-r...

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ccbohio's picture

And I like the hashtag going around: #ShowMeTheChairs -- because they can't. Journalists who repeated this lie without confirming it should be ashamed. They are no better than low-information Facebook users posting the latest fake news story. And there's a special place in journalism hell for Jon Ralston, the Nevada politics reporter who started it.

http://www.snopes.com/did-sanders-supporters-throw-chairs-at-nevada-demo...

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That many Sanders supporters online are incorrectly making, are referring to the 2008 era rules which gave Lange final say legitimately on a number of things (voice vote, decision to leave, etc)

But I am still not settled on what I see are legitimate grievances Sanders supports that were at the convention were aware of.
What the savvier Sanders supporters (that aren't making claims that Politifact DOES debunk) are pissed about are not those legit powers Lange had, but the temporary ones she was also given, and the dismissal of legitimate attempts by Sanders supporters to amend them (following the rules to do so; see the mysterious '20 percent' petition rule. Politifact says it wasn't reached, other sources, who aren't Lange and her supporters, say it was.)

https://shadowproof.com/2016/05/17/democrats-manipulated-nevada-state-pa...

I tweeted Politifact to ask them to address these points and see if they are bunk or worth further looking into.

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