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Qingu's avatar

Politifact rates the relative honesty of Republican candidates: do you think they're accurate?

Asked by Qingu (21175points) December 30th, 2011

Here’s the link, and it has a nice chart. According to Politifact, the general pattern of their fact-checks reveals that:

• Ron Paul and Mitt Romney tend towards true statements the most.

• Michelle Bachmann and Newt Gingrich have the greatest tendency towards false statements and “pants on fire” lies.

Obviously this is not scientific, and there is some wiggle room in what sort of statements Politifact chooses to fact-check and how they rate them (issues that we’ve debated already in this question). But I think the trends here are interesting and probably reflect a lot about the candidates.

(By the way, please read or at least skim the first link before commenting!)

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19 Answers

marinelife's avatar

Yes, I think they are accurate.

Blackberry's avatar

I think rationality and logic have a chance in American politics. Sometimes I daydream about being an old man and watching two politicians debating on TV about actual ways to help people and solve problems with clear, cogent, and detailed arguments.

judochop's avatar

I think it is mostly accurate with a few blemishes here and there. It is sad that we as a country expect and shrug off a certain amount of untruths from politicians. If there ever were a shining example of whats wrong in this country, this helps paint the picture.

Qingu's avatar

@judochop, I think it’s part of human nature to fib to some extent. And a lot of the “false” ratings can be chalked up to simple mistakes or misstatements—though in theory those do reflect a certain amount of ignorance, I suppose. But I think it’s unreasonable to expect any politician, or anyone, to have a perfect record.

The real issue for me is the number of “Pants on Fire” ratings, because those represent malicious and/or intentional lies.

judochop's avatar

@Qingu I understand a certain amount of spin but I don’t believe that any amount of fibbing is tolerable from a politician.
Just as I would never expect any type of ill thought and touching from a ‘man of the cloth.’

I know it happens, but I think it is bullshit. The “Pants on Fire” thing really gets me as well.

Qingu's avatar

@judochop, my point was that some “fibbing” is inevitable in any person. I’m sure you’ve done it. I know I’ve done it. Most people lie socially. It is also easy to misstate facts, which is different than “fibbing” but can cross the line in some cases.

So a “zero tolerance” policy for lying among politicians seems naive to me. The question isn’t whether or not they lie but whether or not they are generally honest. That’s the most we can ask from any human.

And frankly I think it is obscene to compare lying and misstating facts to child rape by priests.

Jaxk's avatar

I’m sorry but Politifact is a left leaning site that interprets statements very subjectively. For instance Romney said: Solyndra had robots that whistled Disney songs. I’m not kidding. Politifact rated this half true even though they concede that the Solyndra robots may have whistled Disney tunes. Politifact just believes that’s OK so they rated it half true. C’mon guys it’s either true or it isn’t. You can’t rate it based on whether you think it’s OK and don’t like the point being made. There’s nothing factual in what they do, they just want you to believe there is.

Qingu's avatar

Politifact’s lie of the year in 2011 was the Democratic “Republicans want to end Medicare” statement. A statement that many liberals (including myself) believe is simply true.

But don’t let that stop you from believing they’re leftists.

As for your example, @Jaxk, Politifact explains their ruling:

“We were heartened that Romney was able to quickly provide a source for his information about Solyndra’s factory. But as an example of wasteful spending, “robots that whistled Disney songs,” doesn’t quite hold up. Automated guided vehicles are common in warehouses and factories, as a labor-saving device. Some of them come preloaded with melodies as an alternative to beep-beep-beep — to boost workers’ attention to them, and thus safety. The Solyndra vehicles may have played some Disney tunes along with their movie medleys and Japanese folk songs, but it wasn’t their most memorable feature. We rate Romney’s claim Half True.”

Romney cited this as an example of wasteful spending at Solyndra… and it’s not an example of that. Hence, half-true.

Jaxk's avatar


Whether the singing robots were wasteful spending or not is an OPINION not a fact. The statement Politifact evaluated was factual. They didn’t like the opinion so they rated it half true. That is thier OPINION, not a fact. That’s why I don’t believe thier ratings.

Qingu's avatar

No, it’s a fact that using a Disney tune instead of a standard beeping noise is not a good example of wasteful spending…. since it does not cost them any money to use it. Robots have those melodies built in.

Likewise, it would be dishonest to say that Jaxk is stupid because he misspells words… because your spelling is fine. It may be my opinion that you are stupid (btw, it’s not), but it is factually inaccurate to hold up misspelling as an example of your stupidity since you don’t do it.

It’s a dishonest example. The fact that you can’t see that it’s a dishonest example says a lot about you.

And besides, this doesn’t even support your claim that they’re liberal partisans. Liberals said the exact same thing about their ratings on the Medicare attacks. You haven’t shown that they’re partisan so now you’re just grasping at straws for an excuse to shoot the messenger.

Jaxk's avatar


You’re trying too hard to defend the indefensible. Soilyndra bought the top of the line in everything. That is the whole point of Romney’s statement. Romney contrasted Solyndra as a startup against Staples as a startup. No Taj Mahal, no singing robots, instead a very frugal startup that was concious of the costs. You may believe that all startups buy the top of the line for eveything but I can assure you they don’t.

It was an example of a company with little fiscal responsibility because they had lots of money from a government with little fiscal responsibility. So they built a Taj Mahal and bought singing robots. I’m not sure how you think business works or what people do to get started with a new business but it’s pretty obvious you don’t understand it. So you want to call everyone names, scream and yell, and pretend you don’t see the point. Hell, maybe you really don’t see the point. You’re pretty blinded by your ideology.

Qingu's avatar

Why do you think the robots are “top of the line”? Politifact notes many robots come pre-loaded with melodies. Please support your claim.

By the way, I’m not defending Solyndra, it seems like there were plenty of other excesses to use as better examples. But they are one company. And their constant breathless denigration is a hallmark of right wing partisanship. Speaking of “blinded by ideology.”

Ron_C's avatar

I can’t believe that Bachmann beat Gingrich in the lying department. I have heard very few true statements coming from him and no truth from Romney when he talks about Obama.

I think it is unfair to do a lifetime average on them. I expect they tell the truth when it is convenient and they don’t want anything. That brings their average up. I would like to see that meter updated in real time as they speak. That would be an interesting debate.

Qingu's avatar

@Ron_C, oh, I can believe it. Gingrich is pretty sleazy but Bachmann is like some kind of counterfactual entity from the anti-universe.

I actually think that looking at the number of “pants on fire” ratings is just as important as looking at the spread of ratings for each candidate. Those are the statements that are clearly deliberate lies or else irresponsibly crazy counterfactuals.

Jaxk's avatar


I don’t know if you’ve ever been in a warehouse or had anything to do with a startup but let me give you a couple of facts. The singing robots that Solyndra used were about $200,000. A fork lift of similar capacity is less than $10,000. I consider that extravagant for a start up. I will concede that in a high volume application the robots may be worth it but then Solyndra obviously didn’t need the high capacity since they couldn’t sell thier product. A fundamental problem for startups. If you are starting a business and money is an issue, you don’t buy the cadillac you buy what can get the job done. It’s only if money is no object that you jump right into singing robots ‘out the gate’. Therefor, robots that sing Disney tunes are a good example of extragance (ie. they cost 20 times what is needed to do the job).

With or with out the explanation Romney’s statement is TRUE, Not half-true. Politifact’s rating is bullshit and designed to obtain the answer they want. This was not an example I searched for it was part of the link you posted. But most of the Politifact ratings are done the same way. They determine the answer they want and then try to justify it.

Qingu's avatar

They weren’t fork lifters. You’re comparing apples to oranges. You’re also ignoring what Politifact is actually rating. They are rating the honesty of using the example “whistling Disney tunes.” There may be plenty of examples of Solyndra’s extravagence available to cite, but the whistling Disney tunes are not. Hence the rating.

But let’s look at the bigger picture. You’re complaining about this one particular “Half-true” rating. You think they are being too tough/harsh on Romney. But I’ve looked at many of Polifact’s rulings and they are all similarly harsh. In fact, getting a “Half-true” rating from Politifact doesn’t seem that bad. It’s like getting a B.

To put it in perspective, Politifact has consistently rated the (Dem attack line) statement, “The Paul Ryan plan wants to end Medicare” as false. Why? Beacuse it’s not qualified. The plan seeks to privatize Medicare… which would end Medicare as we know it. But because the Democratic attacks lack that qualification, Politifact rates them flat-out false. Much to the rage of people like Paul Krugman.

So yeah, Politifact rates political statements harshly. But that harshness cuts across partisan lines. And I don’t think it’s bad that they’re harsh or that they look at the context of statements to see if they’re misleading or bad examples of points being made.

Jaxk's avatar


They do the same job. You’re draw a distinction without a difference.

Qingu's avatar

And you know they do the same job how?

Jaxk's avatar


The Solyndra robots were rated to carry up to a couple thousand lbs of solar panels. A job typically done with a fork lift. I’ve had management responsibility of the ware house and manufacturing under me several times throughout my career and have a passing knowledge of how it works. If you want a lengthy discussion of this works, I’m really not up to it right now.

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