PolitiFact Editor Rejects Arianna’s Scoffing at His Fact-Checking

Bill Adair, editor of PolitiFact and Washington Bureau Chief of the St. Petersburg Times, on Tuesday morning rejected HuffPost Editor-in-Chief Arianna Huffington’s weekend claim that PolitiFact was playing lukewarm with the facts. In other words, that PolitiFact was trying to have its cake and eat it too.

“I respect Arianna’s right to disagree with us, but I think we got it right,” Adair told FishbowlDC in an e-mail. “We spent several days researching her statement and found that while there was the overbilling she cites, there wasn’t clear-cut proof it was fraud. So Half True was the right call.”

Huffington took issue with PolitiFact’s conclusion to a fact-checking of her recent appearance on ABC’s “This Week” in which she said “Halliburton had defrauded American taxpayers.” She called the fact-checking “an object lesson in equivocation, and a prime exhibit of the kind of muddled thinking that dominates Washington and allows the powerful to escape accountability — and our corrupt no-accountability status quo to continue wreaking havoc on our country. It’s a favorite trick of those in power: using ambiguity and complexity as a sort of chemical dispersant on the truth. Dilute it enough and it becomes unrecognizable.”

Adair fires back: “I strongly disagree with her suggestion that PolitiFact seeks “the comfort of the middle ground.” Indeed, our 1,400 Truth-O-Meter rulings over the past three years show we are a unique organization in American journalism that is not afraid to make a call. People may not always agree with our rulings, but most will recognize that we fill an important role in holding officials — and pundits — accountable for what they say.”

(Readers: As you’ll note in the above photograph, Pinocchio’s nose is not at full extension of a lie. Instead, it’s relatively normal-sized with possibly another odd shaped nose growing adjacent to it. I’m no Pinocchio nose expert, but I think you get the half truth gist of it.)