MSNBC’s Bill Wolff Asks Politifact For a Correction Over ‘Misrepresented’ Fact Check

By Alex Weprin 

MSNBC VP of primetime programming and executive producer of “The Rachel Maddow Show,” Bill Wolff, sent a letter to Politifact asking for a correction to a post on the organizations “Truth-O-Meter” blog.

Wolff argues that Politifact ascribed comments to Maddow that were never made, or taken out of context, with regards to the budget shortfall in Wisconsin:

In your effort to challenge a Capital Times editorial you have mistakenly ascribed the argument therein to Rachel Maddow. In so doing, you have half-quoted her in one instance, misquoted her in another, and misrepresented her overall.

Ms. Maddow is well aware of the Wisconsin budget shortfall. She said so just a few sentences after the line you decided to single out for “truthometry”:

Politifact responded Friday, saying that a correction was not warranted:

As you may know, I was not involved in the editing or Truth-O-Meter rating of the original item, so I came to this with a fresh eye. I’ve now watched the full segment several times and my response to it has been the same each time: I think any reasonable person who watched Maddow’s comments would come away with a couple of clear points:

1. The state doesn’t have a budget crisis — it has a surplus.

2. To the extent there was any surplus, Walker gave it away in business tax breaks.

I think Maddow’s wording was artful and careful, but her meaning was very clear. So I don’t feel a correction or a clarification is necessary.

As for your point about not being contacted by the reporter, it is our general practice to contact the people we are fact-checking to ask for their sources. But sometimes we don’t find it’s necessary to do that because the person we’re checking has already provided their source, as Maddow did by showing the documents from the agency that makes projections on Wisconsin’s finances. Still, it’s always best to hear the perspective of the people being checked, so I will remind our staff to make sure they contact the people they are checking.