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Nothing but the half truth

January 27, 2012 - Jim Anderson
PolitiFact isn’t perfect — or even unimpeachable — but it’s still a site worth visiting in “sorting out the truth in politics.”

Politicians (and pundits) use a lot of shorthand in trying to get their messages across. PolitiFact reaches beyond the one-liners with varied scrutiny.

It’s no easy task.

In his Republican response to President Obama’s State of Union address, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels delivered this glum news — “nearly half of all persons under 30 did not go to work today.”

PolitiFact rated Daniels’ statement a “Pants on Fire” lie — even though it was technically true. In December 2011, PolitiFact found, 44.4 percent of the 16-to-29 age group was not employed.

But PolitiFact said it was ridiculous for Daniels to include high schoolers in the equation, since they’re supposed to be in school. Looking only at ages 18 to 29, it found that 37.5 percent of the population in that age group was not working.

Further — factoring-in full-time college students and stay-at-home parents — the actual unemployment rate for those between ages 18 and 29 is 12.9 percent.

Hence “pants on fire” for a statement that, to some degree, is defensible in that the number of people actually working is a practical statistic.

PolitiFact also looked at an Obama campaign commercial in which he stated, “For the first time in 13 years, our dependence on foreign oil is below 50 percent."

Obama’s statement is true, PolitiFact conceded, but it rated the message only half true, claiming the president was taking too much credit.

That ruling drew the wrath of MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, who says PolitiFact should take the word “fact” out of its title.

Well, yes and no.

The Obama campaign did tie the decline in foreign oil dependence to “the progress we’ve made.” PolitiFact points out that much of the gain in domestic oil production — in the deep-water Gulf of Mexico for example — has roots in previous administrations.

So, “half-true” for a statement that is fact.

It’s a complicated world, folks.

Can I get a “sort of true” for that?



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