Jeb Bladine: ‘Facts’ categorized as election casualty

A television comedy skit this week began with organ music and a sober-faced minister intoning, “We are gathered here today to mourn the passing of our dear friend, Facts.”It was humorously distressing and certainly relevant in a country where so many

people are unaware of or indifferent to so many facts.

The Los Angeles Times, among many national news sources, has reported on the prominence of fake news stories during the 2016 election, writing, “Even the president-elect ended up retweeting fake statistics.”

A communications professor from Massachusetts compiled a national list of “false, misleading, clickbait-y and satirical ‘news’ sources.” The list included Breitbart, whose chairman, Steve Bannon, has been named “chief strategist and senior counselor” to President-elect Donald Trump.


Jeb Bladine is president and publisher of the News-Register.

> See his column

Many were outraged at Bannon’s appointment, but chances are, the people who elected Trump are not delving deeply into all the misinformation that Bannon and his minions have spread. After all, their candidate by all accounts became a historic leader in the ranks of spin, half-truths, misrepresentation and outright fabrication.

PolitiFact, the respected Tampa Bay Times project that investigates claims by elected officials and other political figures, delivers a calm, dispassionate indictment of Trump’s honesty. The fact-checking website’s graph shows this startling analysis of Trump statements that PolitiFact investigated:

True, 4 percent; mostly true, 11 percent; half true, 15 percent; false or mostly false, 53 percent; “pants on fire” false, 17 percent. Adding things up, that’s 85 percent half true or worse, and 70 percent mostly or totally false.

The Tampa Bay Times is an independent newspaper whose editors and reporters run the national PolitiFact website. They partner with news organizations in 18 states — not including Oregon — to provide state-based analysis of political claims.

Unfortunately, The Oregonian newspaper no longer works in partnership with the Times on an Oregon edition, which is at least two years outdated. That prompts this small-type listing on the obsolete Oregon site:

“PolitiFact’s looking for an enthusiastic team of talented journalists to reboot its Oregon fact-checking project. If you’re an Oregon newsroom or interested in seeing PolitiFact Oregon re-started, please get in touch with us.”

It’s unlikely that help will arrive in time for the upcoming debates about the Oregon state budget, which no doubt will be peppered with a variety of questionable claims. Most of those claims likely will fall into the category of half-truths that leave out important information – hardly Trump-like, but still an area where PolitiFact Oregon would be welcome.

Jeb Bladine can be reached at jbladine@newsregister.com and 503-687-1223.

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