Politifact has taken a beating over its recent assessment of the claims Jon Stewart made on Sunday. Not all of these are simple, knee-jerk reactions by a disgruntled Left. Instead, they point to very troubling problems in Politifact’s methodology, namely its complete disregard for a study performed by the University of Maryland and its conflation of the terms “ill-informed” and “misinformed”.
I’d like to point out that the organization’s researchers and writers also applied a very weird standard when assessing the truth value of Stewart’s statement: they rated his entire claim “false”, because part of it might be incorrect.
The way Stewart phrased the comment, it’s not enough to show a sliver of evidence that Fox News’ audience is ill-informed. The evidence needs to support the view that the data shows they are “consistently” misinformed — a term he used not once but three times. It’s simply not true that “every poll” shows that result. So we rate his claim False.
Nobody thinks like this outside of the barren tundra of formal logic, where entire statements are discounted if one of the clauses is incorrect. It’s irresponsible, and a better rating would be “half true”. Viewers who see Politifact’s rating trumpeted on the news and don’t have time to read the article walk away with the impression that Stewart’s broader point was invalid, or worse, that he lied.
In the end though, it appears that Stewart has had the last laugh.