US election: Sorting out facts from fiction

October 29, 2016 9:36 am
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Republican Presidential Candidate Donald Trump has for instance “changed his position on nearly every issue of importance once; sometimes mid-speech.” Photo/AFP-FILE.
Republican Presidential Candidate Donald Trump has for instance “changed his position on nearly every issue of importance once; sometimes mid-speech.” Photo/AFP-FILE.
WASHINGTON, United States, Oct 29 – If you’ve been closely following the 2016 US election, you may have come across this statement: “If Clinton has proved to be dishonest, Trump has given dishonesty a new meaning.”

And that’s because organisations like PolitiFact have been fact-checking politicians’ claims when they make them.

Republican Presidential Candidate Donald Trump has for instance “changed his position on nearly every issue of importance once; sometimes mid-speech.”

According to PolitiFact, Trump’s “truthful hyperbole” fueled his rise to the top of the Republican ticket – and a surge of interest in fact-checking.

PolitiFact staff writer John Greenberg explains that Trump has not necessarily cared much about the factual accuracy of his statements.

“He likes the effect and so he will say things… he will be corrected but he will ignore the corrections and I believe that feeds into the interest of the people wanting to see the corrections put out there.”

He says fact-checking gives voters a chance to see an overview of how accurate candidates are on a variety of topics. What voters do with that information is up to them.

He says during the 2012 US election, Barack Obama and Mitt Romney’s score cards for accuracy were more or less the same.

“In this election, you compare Hillary Clinton’s score card for accuracy against Donald Trump’s score card for accuracy, they look nothing like each other. Trump has many more inaccurate statements. I would say there is a clear difference in this election.”

PolitiFact has been documenting Trump’s statements since 2011 and since then, they’ve fact-checked more than 300 Trump claims.

“About 71 percent of them rated mostly false, false or ‘pants on fire’. About 14 percent of his statements are half true, while 4 percent rated true.” (Pants on fire means to lie too acutely that theoretically, your pants will burst into flames. This is popularised by the kindergarten chant, “liar liar pants on fire!”)

On the other hand the most misleading claims Clinton has made center on her decision to use a private email server as Secretary of State – which has this weekend come back to haunt her after the FBI re-opened its probe – as well as aspects of her personal biography and how she compares herself with other candidates.

PolitiFact has been fact-checking Clinton since 2007 during her first run for the White House. “Over that time, she has proven herself to be a careful speaker. Like all politicians, however, she sometimes stretches the truth.”

“During the many years we’ve fact-checked Clinton, we’ve rated close to 300 of her statements. Just over half – 51 percent – have rated true or mostly true. Another 23 percent rated half true. On the negative side, 26 percent of her statements rated mostly false, false or ‘pants on fire,’” PolitiFact says.

When PolitiFact ac-checked her on the email server controversy, Clinton claimed it was allowed, referring to her decision to use a private email server.

“No one ever stopped Clinton from conducting work over her private email server exclusively, but that’s not the same thing as it being allowed. Offices within the State Department told an independent inspector general that if she had asked, they would not have allowed it. PolitiFact rated this claim false.”

(Michael is participating in a 2016 U.S General Elections Embed program administered by the International Center for Journalists (ICFJ) and sponsored by the US State Department’s Foreign Press Centers and US Embassy Posts)

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