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Keep Chuckin’ Those Facts!

[ 126 ] August 6, 2012 |

Give the most useless website in the known universe this: they’re consistent. Once again, they have awarded a “pants on fire” award, in this case to Harry Reid, despite providing no evidence whatsoever that Reid lied. Here’s the problem:

Many readers asked us to put Reid’s claim to the Truth-O-Meter. We conclude that Reid, despite repeating the claim on at least two occasions, has not produced any solid evidence it is true.

This does not, in fact, constitute a “lie.” If it is, then Romney has told “pants on fire” lies about what he’s paid in taxes in the years we don’t have returns released for as well. And PolitiFact is double-pants-on-fire-with-an-additional-Pinocchio lying, since they haven’t provided the slightest evidence that Reid wasn’t told by someone that Romney hasn’t paid taxes. As always, PolitiFact simply doesn’t understand what facts and lies are, which is kind of a problem when you purport to be a fact-checker.

If you want to say that Reid is engaging in dishonorable tactics, you can. For the reasons SEK and Jonathan Zasloff have stated, I don’t agree — Reid didn’t breach any actually existing standard of civility in American politics, and highlighting the embarrassing information that must be hidden in Romney’s past returns if Romney refuses to follow the existing norms and release them is Politics 101. A specific charge that can be refuted by releasing information that every other presidential candidate has released for decades isn’t McCarthyism. But all this is a matter of judgement; if PolitiFact wants to refuse to award Reid the David Broder Award for Adhering to Standards of Civility That Have Never Existed that’s fine. But it can’t call Reid a liar without providing some evidence that he’s actually lied.

Comments (126)

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  1. sparks says:

    There’s a standard of civility in politics?

    • L2P says:

      Yes.

      When Republicans baselessly accuse a Democrat of being born in Kenya, that is civilly raising a valuable issue necessary to the functioning of the free press and the Republic.

      When Democrats accuse a Republican of not paying taxes, that is not civil discourse and even Stalin would have said Nyet before doing something so dastardly and vile.

      • Tom Renbarger says:

        Rand: Too bad no one killed Couladin when we had the chance.

        Rhuarc: That would violate ji’e’toh.

        Rand: ji’e’toh restricts you from stopping madmen warlords?

        Rhuarc: Yes. The rule is madmen warlords can try to kill you, and everyone near you, and everyone else who isn’t near you, and everyone they know, and everyone they thought was looking at them funny.

        Rand: What does ji’e’toh let me do?

        Rhuarc: You can mutter under your breath.

        Rand: Shaido dogs.

        Rhuarc: Now you’re getting it.

        Admittedly, it makes more sense (and most likely is a lot funnier) if you’ve read the WoT series by Robert Jordan, but I think the gist of it is still pretty apparent even if you haven’t.

        • Murc says:

          Serendipitously, the guy who took over from Jordan tweeted that he finished the last book last Saturday. Just has to go through galleys, edits, etc. and it’ll be out next year.

          Personally, I think the series really falls down after around book seven, when things drag to a halt and you just stop caring. But, you know, I’ve been reading them for twenty years, and I’m looking forward to the final conclusion.

          • firefall says:

            Seven? Six, I think. And yes, I’ll read the last one, then be glad and do a little dance on top of them, in relief for the damn thing to finally be finished.

            At least until the sequel.

    • Yes. A very, very, very low standard.

    • DrDick says:

      You are only allowed to cane fellow Senators on the floor of the Senate. You may not bite their ears off.

  2. Craigo says:

    The inability of the commentariat to understand the difference between accusing someone of doing something (like being a Communist) and of not doing something (like not paying taxes, which has a convenient) makes me think that they really are stupid and not just playing.

    • Craigo says:

      Sorry, garbled post. But while one’s tax returns can easily prove that you have, in fact, paid taxes, to my knowledge the government does not issue paperwork proving that one is not a Communist or pedophile (which analogy the pundit chooses depends on how old they are, but both are stupid and insulting in different ways).

      • rea says:

        The government does, however, issue birth certificates, even if some people can’t bring themselves to believe them.

  3. howard says:

    i’m not going to click through – why give these palookas the traffic they so desperately crave? – but for reid to be telling a “lie,” he has to have made up the person from bain he’s citing as an anonymous source or he has to be misrepresenting what the person told him.

    it’s not that hard a concept, although it’s apparently too hard for politifact.

    • John says:

      And, of course, it may be true that Reid made up the source or misrepresented what they said. But Politifact has no evidence whatever of this.

      What an absurd institution.

      • David M. Nieporent says:

        The fact that he won’t tell us who the source is is prima facie evidence that he’s lying.

        The fact that by definition the source couldn’t possibly know about Mitt Romney’s tax returns means that even if the source exists, Reid knows that the source is lying; knowingly passing on a lie is lying.

        Why do you think this source wouldn’t have gone to the media if he actually knew this and wanted it out there?

        • Malaclypse says:

          The fact that he won’t tell us who the source is is prima facie evidence that he’s lying.

          Shorter David: Nixon was railroaded.

        • DrDick says:

          The fact that he won’t tell us who the source is is prima facie evidence that he’s lying.

          Or prima facie evidence that Mitt might retaliate against that source (which his history certainly supports). They really let you practice law, David? I pity your clients with those analytical and critical thinking skills.

        • Sherm says:

          David, you’re a lawyer? If so, kindly refresh my recollection of the pattern jury instruction given when a person (Romney) in control of relevant evidence (his tax returns) fails to produce such evidence. Isn’t there some sort of a presumption regarding the contents of the missing documents? Isn’t the jury instructed that it may conclude that the missing document would support the other side’s position and the jury may draw the strongest inference possible against the party which failed to produce the relevant evidence?

          So, why shouldn’t we conclude from Romney’s steadfast refusal to produce the returns that the returns would support Reid’s position?

        • kathleen says:

          I find the most hilarious part of the whole affair the media insistence that Reid must name his source. Self-knowledge much?

        • elm says:

          Am I wrong, or didn’t David used to be smarter? Asinine and amoral, but smarter. “The fact that he won’t tell us who the source is is prima facie evidence that he’s lying,” is perhaps the dumbest thing said on this blog in quite awhile, including all of JenBob’s stuff, maybe since The Donalde was finally driven off.

          Gee, anonymous sources never happen in Washington!

          • Malaclypse says:

            Am I wrong, or didn’t David used to be smarter? Asinine and amoral, but smarter.

            Nah, his ability to spell and punctuate merely gives him the ability to mask his general stupidity.

  4. Craigo says:

    Y’know, it’s a bit like saying that the current president is a secret Muslim socialist who lied about his U.S. birth and has a fake Social Security number and is secretly plotting to take away all privately owned guns if he’s reelected, either before or after he finishes the job of deliberately destroying American capitalism. It’s also a bit like saying that the previous Democratic president was a drug dealing serial murderer and rapist whose lesbian wife had her male lover killed when she wasn’t hanging sex toys on the White House Christmas tree.

    h/t

    • Hogan says:

      Booman cranks it up:

      Mitt Romney isn’t really a Mormon. He’s an atheist who only went along with his father’s faith so he could duck the Vietnam draft. He didn’t actually try to convert anyone when he was in France either. In reality, he spent all his time in Monte Carlo gambling and buying high-end hookers. When his daddy found out what he was doing, he made him come home and marry his high school sweetheart. Actually, he only made him marry her after the second time she got pregnant. The first time, they got an abortion. Then Romney started using some of the mafia connections he had made in Marseilles to import heroin. By the time he became governor, they were flying it straight into a secret airport they set up in the Berkshires. When one of the pilots started to talk, Romney had him killed.

      Now, if we started telling these stories to people, and a substantial percentage of the population started to actually believe these stories, and if congressmen humored and even encouraged the people who believed these stories, and if media figures talked about these stories, and if Congress actually had hearings about some of these stories, then Mitt Romney would know what it’s like to be treated like a Democrat.

  5. laura says:

    I’ve always found it very amusing that a site calling itself Polifact has no apparent idea what a “fact” is. (To be fair, they demonstrate this ignorance against Republicans as well as against Democrats. They’re always confusing Michele Bachman’s crazy opinions with “lies”.)

    Also, Harry Reid is awesome. It’s pretty obvious that the source who gave him the info at least exists, although of course that doesn’t mean the source is credible. But assuming that somebody gave him the information, it’s silly to suggest that Reid should have to refrain from using it unless he’s willing to burn the source. The source clearly intended for Reid to use the info or he wouldn’t have given it. And if the source *isn’t* credible (which I’ll admit is a distinct possibility), Romney could eat Reid’s lunch by releasing his tax returns. And yet he doesn’t…

    • sparks says:

      It should be coined into a word of its own.

      politifact – an assertion that may or may not be true, a postmodern fact, fact-esque

      • Snarki, child of Loki says:

        “factoid”: looks like a fact, but isn’t.

        Much like “asteroid” means “looks like a star, but isn’t”.

        Clearly, Politifact doesn’t has their collective head up their asteroid.

  6. Cartman says:

    By the standards of PolitiFact and Mark Kleinman, I’m a liar for making the evidence free claims that Mark Kleinman doesn’t beat his wife and PolitiFact employees don’t have sex with animals.

    In the immortal words of Republican Cain: I have no facts to back those claims; therefore, according to the language police of Politifact and Kleinman, I’m a liar for having made those claims.

  7. L2P says:

    Harry Reid says that a source told him “Romney didn’t pay any taxes for 10 years.” Polifact states literally, that it has NO evidence that a source didn’t tell that to Reid. Instead, Polifact provides statistical evidence that it is Romney probably did pay taxes at some point in the last 10 years.

    Note that even if true, the statement “Evidence that Romney did pay taxes” does not make untrue the statement “A source told me that Romney did not pay taxes.”

    This is utterly ridiculous. It’s not a matter of opinion. Polifact has literally NO BASIS for saying Reid is telling a lie. Nothing at all. Even if Romney paid 100% of his income for the past 10 years Reid could be telling the truth.

    • Murc says:

      To be fair, if Reid held a press conference and said “I have been informed the world is flat,” while that would be true, I would still consider Reid to have lied to people, as he would be stating something he knows or should know is perfectly untrue and draping it under the cloak of information receive.

      That’s not what’s happening here, though. Reid’s statements comport solidly with journalistic ethics (and since he’s acting in the role of someone providing information received from sources in what he feels is the public good, I feel that that’s the appropriate standard here) and that’s the beginning and end of it.

      • L2P says:

        Fair point.

        Either way, though, I’d say it’s hard to say somebody’s the wurstest liar evah when they say they’re just repeating something they heard.

      • mark f says:

        if Reid held a press conference and said “I have been informed the world is flat,” while that would be true, I would still consider Reid to have lied to people

        Right; that was the George W. Bush defense on the Nigerian uranium thing, and it didn’t convince me any.

        That’s not what’s happening here

        Agreed.

      • bradp says:

        That’s not what’s happening here, though. Reid’s statements comport solidly with journalistic ethics (and since he’s acting in the role of someone providing information received from sources in what he feels is the public good, I feel that that’s the appropriate standard here) and that’s the beginning and end of it.

        I don’t agree with this. I don’t want to defend Romney, but in all likelihood Reid is wrong to some degree: its improbable that Romney paid no income taxes over the last decade.

        To come out and publicly state this based on an anonymous source while available public data would suggest otherwise does not strike me as sound journalistic ethics, it strikes me as political gamesmanship.

        Its pretty easy to see that Mitt Romney doesn’t want people going through his tax returns, Harry Reid does want people going through his tax returns, and so Reid is forcing his hand. The truth of the matter is secondary to the political risk Romney faces when he releases more detailed information.

        You know, its easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than it is for a rich man to look good on his tax forms.

        Folks are right though, that is not beyond the pale of political charges, either. I don’t have much of a problem with calling out a rich asshole for being a rich asshole, especially in light of Kenyan births and secret muslim faith and all that.

        But it is the sort of base rousing stuff that the republicans are masters of that really disenfranchise the folks that we definitely want to vote.

        • Hogan says:

          while available public data would suggest otherwise

          ?

          • bradp says:

            From what I have read (I’m a poor, single-income renter who basically just loses what the government withholds, so I don’t know much about avoiding income taxes), its very unlikely that Romney paid no income tax over the last 10 years.

            • The Book of Joshua says:

              I’m a poor, single-income renter who basically just loses what the government withholds

              You don’t use roads? Your kid won’t be attending school? You only buy non-FDA inspected meat? I can go on…

              its very unlikely that Romney paid no income tax over the last 10 years

              And yet Romney’s carefully-parsed non-denial denial was “Of course I have paid taxes” rather than “Of course I have paid income taxes.”

              • Malaclypse says:

                Dammit.

              • bradp says:

                You don’t use roads? Your kid won’t be attending school? You only buy non-FDA inspected meat? I can go on…

                I’m not trying to stir up that argument, just saying that I am not wealthy enough to avoid paying taxes, so I have to read about that sort of thing.

                • djangermous says:

                  I’m not trying to stir up that argument

                  who basically just loses what the government withholds

                  Brad P, demonstrating the actual definition of “liar”

                • DrDick says:

                  Brad P, demonstrating the actual definition of “liar”

                  Nah, Brad just reflexively spouts brain dead libertarian bullshit without even thinking about it. Of course, if he ever actually thought about it, he would not be a libertarian.

                • bradp says:

                  C’mon.

                  Sorry I put “loses” instead of “pays in taxes”.

                  Next time when I put a parenthetical aside in a comment, I’ll make sure I don’t include any phrasing that might upset other commenters sensibilities.

                • Malaclypse says:

                  I’ll make sure I don’t include any phrasing that might upset other commenters sensibilities.

                  Please be aware that other people using the letter “e” makes me very uncomfortable. Thank you.

                • bradp says:

                  Yeah DrDick, in a comment thread about Mitt Romney and his ilk getting out of their taxes, lets bitch about the poor guy who feels like he is “losing” his tax dollars.

                  It is absolutely remarkable that you can pivot from the ultra-rich guy not paying his taxes to jumping on the not-even-close-to-rich guy for not appreciating the return on his taxes.

                  Are my tax dollars being wasted on subsidies and tax credits for assholes like Romney or not?

                • DrDick says:

                  It is absolutely remarkable that you can pivot from the ultra-rich guy not paying his taxes to jumping on the not-even-close-to-rich guy for not appreciating the return on his taxes.

                  I heartily agree that the rich derive far greater benefits from the government than the rest of us and that the tax code is grotesquely skewed in their favor (and yes, the rich can get away with paying little or even nothing). On the other hand we all receive substantial benefits from the taxes we pay. Roads, sewers, water, schools, police & fire protection, regulations to insure that the buildings we live and work in are safe and fit for human occupancy, that our employers cannot readily cheat or physically harm us, that the food we eat is wholesome and nutritious, that the foods and medicines we buy will not poison us, and more things than I have room to enumerate. Taxes are the price you pay to live in a civilized society. The more civilized, the higher the price. If you do not like taxes move to Somalia or some other low tax paradise.

                • bradp says:

                  I heartily agree that the rich derive far greater benefits from the government than the rest of us and that the tax code is grotesquely skewed in their favor (and yes, the rich can get away with paying little or even nothing). On the other hand we all receive substantial benefits from the taxes we pay. Roads, sewers, water, schools, police & fire protection, regulations to insure that the buildings we live and work in are safe and fit for human occupancy, that our employers cannot readily cheat or physically harm us, that the food we eat is wholesome and nutritious, that the foods and medicines we buy will not poison us, and more things than I have room to enumerate. Taxes are the price you pay to live in a civilized society. The more civilized, the higher the price. If you do not like taxes move to Somalia or some other low tax paradise.

                  There are nitpicks that I could throw in there, but they aren’t worth arguing over. I would say that my portion of taxes could easily be taken out of the rents that flow up from lower classes to the higher classes because of government and social privilege, and it would suit your social cost argument.

                  In the end, despite our differences, I think we can both agree that, in general, the further down the socio-economic ladder you go, the worse the social benefit/cost ratio gets for folks.

                  So, personally, I view my federal taxes as a loss, and its gonna be hard to change that.

                  Here’s hoping you fellas are successful in changing that, but God help us if we try your plan and it turns out that I was right about government all along.

            • Hogan says:

              Probably four-fifths of the Internal Revenue Code could carry the header “Ways for Mitt Romney Not to Pay Income Tax.”

    • Njorl says:

      Statistically, an negligible number of people shoot up movie theaters. It’s preposterous to think that James Holmes did so.

  8. mark f says:

    Eventheliberal Richard Cohen says Harry Reid is a meanie-pants.

  9. Jim Lynch says:

    PolitiFact puts me in mind of the well known Georgetown cocktail party story (circa shortly after Nixon resigned), a drunk-talk showdown between Pat Buchanan and Edgar Bennett Williams. Williams was a criminal attorney. In in a lame defense of his ex-boss, Buchanan threw the names of a few of William’s more notorious clients in his face. Williams retort? (paraphrased): “I never ran any of my clients for the Presidency of the United States”.

    He probably added, “You idiot”. I know I would have.

  10. thebewilderness says:

    Are we to understand that they have evidence that Reid found out that Romney did not pay taxes for ten years from some other source? Or are they just lying?

  11. mark f says:

    If there’s a scandal, you can count on John Hinderaker to make the most bizarre hack argument:

    [T]he rumor that Reid is a pederast has somewhat more credibility than Reid’s rumor that Romney doesn’t pay taxes. We know the latter claim is false, since federal tax law and the IRS wouldn’t permit it.

    Because Wesley Snipes doesn’t exist and pederasty is a-ok with the law.

    • Aaron says:

      If you don’t owe taxes, you don’t owe taxes. It is quite possible for somebody (or a corporation) to pay zero taxes, or even to get money back without paying anything in, while the IRS yawns.

  12. McKingford says:

    Politifact, June 2012: Higgs Boson is a lie!!

  13. dennis m nolan says:

    I need a picture of you not hitting me.

  14. Rarely Posts says:

    None of you seem to know the definition of “lie” and “truth”:

    lie, noun:
    1) Something Al Gore said, or something that we pretend he said, because he’s a fat liar. See, e.g., Daily Howler, War Against Gore
    2) Something a liberal or Democrat said that relies on evidence and logic, but which can be willfully misconstrued to mean something that may not acknowledge all nuances and complexities.

    Antonym: truth, noun:
    1) Anything a Republican or Conservative or the Chamber of Commerce says, even if it is clearly refuted by all evidence, logic, and science, and even if it could only be believed through willful, ignorant double-think, because opinions differ.

  15. So, if not having evidence makes you a liar, where does that leave God?

    Mitt, you wanna take this one?

  16. owlbear1 says:

    This is the main reason why Democrats are always going to have a hard time ‘Flinging Shit’ at Republicans.

    The 1 percenters’ media has lots of practice blowing shit right back into liberals faces.

    Conservatives just have to drop it in and the 1 percenters’ spread it far and wide.

  17. kg says:

    I may have gotten to that WoT passage eventually but I gave up after about 8 books.

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  20. jjcomet says:

    Remember that these are the same “fact checkers” who rated Romney’s claim “I didn’t inherit money from my parents” as half true, even though the article includes the following quote form Romney:

    “And I did get a check from my dad when he passed away. I shouldn’t say a check, but I did inherit some funds from my dad.”

    Romney himself stated he received funds from his father upon his father’s death, yet PolitiFact says that Romney’s own claim that he didn’t was “half true.” So now you know that when PolitiHack says something is “half true” it’s an outright lie.

    • Bill Murray says:

      no you see Romney inherited funds, which are not necessarily money, so it could be money but doesn’t have to be; thus, the half true. But Einstein said “Whoever undertakes to set himself up as a judge of Truth and Knowledge is shipwrecked by the laughter of the gods.”

    • Cody says:

      Why would he inherit money? That would be taxed under estate law!!! What kind of fool does that? I’m sure his father just left some assets someplace that had to be transferred to his son after death.

  21. J Arquipway says:

    Deep Throat and an unnamed corroborating source was enough for Washington Post to go to print.

    Harry Reid claims to have an unnamed Bain investor and corroboration by others. And other people around Reid claim to know who this investor is, etc. So Reid isn’t making it up all on his own.

    Reid didn’t assert that his claim was true. All he asserted was what he was told by more than one source and allowed that it might not be true. He left it to Romney to prove Romney’s claim.

    So it strikes as a double standard when those in the media come down on Reid who appears to have as much as they do when they go to press with a story.

    I’d have more of a problem if Reid received such reports and said nothing. As Senate Majority leader, I think he had a duty to inform the American people what he had been told.

  22. Sherm says:

    I’m sure that Reid is engaging in hyperbole with the belief that Romney will never prove him wrong because his returns will show that he routinely paid an effective rate of less than 10%. Supposedly, the Bain guys are known for bragging about their ability to avoid taxes, and they routinely paid rates in the single digits. Since any such disclosure would be quite damaging to Romney’s campaign, Reid is free to embellish by accusing him of paying no taxes as opposed to virtually no taxes.

    Its a “win-win” for Reid and the Obama campaign. If Romney releases ten years worth of returns and they show that he frequently paid less than 10%, that hardly proves Reid wrong because it is a much lower rate than he should have paid, and it would be quite embarrassing for a wealthy candidate running on tax cuts for the wealthy. The media attention will quickly switch from Reid’s veracity to Romney’s returns and the inherent unfairness in Romney being able to game the system to pay an effective rate which is much lower than the average middle class worker. The attention will be on Romney’s wealth and the tactics he employed to avoid paying his fair share of taxes, including his offshore accounts and bloated IRA. Romney will look like a rich prick who weaseled his way out of paying taxes, and his calls for tax cuts for the wealthy to spur economic growth will look particularly dishonest and self-serving.

    But this is not dirty politics because Romney can prove Reid wrong by releasing his returns. Its smart politics because Romney won’t release his returns.

  23. Bird Dog says:

    Reid has not produced a single fact, and you left-wingers are defending his rubbish while criticizing the fact checkers. I guess facts must have a conservative bias these days.

    • Holden Pattern says:

      Oddly, Romney hasn’t produced a single fact either. “Nunh-uh” is not a fact.

      Time for all the tough guy wingtards to get Romney to put up or shut up.

      • Bird Dog says:

        Two years of tax returns are facts. Reid’s assertion is completely devoid of facts. It’s not that hard.
        I will continue to enjoy watching Reid’s (and his defenders) credibility shrivel with this hyperpartisan whopperish nonsense. You guys must be really desperate, resorting to this gutter-level shit.

        • Sherm says:

          He has only released one year (2010), which was prepared while he was running for office. I’ll defer to George Romney’s judgment on such a release.

          • Bird Dog says:

            He released an estimate of 2011 with a promise to release the full return, which is a fact. Reid’s assertion remains wholly unfactual. Please, liberals. Keep defending Reid’s brainlessness.

          • Mom: Hey honey how did you do on your report card?

            Child: Great! I got an A in geography, look here!

            Mom: That’s wonderful, but what about the other subjects? Your hand is in the way and I can’t see your other grades.

            Child: I just told you, I did GREAT.

            Mom: Well I heard from one of your friends that you were struggling in History…

            Child: I just gave you EVIDENCE!!! (storms out)

        • Malaclypse says:

          Two years of tax returns are facts.

          As is the fact that you cannot distinguish one year from two, nor your ass from a hole in the ground.

          Better trolls, please. Rick Veneema of CRACKER HEIGHTS WITH A BIG FUCKING ARBYS, VIRGINIA could do better than you on a bad day.

        • Hogan says:

          Let me just say, as a liberal, if Romney supporters keep talking about the tax returns he hasn’t released, and making that a live issue, it would make me very angry. Very angry indeed. I can think of few things that would make me angrier.

    • Malaclypse says:

      I guess facts must have a conservative bias these days.

      Well, there’s one way to know for sure.

    • Sherm says:

      How could Reid produce a single fact? Has Romney signed an IRS authorization permitting him to review his tax returns? Romney could very easily prove Reid to be a liar. But he won’t because he has made the political calculation that the contents of his returns is more damaging than his refusal to release them.

      • RedSquareBear says:

        Besides, Reid isn’t lying. He may be maliciously spreading rumors of doubtful truth, but lashon hara isn’t a political sin, just a Jewish one.

    • Cody says:

      Who ever said Reid has proven Romney paid no taxes? We’re just saying that Reid said something that CAN be true.

      Were you upset when Michelle Bachmann accused a top aide to Hilary Clinton of being part of a Muslim terrorist plot? She had no evidence and is even asking for a formal investigation.

      All Reid did was say he heard that Romney didn’t pay taxes, and left it at that. Romney could easily prove him wrong. Why doesn’t he? Obama released all of his tax returns for a decade. George Romney did also!

    • kathleen says:

      Every day that Romney does not prove Reid wrong by releasing his taxes makes it more likely that Reid is correct.

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