Pass It On

Friday, September 12, 2008


Email is the easiest and cheapest way to tell political lies. And you can’t blame the campaigns, or even journalists because these emails rarely cross the desks of editors. Bill Adair, editor of, weighs in on what’s true and what’s not from the latest crop of smear emails.
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Comments [14]

Jack from Chicago

Chris, you make more sense, though are less relevant, when you go on about the Hartford city council.

If anyone at any given level of income will more tax under Obama, then Obama has raised taxes. His plan is simply to raise revenues from tax receipts; that is a tax increase. There is nothing subjective about that.

A previous post suggested there was uniform agreement regarding the facts of Kilkenny's opinion piece. There is not.

Sep. 19 2008 11:00 AM
Chris Gray from New Haven, CT

By Jack's measure, Obama won't be making me pay more taxes so it won't be a tax increase. His measure is subjective by the very nature of his formulation.

Similarly, the locals he cites are simply one part of the community. The part with which he sides.

Sep. 19 2008 01:12 AM
Paul from Hoboken

I would like to know if McCain voted for or against the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act?

Sep. 18 2008 11:03 AM
Dan Lynch from Tucson, AZ

Ramadan started two weeks ago. If Obama is really a Muslim, nobody will have seen him eat lunch in the past couple of weeks. Does anyone honestly believe that this Islam business is anything but crudely denied racism? The "M" word is easier to defend speaking than the "N" word and no amount of public education by the media about the fact of his religion can change the color of his skin or the response of some Americans to that color.

At least we can speak truth to that pernicious power.

Sep. 15 2008 02:08 PM
Peter Lentini from Seattle WA

Bill Adair haughtily pontificates that a statement presented in an email written by Anne Kilkenny with regard to Palin's failed attempt to ban books was merely, " half true." Even though he spoke with a reliable reporter who corroborated Kilkenny's claim, but was unable to clearly and correctly confirm the titles that Palin wished to ban. Furthermore Mr. Adair treated the librarians silence as lack of evidence rather than an instance of incriminating silence. The librarian could have simply responded, " Nothing of the sort ever happened." Unless it did and she was afraid to speak the truth in the face of the rising Palin hysteria.
The electorate has the right to know. Book banning is too serious an issue to be relegated to an inept investigative reporter.
If Palin is fiercely in favor of the second amendment but ambivalent on the first we have a very serious problem as she is swept towards the presidency.

Sep. 15 2008 11:32 AM
Sheryll Stuart from L.A.

Comment Part II

I don't hear wildly wrong, persistent rumors about John McCain repeated on the internet and on TV/radio. I do hear them constantly about Obama.

It would be appreciated if all media people make sure to couple quotes of wrong facts about Obama with IMMEDIATE contradictions to those quotes. Otherwise, we will all have to believe that you (unconsciously or consciously) are complicit in allowing such wrong beliefs to stand and that you (through unexamined envy or racism or differing ideology or whatever) are willing to allow your own quotes of others' wrong beliefs to undermine Obama's chances at winning this election. This is not professional journalism, is it.

Sep. 15 2008 06:15 AM
Sheryll Stuart from L.A.

I agree totally with Charles Sims. Adair's ratings stink. (What is BARELY true, for instance?)

Kilkenny seems honest, and self-examiningly so. She outlines her motivations at the end of her email. She says a lot of positive things about Palin at the front. Why would Adair want to denigrate it?

Plus: I heard Adair on On the Media quote something like a statistic which suggested that a majority of Americans thought Obama is a Muslim -- when he is not. But Adair, quoting the statistic, did not contradict the stat. That leaves the majority of listeners, many of whom are in that majority who hold the wrong belief about Obama, not any the wiser, and by default, not hearing anything to the contrary, they believe that Obama is a Muslim -- which he is not! Neither did Brooke Gladstone state the truth. Both left the statistic floating, allowing listeners who were not any the wiser to think both Adair and Gladstone agreed with the statistic -- if they wanted to believe that (and 60-75% of people believe that! How do you know that some of them are not listening to this radio station?)
Many commentators, TV/radio hosts and interviewers have quoted others who hold wrong beliefs, wildly wrong beliefs, about Barack Obama. Yet they don't couple their reporting on 'what other people hold' with the facts. They just let the wrong beliefs stand, thus being complicit with the lies or misrepresentations.

Sep. 15 2008 06:09 AM
Jack from Chicago

If you're going to pay more tax under Obama, it must be a tax increase. Disproportionately is a judgment call, and you're wrong.

Everyone knows the NY Times never gets it wrong. Lots of locals interviewed disagree with Kilkenny's version of the facts, they note her motivation for getting it wrong.

Sep. 14 2008 10:43 PM
peter c from salem, ma

OTM and Bill Adair owe Anne Kilkenny an apology. Ms. Kilkenny's email has not been shown to be inaccurate in any substantial way. To include it in a piece about smear emails is a serious injustice to a private citizen guilty only of telling the truth as she saw it.
Mr. Adair's site continues to unjustly characterize the email as "half-true" in regard to the attempted banning of books, even now when the New York Times has further vindicated Ms. Kilkenny's account. Meanwhile, OTM continues to broadcast Mr. Adair's inaccurate remarks.
In fairness, a correction needs to be broadcast with the story, and your editors need to apologize to Ms. Kilkenny for including her email in a story about smear emails.

Sep. 14 2008 03:45 PM
Patricia Waters from Tuscaloosa, Alabama

Dear All, in another life I was a journalist and now I teach rhetoric and comp among other things at the U of A. I had received the bookban e earlier in the week, thought it smelt, sent it to friends and asked them to check it out (I had papers to grade) then heard the bookban story not only on onthemedia but also referred to on Moyers Journal. Only then did I go to politifact and read the entire thing (and I still haven't finished grading). What interests me is the buried story and the former library is not talking: why would a mayor ask for departmental resignations, esp from professionalized depts like the public library (that are often state funded as well and are under state oversight), as "a test of loyalty" --does that not ring a bell in someone's mind?
There is the old saw about the smaller the territory, the more vicious the aggression but why would a mayor of such a small town do such a thing?
Regards, Patricia

Sep. 14 2008 03:30 PM
Roland from San Mateo, CA

The Kilkenny message is one of a very local point of view. There is often much more information and more context available from involved and responsible citizens than gets reported in newspapers. When you "fact check" by reading news reports, you may often come up short of the full truth. That's why letters from real and responsible people have value. They are a point of view and are editorials, but are not 'half-true' claims. They are very well written "here is my experience" messages, and very honest. It's quite possible that the 'book banning' event is undocumented, and therefore not a fact in the journalistic sense; it could, however, have been a clear and obvious attempt to purge the library using politically safe phrasing so that the intent is clear, but the tracks are covered. That's why the local first person accounts have value. They aren't the only source of information, but they give us insight into the experience of being in that candidate's environment.

That particular letter is in a different category completely than the many smear letters against Obama, and now starting to hit McCain. I intercepted any number of anti-Obama messages accusing him of everything from anti-Semitic conspiracies to supporting child molesters that were created out of whole cloth. They are architected to mislead.

Sep. 14 2008 11:56 AM
Charles Sims from North Carolina

Your report was a perfect example of smear. It indicated that individuals were fooled by emails with false and/or misleading information. Mixed with two short examples of lies (one about Palin's book banning), it focused on an email from Ms Kilkenny. You gave one of her statements a mostly true rating and the Palin attempted book banning a half true (because you couldn't find complete evidence to support Kilkenny's claim) and then complained that a third statement on city debt was misleading because debt was sometimes warranted. You neglected to mention that the email was detailed with specific reasons why this debt was unwise and against Palin's claimed conservative principles. You objected to the precision of a financial value while again her email indicated that the value might be slightly off.
So you have a story with a 30 second example of Republican misrepresentation of Obama's tax plan; 90 seconds of an analysis with snarky humor about a lie about banned books from a Palin hater; followed by almost 5 minutes about the Kilkenny email.
Lets be clear here. Your piece is about fraud and abuse and then uses the Kilkenny email as a partial example of same while there is not one single piece of evidence that her statements are false or misleading in any way. In fact, her statements are now supported by the front page article from today's New York Times.
Your piece is an example of misuse and incompetence in the news. You owe your listeners an abject apology.

Sep. 14 2008 11:12 AM
Matt from Arlington, VA

Politifact seems to have a very low standard for declaring relative truth. Adair seems a little to quick to review what was reported in the media and declare true, mostly true and mostly false. Facts are important things and grey areas found in the media's coverage of the campaign are even more important to the discernment of a public narrative for this national, or rather state by state, decision. I think that politifact and media watchdogs that rely on politifact and factcheckdotorg do a great dis-service to the public and the public interest by not reporting in the grey areas of public dialogue and instead producing pronouncements.

If people want pronouncements they should go to the bar or the barbershop. If people want reporting they should turn to the news. It is the reporting that goes into fact checking that is important. It drives further coverage of existing narratives and development of new stories that further flesh out the grey area that Bill Adair's and OTM's all to quick pronouncements miss out on.

Sep. 13 2008 11:44 AM
Michael from Brooklyn, NY

I believe Bill Adair needs to put his comment about Barack Obama's tax cut policy through his own vetting system. The Bush tax cuts, which went disproportionately to the very wealthy, were not permanent and are set to expire at the end of 2010. Obama's plan to not renew them is therefore not a tax increase.

Sep. 13 2008 07:33 AM

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