By Jon Cassidy | Ohio Watchdog
PolitiFact Ohio practices opinion journalism under the guise of fact-checking. They often get things wrong — particularly, we’ve noticed, in their coverage of U.S. senate candidates Sherrod Brown (Democrat) and Josh Mandel (Republican). So we bring you PolitiFact or Fiction, a semi-regular review of pronouncements issued by PolitiFact Ohio, a blog run by staff at the Cleveland Plain Dealer and supported by Politifact.com.
PolitiFact Ohio has already issued a correction to its recent rating of “true” for this claim made by Sen. Sherrod Brown in a press release:
“With the average Ohio student graduating from a four-year institution with nearly $27,000 in tuition bills, the last thing we should be doing is adding to their already-heavy debt load.”
“Tuition bills” is a funny phrase to use for student loan debt, but PolitiFact rightly guessed what Brown meant.
The correct number, it turns out, is $18,845, a number that PolitiFact still hasn’t posted.
Since the number turned out to be wrong, PolitiFact downgraded its finding to half-true rather than admit they just blew it. The error was easy enough to make – their source lists a figure of $27,713, labeling the category “Average debt” and “Average debt of graduates,” when it is actually the average debt of student loanholders.
Since 32 percent of Ohio graduates have no student debt at all, Brown overstated the average debt by half.
PolitiFact argues that Brown is “partially accurate” for citing “the correct figure from a survey on debt among college students,” which is nonsense. Clearly, it was an honest mistake, but it was a mistake that misrepresents the question at issue.
You can’t argue that tuition is unaffordable by leaving out the students who can afford tuition.
Average figures are already inflated by the 3.1 percent of borrowers nationwide who take on more than $100,000 in debt, such as Ohio Northern University graduate Kelsey Griffith, featured in a New York Times story for her $120,000 debt load.
According to a report from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York cited by PolitiFact, the nationwide median debt for borrowers is $12,800, which paints a different picture.
Citing the wrong source does not make a statement true, or even half-true. The fact-checkers may come to a different opinion, but that’s all it is.
- OH: PolitiFact or Fiction No. 1: Does anyone at Cleveland Plain Dealer understand finance?
- OH: PolitiFact or Fiction No. 2: How Democrat Sherrod Brown would manage Major League Baseball
- OH: PolitiFactChecking PolitiFact No. 3: Rep. Sherrod Brown’s problem with numbers
- PolitiFact or Fiction No. 4: Grade inflation in Ohio’s U.S. Senate race
- PolitiFact or Fiction No. 5: Is the trade deficit $2 billion a day?
- PolitiFact or Fiction No. 6: PolitiFact struggles to count to two
- OH: PolitiFact or Fiction No. 7 — A double-standard for half-truths
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- OH: PolitiFact or Fiction No. 9: Obamacare is biggest tax hike in U.S. history
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- CASSIDY: PolitiFact lets Biden get away with distortion
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- OH: Top 4 PolitiFact Fails of the year
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- PolitiFact Fail No. 2: OH senate candidate’s pants? Never on fire
- PolitiFact’s ‘Lie of the Year’ is the lie of the year