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Politifact Jumps the Voter — er, Shark

(photo: 126 Club/flickr)

Politifact, already under fire from Rachel Maddow for misapplying the word “fact” to their sloppy work, has branched out. Today they decided to “fact”-check (incorrectly, of course) a guest on a comedy TV program.

Last week, a guest appearing on Stephen Colbert’s segment about voter fraud — a school teacher was charged for registering her civics class students without following the onerous new rules about how quickly registrations need to be turned in — claimed that voter fraud in Florida was more rare than shark attacks. Seeing the country’s reliance on FACT imperiled, Politifact swung into action: which happens more, voter fraud or shark attacks?

One of the people Colbert interviewed for his sarcastic report, which aired March 1, is Howard Simon, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida. Florida officials claimed they needed to pass the law to prevent voter fraud, but these cases are actually pretty rare, he said.

“There are probably a larger number of shark attacks in Florida than there are cases of voter fraud,” he said.

We couldn’t resist diving in: Are there more shark attacks than cases of voter fraud in Florida?

Of course, what Politifact ended up comparing were allegations of voter fraud with documented shark attacks:

The shark attack figures include documented instances of sharks attacking human victims. The voter fraud cases indicate the number of cases deemed legally sufficient for an investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

Shark attacks vs allegations of voter fraud: not exactly the factual fulcrum on which the Republic falls or succeeds. But leave it to Politifact to compare apples and oranges even when they delve into comedy. We simply cannot trust Politifact with the word “fact” any more. They’ve jumped the shark.

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Teddy Partridge

Teddy Partridge