Harry Reid says he heard from someone that Mitt Romney didn’t pay taxes for ten years. We don’t know if what Reid said was true or false, because the evidence that could be easily proffered to settle the dispute is still being held back by Mitt Romney. But Politifact says Reid isn’t telling the truth, so they issued their idiotic pants on fire judgment againt Reid.
The logical problem here is that Politiface is saying Reid is lying, and supporting their claim by citing tax experts who say that the it can’t be true that Romney didn’t pay taxes. But that’s not what Reid is saying, he’s not saying he knows Romney didn’t pay taxes. Rather, he’s saying he was told Romney didn’t pay taxes. If the claim is wrong, it’s person who made the claim who’s wrong, not Harry Reid for repeating it. Jamison Foser tweeted a great observation about this part of Politifarce’s silliness:
@politifact, believing & repeating something false you’re told makes you a pants-on-fire liar, pretty much all reporters are liars.
The more fundamental problem, however, is what I suspect was Politifact’s motive, and the reason they didn’t pursue their motive directly. Harry Reid accused Mitt Romney of a fairly serious political (even if not legal) offense, without providing any evidence to back up his charge. I think Politifact wanted to condemn Harry Reid’s action on ethical grounds. Doing so would have undermined their image as conscientious protectors of the myth of journalist objectivity. But they didn’t want to let Reid’s statements pass without comment, so in place of the ethical argument Politifact made an empirical judgement. Condemning Harry Reid’s actions on ethical grounds would have been reasonable. But Politifarce’s empirical argument was ludicrous.
It appears that being accurate is not what’s important to Politifarce. They’re more concerned with being arbiters of conduct, but they show their silliness by using a charade of objectivity to cloak what is really just a bunch of smug tut-tutting.