Our short bios:

Angie Drobnic Holan is the editor of PolitiFact. She previously was deputy editor, and before that a reporter for PolitiFact, helping launch the site in 2007. She was a member of the PolitiFact team that won the Pulitzer Prize for its coverage of the 2008 election. She has been with the Tampa Bay Times since 2005 and previously worked at newspapers in Florida, Alabama, Louisiana and New Mexico.

Aaron Sharockman is the executive director of PolitiFact. Aaron oversees PolitiFact’s operations, development and revenue, assists in our journalistic mission, manages our state partnerships and lead efforts to develop new products for PolitiFact users. He also helps coordinate some of our special products, including our debate coverage and our media appearances. He is a graduate of Indiana University.

Our Proof: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BwiJbAWhwPe_X0c3bFJUZVVyQTA/view


Comments: 3261 • Responses: 19  • Date: 

emr1028459 karma

What is the line between facts/opinions for you? For example, you recently fact checked Trump's claim that China controls North Korea.

Now, my personal opinion is that Trump was wrong on this, but I can't help but feel like you guys take sides on issues that are nuanced and not objective. I liked politifact better when it was about fact checking objective claims on numbers and history, but it seems like you guys have strayed into interpretation too often. Where is the line?

asharockman230 karma

That's a good question. On the particular claim you're talking about, we discussed whether we could "fact-check" it or if we should just write a story.

For us, the uniformity of responses from five different experts convinced us that we were able to say, objectively, that Trump was wrong.

ningrim337 karma

What is the ideological makeup of the Politifact team? How do you ensure there is balance in this respect?

asharockman436 karma

Well I'm a Hoosier and Angie went to Texas.

Honestly, I have no idea people's party affiliations. I'm a registered NPA, though I've been registered as a Democrat and a Republican in the past.

The meat of your question is how to do we ensure balance. On that, I can offer a better answer. The writer who writes a fact-check proposes a rating (True, False, Pants on Fire, etc.), but it's actually a panel of three judges (editors) who decide the rating that gets published. So in reality, four people have a vote in every fact-check. I think that makes us sort of unique in the fact-checking game.

The point of having three editors involved is so that different people can offer their viewpoints, analysis to best inform the fact-check. And to make sure balance does exist.

Some of those judging sessions (we call them star chambers) can pretty intense.

mattkrueg404 karma

Just thought I'd share this blurb that Google popped up when I highlighted your "NPA" bit.

NPA (a terrorist organization that is the militant wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines; a Maoist organization formed to overthrow the government; uses hit squads called Sparrow Units; opposes United States military presence in the Philippines)

asharockman443 karma

No Party Affiliation!

ZFCbww88 karma

Isn't a voting process like that primarily a guarantee that the majority ideology controls outcomes?

asharockman202 karma

We're not the Supreme Court. We haven't been appointed R's or D's. And I'd say, we often strive for a unanimous decision. So in the event of a 2-1 vote, we'll often ask for more reporting, or clarification on a point to try and get to a unanimous verdict (so to speak).

trophypants174 karma

Politifact has been around for a few elections now. Have you noticed any changes in the types of facts being thrown around? Do you feel there is more or less malicious lies such as Carly Fiona's planned parenthood fiasco? When do you think candidates will adapt to the instant fact checking services such as yours provide?

asharockman271 karma

My sense is the biggest divide/change is between the politician and the non-politician candidates. Politicians (Rubio, Bush, Clinton) have been trained in political speak in the way that non-politicians (Trump, Carson, Fiorina) have not. That makes for some at times refreshing answers but I think also makes the non-politicians prone to a factual misstep.

boyuber58 karma

Do you ever flag someone for lying by omission? Or using the context of their statement for to either mitigate or aggravate the veracity?

asharockman108 karma

Yes. The context of the statement is critical. This often occurs in claims involving numbers.

Rublex127 karma

Would you ever consider hosting a debate? If so, how would it be structured?

asharockman311 karma

Don't think the candidates would agree to participate ¯_(ツ)_/¯

theminnesotavikings122 karma

In your opinion, what is the most hilarious, total lie that you have encountered while doing your job?

asharockman242 karma



Charlie Crist, back when he was a Republican running for the U.S. Senate, tried to play conservative and said he didn't endorse the stimulus. It was painful to watch him try to explain it, but pretty fun to write.

Frajer99 karma

why is there so much false information in the debates? is it intentional ?

asharockman230 karma

Hey Frajer!

A couple of thoughts. First, debates are the closest you'll get to unscripted. So candidates can be pushed off their stump speeches. Second, it's a political fight, and these folks are fighting for their political lives. And in that sense, a good one-liner might be worth it more than being completely accurate.

Chris Christie last night, for instance, claimed that neighbors in Califronia knew that the San Bernardino were talking about attacking the U.S. That simply wasn't true. But it provided Christie a good punchline about profiling.

wildwildwest282 karma

Has there been any candidate who was 100% factual?

Edit: in a debate

asharockman201 karma

Not that I know of. And I'd imagine it would be quite difficult. I was asked questions for two hours, I'd probably make a few missteps. Heck, I probably have somewhere here today. Mistakes happen. No big deal. I think it's just better when people fess up.... Love the Pardon the Interruption model on ESPN, if you've ever seen the show.

yyjjgg50 karma

What is the process you go through when fact checking?

Chronoraven47 karma

PolitiFact is great for people who know that it exists, however, when libel, slander, and outright lies are shouted during debates that reach large audiences who except everything they hear as fact, the damage that can be done is astonishing. Do you think there will be an improvement in live fact checking during these debates? Do you think news networks dislike fact checking because they're comfortable with the fear-mongering niche they've carved?

asharockman101 karma

You see the networks trying to do more fact-checking, and we actually are partnering with NBC News for the 2016 cycle. At the debates, you see moderators trying to instant-fact-check candidates (with not always great results). My gut tells me it's not so much that networks don't want fact-checking, but they don't know how to include it into the freewheeling pace of the debate. Do they want to stop and interrupt a candidate who got a statistic wrong? Based on what we've seen, that would just lead to a fight about the statistic or an attack on the media. I do think there are opportunities for a second-screen live experience, and we try to offer that at politifact.com for every debate.

JonasNG43 karma

What's the saddest fact you've found to be true?

njh2196 karma

Have you ever broken down the percentage of factual and false responses by political party?

asharockman8 karma

We haven't, because it's not that easy. Charlie Crist has been a Dem, a Republican and independent. What's Michael Bloomberg? Then there's all kinds of mitigating factors. We have a website devoted to Florida and Texas, for instance, where the state is dominated by Republicans. So of course we check more Republicans in those places.