In Washington, the Seattle Times got into hot water recently because the newspaper decided to give away free ads to Republican candidates. Here in Oregon, our newspaper of record has bypassed ads all together and now appears to just be using the news pages to campaign for Republicans.
In particular, the paper’s PolitiFact operation has largely become the campaign arm of Oregonian and publisher N. Christian Anderson. In doing so, they’ve resorted to making stuff up, ignoring actual facts, and otherwise abusing the very concept of “fact-checking.”
This morning’s Oregonian ran their PolitiFarce’ article with a larger-than-life headline and incendiary images most typically seen in campaign lit. The substance of this morning’s Politifact? Former Secretary of State Bill Bradbury’s expression of concern about Republican candidate Knute Buehler. Bradbury stated: “If Buehler were elected, our vote-by-mail system would be at risk.”
Bradbury’s statement—clearly an opinion, not a fact—was ruled “Pants on Fire” by writer Janie Har and her editors. We don’t think opinions can be “fact-checked,” but even still, here are the very real facts about Knute Buehler and Vote By Mail:
- Buehler is the Republican candidate for Secretary of State. His party’s platform explicitly opposes Vote By Mail. (Section 16.8 of the Oregon Republican Party Platform. “Oregon Republican Party is opposed to Vote By Mail.”)
- Over and over, Buehler has questioned Oregon’s voting system. He’s in favor of new ID requirements for voting in Oregon (much like Republicans have done around the nation, which the New York Times editorial board recognized “could disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of poor and minority state residents.”) He’s been extremely vocal about his issues with what he terms the “integrity of the process.” And, he told the Oregonian that “there are concerns about undue pressure to vote, because you don't have the privacy of a polling booth.”
So, Buehler wants new registration laws, an investigation into the current system, and appears to want to bring back polling booths. Bradbury is on solid grounds to be concerned.
Yet, PolitiFact warped Bradbury’s concerned opinion about Buehler’s intentions into a new, completely different fact, just so they could tackle the issue in their column. Har spends more than 900 words debunking a statement that was never spoken: “Knute Buehler will throw out the system.”
Har writes, “Politifact doesn’t do predictions. Obviously, we don’t know what Buehler would do if elected. More important, Democrats don’t know either. When we look at the evidence they’ve provided for his alleged antipathy towards the system, we just aren’t convinced.”
Convinced of what?? Convinced that Buehler will throw out the system and start over? Ok, but Bradbury didn’t say that, and to suggest otherwise, as Har has here, is blatantly dishonest. Bradbury voiced concern over Buehler’s repetitive chant that one of his biggest problems with the division he’s championing to run is our voting system.
No, it appears that Har and the Oregonian editors just aren’t convinced that Buehler will be able to win if Oregonians believe that there are reasonable questions of Buehler’s intentions.
We can’t help but wonder what they would find if they would fact check an actual ‘fact’ waged in this race.
Here’s one: In a fundraising letter, Buehler stated, “Kate Brown has the power to audit state agencies and ensure efficient use of your tax dollars. But she refuses to do it!”
That is an actual statement that can be judged against fact, and it’s 100% false.
Since she took office, Brown’s office has conducted more than 230 audits of state and local agencies, identifying more than $180 million in savings for the state.