PolitiFact RI Should be Condemned for Ruling on Center’s HPV Statement

Commentary

PolitiFact RI Should be Sentenced to Journalistic Death

Once again twists truth to support pre-determined ruling

The RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity calls on the Providence Journal to issue a death sentence to its PolitFact RI kangaroo court.

Time after time, in defending the status quo, the so-called “Truth-o-meter” has used tortuously twisted logic and intellectually dishonest rationale as evidence to support  what are obviously pre-determined, biased rulings.

In challenging the corrupt, status quo politics in RI, our Center recently issued the following statement about the burgeoning HPV vaccine mandate debate:

“Rhode Island will become just the second state to mandate the vaccine … and the only state to do so by regulatory fiat, without public debate, and without consideration from the elected representatives of the people.”

In ruling that our Center’s statement was only “Half True”, PolitiFact-RI not only continued its pattern of seeking to find fault with accurate and honest statements, but one of Politifact’s twisted arguments was that a “requirement” is not a “mandate”. In its zeal to condemn our Center, it may not have been clear to the prosecutor-judge-and-jury-all-in-one writers that, PolitiFact’s ruling contradicted its own newspaper headlines.

On July 29, the day before the Center released its statement, the Providence Journal ran this headline at the very top of its front page:  “Rhode Island to mandate HPV vaccine for 7th graders.” The article itself used the word “mandatory” five times.

Further, in reaching its farcical ruling, PolitiFact purposely attempted to deceive our Center. In its initial inquiry to the Center, PolitFact asked:

“We are asking you to provide evidence to support this statement. There are two elements. First, that Rhode Island is the only state to mandate the vaccine. And second, that no other state has mandated the vaccine in the particular way that you describe.”

As the reader can also see in the entire email thread below, there are three important deceptions to point out:

  1. Politifact itself misrepresented the facts in question, as we never claimed that RI was the “only” state to mandate the vaccine. Nice try.
  2. PolitiFact refused to clarify which aspect of our statement they were challenging, despite repeated requests from our end
  3. Similarly, as has also been their pattern, PolitiFact utilized a bait-and-switch tactic; seemingly inquiring about one aspect of the statement, when, in practice, they base their ruling on a contrived interpretation of some other, more obscure aspect (ie, is this a mandate?)

Pointing out other under-handed tactics, Justin Katz further wrote in a related post in The Ocean State Current:

The brief summary under the “Truth-o-meter” reading “Half True” on PolitiFact RI’s main page emphasizes: “Pretty flexible for a despot.”  That’s a reference to the most weaselly part of Mark Reynolds’s quote-unquote analysis, which reads as follows:

[CEO Mike] Stenhouse labels the policies in Virginia and Rhode Island as mandates. But Jason L. Schwartz, an assistant professor at the Yale University School of Public Health, says you can’t call policies with such liberal exemptions mandates. At best, this is an example of the frequent PolitiFact tactic of finding somebody whose opinion the writer prefers and treating that as the authoritative fact.

One wonders, though, what rating PolitiFact RI would give its own newspaper.

As for the PolitiFact rating, there are three relevant premises:

Rhode Island is only the second state to require the HPV vaccine for students. Even PolitiFact admits this is true.

The requirement is a mandate. This is so true that the supposedly objective journalists at PolitiFact RI’s home paper ran it in the most prominent spot on the paper.

The mandate was implemented without public debate.  PolitiFact’s evidence of “public debate”  is that the professional activists at the ACLU managed to send in a written objection and post about it on Facebook.  Well, then.

The fact that PolitiFact considers the awareness of the ACLU to be “public debate” — as opposed to hearings and a floor debate by the public’s elected representatives — is one of two highly disturbing aspects of Reynolds’s essay.  The other is the latitude that it gives to government officials to adjust the truth to suit their needs.  Days after the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity helped drum up actual public debate and concern about the HPV mandate, the Dept. of Health came forward to assert that the exemptions are so broad that its mandates should really be considered something more like suggestions.

The Providence Journal should end this fraudulent, government-propaganda feature.  It distorts public awareness and undermines the political process.

Finally, PolitiFact refused to publish the official statement our Center provided in response to its inquiry:

“The Center stands by its statement. In mishandling the plainly presented content of our research in PolitiFact’s original inquiry to us, combined with PolitiFact’s past pattern of twisting the obvious intent of straightforward statements, the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity has lost faith in PolitiFact’s mission to “find the truth” and will no longer participate in a process, where one organization plays prosecutor, judge, and jury in often reaching intellectually dishonest rulings.

The vital components of our statement have been validated by the Providence Journal’s own reporting and in your own emails to us. The Center further invites PolitiFact readers to conduct their own independent online search on the National Conference of State Legislatures website.”

PolitiFact has become PolitFarce. The people of Rhode Island deserve an honest debate about major public policy issues, where each side has a forum to openly present their respective points of view. When the resources of  a powerful organization like the Providence Journal are used to serve as self-proclaimed judge, yet consistently, and likely purposely, corrupts what should be a helpful fact-finding process, it’s time for PolitiFact RI to be sentenced to journalistic death.

THE ENTIRE EMAIL THREAD
—— Original Message ——
From: “Mike Stenhouse”
To: “Reynolds, Mark” <mreynold@providencejournal.com>
Cc: “Justin Katz” <jkatz@oceanstatecurrent.com>
Sent: 8/13/2015 7:34:08 AM
Subject: Re[6]: PolitiFact/Providence Journal
Mark – thank your for your responses, however Politifact’s mishandling of our simple statement, combined with the changing nature of your questions to us, has generated serious concern by our Center about PolitiFact’s capacity to conduct a fair investigation. Below is the only statement our Center will make on this matter, and we ask you to publish it – in full – as our official response to your inquiry:
“The Center stands by its statement. In mishandling the plainly presented content of our research in PolitiFact’s original inquiry to us, combined with PolitiFact’s past pattern of twisting the obvious intent of straightforward statements, the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity has lost faith in PolitiFact’s mission to “find the truth” and will no longer participate in a process, where one organization plays prosecutor, judge, and jury in often reaching intellectually dishonest rulings.
The vital components of our statement have been validated by the Providence Journal’s own reporting and in your own emails to us. The Center further invites PolitiFact readers to conduct their own independent online search on the National Conference of State Legislatures website.”
Mike Stenhouse
CEO
—— Original Message ——
From: “Reynolds, Mark” <mreynold@providencejournal.com>
To: “Mike Stenhouse”
Sent: 8/12/2015 4:22:30 PM
Subject: Re: Re[4]: PolitiFact/Providence Journal
Hi Mike,
The statement we are reviewing and using for the PolitiFact item is the entire statement we sent originally including the part about Virginia.
It’s the following: “Rhode Island will become just the second state to mandate the vaccine … and the only state to do so by regulatory fiat, without public debate, and without consideration from the elected representatives of the people.”
–MR
On Wed, Aug 12, 2015 at 2:16 PM, Mike Stenhouse wrote:
Hi Mark – appreciate the clarification, but you’ve also raised some new questions. May I ask a question in response?
Will Politifact include the aspects of my original statement that you have since determined to be true as part of your ruling, or is Politifact now focused on the “fiat” and “public debate” aspects as the entire basis to make your ruling?
Regards,
Mike Stenhouse
CEO
—— Original Message ——
From: “Reynolds, Mark” <mreynold@providencejournal.com>
To: “Mike Stenhouse”
Sent: 8/12/2015 12:11:48 PM
Subject: Re: Re[2]: PolitiFact/Providence Journal
Dear Mr. Stenhouse,
Wanted to get back to you on my recent outreach and hopefully provide greater clarity than before about where I am at in this process.
As you recall, I saw two elements, or halves, of the statement.
The first part was: “Rhode Island will become just the second state to mandate the vaccine.” I’ve determined that this part of the statement looks like it’s true. The only other state was Virginia. Also, Virginia enacted legislation for requiring the vaccine. It appears Virginia has some opt out provisions. Some say this raises questions about whether the vaccine is really mandated if students can opt out. Do you have any thoughts about that?
So the second part of the statement was: ” … and the only state to do so by regulatory fiat, without public debate, and without consideration from the elected representatives of the people.”
I now have some information on this. It’s clear that Rhode Island did not enact legislation as Virginia did. I’m told that the director of the Department of Health, Michael Fine, adopted a regulation that actually took effect on July 1, 2014.
This regulation called for requiring all students entering seventh grade to have at least one dose of the HPV vaccine “beginning Aug. 1, 2015.” Also, the Department of Health did have a public hearing on Jan. 16, 2014, prior to the adoption of the new regulation.
I am curious about your use of the word “fiat.” Why did you choose that particular word?  I’m hoping you find this note helpful. Respectfully,
Mark Reynolds
On Fri, Jul 31, 2015 at 2:18 PM, Mike Stenhouse wrote:
Again Mark, sorry, but I’m still not clear what you’re looking for. You state you are interested in only 2 elements, yet there are 3 elements in the statement you cite, including “without public debate, and without consideration from the elected representatives of the people.”
Are you asking us to respond to just 2 or all 3 components?
Enjoy your weekend,
Mike Stenhouse
CEO
—— Original Message ——
From: “Reynolds, Mark” <mreynold@providencejournal.com>
To: “Mike Stenhouse”
Sent: 7/30/2015 6:56:44 PM
Subject: Re: PolitiFact/Providence Journal
Dear Mr. Stenhouse,
My apologies for misstating that and my thanks for an opportunity to restate it. The first element is that Rhode Island would be just the second state to mandate the vaccine. To clarify the related question I ask, how do you know that only one state so far has mandated the vaccine?
Let me also be clear that I am formally asking you to provide evidence to support both elements of the statement I’ve referred to, including the second element, which is that Rhode Island, as you put it, would be “the only state to do so(mandate the vaccine) by regulatory fiat, without public debate, and without consideration from the elected representatives of the people.”
Respectfully,
Mark Reynolds
On Thu, Jul 30, 2015 at 6:25 PM, Mike Stenhouse wrote:
Mark – thank you for your inquiry, however the premise of your question is incorrect:
Among the two elements you suggest, you wrote: “First, that Rhode Island is the only state to mandate the vaccine.” This is not what we stated and is a flat-out inaccurate characterization of our statement. Please clarify your inquiry.
I m copying our research director, Justin Katz, so he can monitor your inquiry.
Thank you,
Mike Stenhouse
CEO
—— Original Message ——
From: “Reynolds, Mark” <mreynold@providencejournal.com>
To: Mike Stenhouse
Sent: 7/30/2015 5:33:15 PM
Subject: PolitiFact/Providence Journal
To; Mike Stenhouse, CEO,  RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity
From: Mark Reynolds, Staff Writer, The Providence Journal/PolitiFact.com
July 30, 2015
Dear Mr. Stenhouse,
My name is Mark Reynolds. I’m a longtime reporter for The Providence Journal assigned to PolitiFact.com, the fact-checking organization.
We recently noticed this statement on the web-site for the Rhode Island Center for Freedom & Prosperity:
“Rhode Island will become just the second state to mandate the vaccine … and the only state to do so by regulatory fiat, without public debate, and without consideration from the elected representatives of the people.”
We are asking you to provide evidence to support this statement. There are two elements. First, that Rhode Island is the only state to mandate the vaccine. And second, that no other state has mandated the vaccine in the particular way that you describe.
This is your opportunity to back up both elements of the statement with evidence such as documents or whatever you based these observations on.
Also, it seems obvious to ask this sequence of questions: The first element of the statement reflects a knowledge that all but two states have not mandated the vaccine. How do you know this? Did you check this in each of the other states. If so, what did you base your determinations on?
Feel free to telephone me at (401) 277-7490 with any questions about this communication.
Respectfully,
Mark Reynolds
0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.