Almost every interview with Michele Bachmann includes a mention that she is essentially the devil, according to “Pulitzer Prize winning website Politifact.” I’ve been ranting about Politifact’s…um…interesting(?) way of deciding what is true and what is false for a while. But, while a lot of their leanings are pretty overt, some are far more subtle.
Here’s an example of their Michele Bachmann bias. Politifact takes on this statement:
"Well, remember, again, already the top 1 percent of income earners pay about 40 percent of all taxes into the federal government."
If you obsessively look at government released tax data (who doesn’t?) you might be familiar with this stat. The wealthiest 1% of taxpayers pay about 40% of federal income taxes. This is Michele Bachmann’s point, of course: the wealthy carry an extraordinarily high share of the burden in this country, and perhaps it shouldn't be even higher. Yet, Politifact rates Bachmann’s statement “false.” Why? Only the eagle eyed (read: obsessive) among us are probably capable of noticing Michele’s terrible, awful, catastrophic, egregious error.
She said “all taxes into the federal government” not “all income taxes into the federal government.” On that basis, Politifact rates her statement “false”, which the media translates as a lie. Seriously? This is clearly a minor misspeak. It’s the equivalent of “fact checking” Barack Obama’s 57 states comment. Its’ ridiculous.
Michele’s point is completely correct, the numbers are correct, it’s backed up by federal tax data, and it’s a well-known measure of the tax burden on the rich. She slightly misspoke in the specific category of taxes in a way that makes her point no more effective. Even if you do take her statement completely literally, the wealthiest 1% still pays over 28% of “all taxes into the government.” The rich pay a lot of taxes already, that’s the point. It’s obvious, and it’s correct.
Politifact does finally acknowledge this:
Bachmann would have been right if she’d said, "the top 1 percent of income earners pay about 40 percent of all income taxes into the federal government." But she didn’t say that”
Really? She didn’t? Actually she has said that. More than once.
"The top 1 percent of income earners pay 40 percent of all income taxes. The top 5 percent of all federal income tax earners pay 60 percent of all taxes. And the top 10 percent of all income earners are paying 80 percent of the federal income tax burden.”
And, here’s another example…
“Don’t let people tell you that those dirty rich people don’t pay their taxes: The top 1 percent pay 40 percent of all income taxes, the top 5 percent pay 60 percent, the top 10 percent pay 80 percent.”
By the way, in case you believe she was just “caught” by Politifact and was correcting herself, these statements were made BEFORE Politifact ran the story. Now, technically—using the Politifact Michele Bachmann standard—you could rate these statements “false” as well I guess. I mean, she didn’t clarify that she meant all income taxes “in AMERICA”. She didn’t even specify that she meant "on EARTH"—we have no idea what the Martian tax rates are and who pays them.
But—if Politifact was fair—why wouldn’t they fact check Bachmann on the occasions when she said this stat correctly? Doesn't she deserve two “True” ratings for these two comments? I guess not. Instead they waited for her to make a slight error, then jumped on it to rate her statement false.
When you look at the whole picture, Politifact is left with the argument that Michele Bachmann slightly misspoke on the one occasion they decided to fact check her. But did she really even do that? Look at the rest of the statement:
"Well, remember, again, already the top 1 percent of income earners pay about 40 percent of all taxes into the federal government. So if you want to talk about fairness, the top 1 percent are paying 40 percent of all of the income."
When you look at the whole quote, it seems like she’s immediately correcting herself—IN THE VERY NEXT SENTENCE.
Yet, all of this gets Bachmann a “False.” Not a “mostly true” “half true” or even “barely true.” This is what Politifact does far too often. The left gets the benefit of the doubt in the headline rating, so it can be trotted out in political ads and hackish interviews, while the truth gets buried or completely ignored.
Remember this next time some interviewer brings up the “Pulitzer Prize winning website” attack with Bachmann.