Friday, October 31st, 2014

PolitiFact Florida turns 1!

Fact-Checking in Florida celebrates a milestone.
Fact-Checking in Florida celebrates a milestone.

TALLAHASSEE -- We've been so busy covering the hectic first weeks of the 2011 Florida legislative session, we forgot to celebrate an important milestone

We've turned 1.

PolitiFact Florida formally launched on March 1, 2010, as a partnership between the St. Petersburg Times and the Miami Herald. Our first official fact-check was an ambitious one -- examining former House Speaker and now U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio's claim that 57 of his "100 ideas" for a better Florida ultimately became law. We ruled that claim Half True, noting that many of his ideas aren't actually now law.

The Truth-O-Meter has been churning ever since.

In total, we've published 377 rulings and built a sprawling database where you can search the statements of more than 110 politicians and interest groups. You can search by person, by subject or by ruling -- from True to Half True to Pants on Fire. If you're wondering, 22 of the 377 claims, or about 6 percent, have received our lowest Pants on Fire rating.

Our most frequent targets are mostly whom you would expect.

Former Gov. Charlie Crist has had his statements checked 39 times -- more than anyone else (11 Trues, seven Mostly Trues, seven Half Trues, six Barely Trues, six Falses and two Pants on Fires). Crist's claim on CNN that he "didn't endorse" the federal stimulus bill is still our favorite. Crist got a Pants on Fire for that one.

Crist surely will soon be passed by his successor, Gov. Rick Scott -- who has faced the Truth-O-Meter 37 times. His performance isn't all that different than Crist's (six Trues, nine Mostly Trues, eight Half Trues, five Barely Trues, six Falses and three Pants on Fire). Scott was a finalist for PolitiFact's national Lie of the Year Award for claiming, quite wrongly, that the federal stimulus has not created one single job.

Others who have been frequent guests on the Truth-O-Meter include Rubio (25 times), former U.S. Rep. and Senate candidate Kendrick Meek (19 times), former state CFO and Democratic nominee for governor Alex Sink (17 times) and fiery former U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson (15 times). If you click on their numbers, you'll see the ratings for each.

Along the way, we'd like to think we added something to the process. During the U.S. Senate campaign, we ruled False an attack by Meek against his Senate primary opponent Jeff Greene because we thought his TV ad took liberties and went too far. The Meek campaign later recut the ad with different wording, which earned a True.

A similar thing happened in a contentious U.S. House race between Grayson and former Republican House Speaker Dan Webster. Grayson showed an abbreviated video clip suggesting Webster was saying wives should submit to their husbands, when, in fact, Webster wasn't saying that at all. The controversy, which we rated False, distracted from the point of the ad -- which, among other things, said Webster proposed a type of marriage in Florida that would make getting a divorce almost impossible, even in the case of spouse abuse.

Grayson cut a new version of the ad, without the Webster video, and earned a rating of True..

PolitiFact Florida also branched out to track Scott's campaign promises -- creating the Scott-O-Meter at the start of 2011. We found 59 promises Scott said he would deliver on if elected. Now, we're seeing if he follows through with his pledges from the campaign trail. So far we've rated 26 of Scott's 59 promises.

It's a been a wild Year 1 (well, Year 1 and 15 days).

Now back to that debate on the House floor ....