Thursday, October 30th, 2014

Half-True rulings are not half-hearted judgments

We've seen an increase in Half True ratings lately.
We've seen an increase in Half True ratings lately.

The Truth-O-Meter has come up Half-True on three times in a row. Does that mean PolitiFact Virginia is going squishy?

Hardly.

The Truth-O-Meter is based on the concept that truth in politics often is not black and white, but shades of gray. We have three different shades of gray: Mostly True, Half True, and Barely True.

Our definition of Half True: "The statement is accurate but leaves out important details or takes things out of context."

We gave a Half True to Tim Kaine’s statementthat President Obama’s approval ratings are "fine" compared to other presidents who went on to re-election. Kaine, who is chairman of the Democratic National Committee, was correct in noting Obama’s mid-term numbers are better than those of Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan. But he left out an important detail: Obama’s numbers are significantly lower than the average of re-elected presidents over the last 72 years.

Gov. Bob McDonnell also got a Half True. He said Virginia was ranked 35th among states in job creation in 2009 when Kaine was governor and moved up to third in 2010, after McDonnell took office. McDonnell accurately cited raw job numbers to create a stark contrast. McDonnell ignored the statistic economists find most meaningful: the percentage of jobs that were gained or lost each year. Under that measure, Virginia ranked 14th under Kaine and fifth under McDonnell.

And Rep. Eric Cantor got the middle rating for saying the health care reform bill imposes 10 years of taxes for six years benefits. He was right that early taxes phased in under the bill exceed the cost of the early benefits. But he was wrong in saying there are no benefits now available under the bill.

Click on the stories if you’d like more details on any of these stories.

The Half True rulings did not sit well with the politicians who received them. In varying decibels,  media advisers told us their bosses deserved better. So did a few readers.

We recognize people often disagree with our rulings, especially those being rated, and we invite you to share your comments either via email or on our Facebook page.

With debate heating up in the General Assembly, I don’t expect the streak of Half Trues will last.

Warren Fiske
Virginia PolitiFact editor
(804) 649-6126
wfiske@times-dispatch.com