Saturday, December 20th, 2014

PolitiFact Virginia turns 1!

PolitiFact Virginia is turning 1.
PolitiFact Virginia is turning 1.

PolitiFact Virginia is one year old this week and we’re celebrating in our typical fashion: lots of coffee, brown-bag lunches being eaten at our desks and poring through records to produce Truth-O-Meter, Bob-O-Meter and Flip-O-Meters items.

We’re not sentimental types; it’s hard to be when your job is to factually examine the veracity of political statements. So we hope you’ll forgive us if we stammer a second before cutting our birthday cake.

The first PolitiFact Virginia item was published Oct. 25, 2010, a look at then-U.S. Rep. Glenn Nye’s claim in a TV ad that he "voted no on the Wall Street bailouts." We wrote that Nye, D-2nd, wasn’t even a member of Congress when the Troubled Asset Relief Program was approved in 2008. The one-term congressman was referring to two fairly meaningless votes on TARP after he took his seat in January 2009. We thought Nye’s ad was misleading and rated it Barely True.

During our first year, we weighed 142 claims on the Truth-O-Meter and pulled out the Flip-O-Meter 10 times to measure whether pols have changed positions on issues. And in September, we introduced the Bob-O-Meter, which will monitor the progress of 48 promises Gov. Bob McDonnell made in his 2009 campaign.

The Truth-O-Meter gets the most attention. Readers seem to love a good Pants on Fire, and we’ve lit the match 14 times. But we’ve also handed out 31 True, 19 Mostly True, 23 Half True, 21 Mostly False, and 29 False ratings.

We hope you usually agree with our ratings and understand when you don’t. During an age of blaring rhetoric from all political sides, our goal is present facts to help you reach your own judgments. That’s what makes this work important.

Not everyone likes us. The political arena is fierce, and players hate being called out. Many readers seem happy when our rulings confirm their views and unhappy when they don’t.

A frequent complaint -- from Democrats and Republicans alike -- is that we’re biased toward the other side. Sometimes, readers ask for a breakdown of our ratings by political party and are surprised to learn that we did not keep count. That’s because we’re focusing on the action in front of us, trying to make our most objective call. A good umpire shouldn’t keep track of the number of close plays at home plate he or she has called in favor of the home team or visitors.

We’re going to break that rule on our birthday, noting that all the information we’re about to give you can be computed in a few minutes by anyone who goes to our website.

We have written Truth-O-Meters on 79 claims by Republicans and 58 by Democrats. We think that’s a reasonable breakdown given the GOP’s occupancy of the governor’s office and dominance in the state’s congressional delegation. In addition, the Republicans have seen spirited competition for next year’s U.S. Senate nomination while, on the Democratic side, former Gov. Tim Kaine has been unopposed.

On claims by Democrats, 13 have been rated true, 10 Mostly True, 10 Half True, 7 Mostly False, 12 False, and 6 Pants on Fire.

On claims by Republicans: 18 have been rated True, 9 Mostly True, 13 Half True, 14 Mostly False, 17 False, and 8 Pants on Fire.

We applied a scale, applying five points for each True, four for Mostly True, three for Half True, two for Mostly False, one for False, and zero for Pants of Fire.

The Truth-O-Meter average for Democrats was 2.78; the average for Republicans was 2.66. In other words, the average rating on claims by members of both parties was a little below Half True.

We’re looking forward to many birthdays ahead. Thanks for reading us, and thanks for your feedback.