Check Your Facts, PolitiFact!
September 27, 2019
According to this week's Gallup poll, only 13 percent of Americans have a "great deal" of trust in the mainstream media. So who is PolitiFact scrutinizing? Donald Trump. While the press's credibility is hanging by a thread, the folks behind the country's fact-checking machine have decided to ignore the biggest offenders and nitpick the president instead. Not because he was wrong on his numbers -- it turns out -- but because he was the one using them.
Of course, PolitiFact wasn't the only one who couldn't believe the statistic about the world's persecuted. Even the president himself, in his historic speech to the U.N., admitted that when he heard 80 percent of the world's population lives in countries where religious liberty is under attack, he told his staff, "Please go back and check it because it can't possibly be correct." It was, but the people behind PolitiFact refuse to believe it.
Thursday, on "Washington Watch," FRC's Travis Weber could only shake his head. "It's not a flawed statistic, Tony." The only reason PolitiFact has an issue with it, he insisted, is "because President Trump is saying it." The White House didn't just dream up that number out of thin air. It's a Pew Research stat. "It's been repeated by other entities, other outlets," Travis went on, "and it's been around for a while. And they've decided to fact check it and erroneously conclude that it's a half-true statement in a rather shoddy piece of so-called fact checking. I think really this comes down to the fact that President Trump is the one who made the statement. They don't like it [so]... they're going to try to twist it."
In their "analysis," PolitiFact takes issue with the idea that people living under various levels of religious intolerance can all be lumped together. "But," Travis explains, it's "a verifiable stat about countries with restrictions at significant levels..." Obviously, there is some range, even within the severity. When he says 80 percent, not all of them are being treated as they are in China -- put in concentration camps like the Uyghurs -- or in North Korea, where you're killed for being a Christian. What Pew is referring to -- and President Trump is repeating -- are varying degrees of discrimination, repression, persecution, prosecution, rights.
If PolitiFact had an issue with this study, where were they when other media outlets and public figures started using it? It's been cited all across the media and by the State Department. And what's more, they're calling the president's statement "flawed" in their piece's biased headline, when in fact, they never really negated his claim! They just point to nuance, which everyone would agree there is.
Does it matter if you're being dragged out of your house and put in prison for your faith -- or you have a government that turns a blind eye while terrorists blow up your church or synagogue? The end result is the same: people of faith are repressed, persecuted, and the effect is to drive them from their faith.
Unfortunately, the real motive here isn't getting to the bottom of this figure -- it's discrediting the president enough to stop the progress he's making. And religious freedom is at the top of that list. If the media wants to challenge the math on international religious persecution, then in a way, they're doing us a favor. They can quibble over numbers all they want -- but they can't quibble over the fact that people of faith are being targeted. And the more attention we bring to that, the better.
Tony Perkins's Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.