Politifact "Lie of the Year" misleads (Angie Drobnic Holan; Sarah Palin's "death panels")

Politifact has named Sarah Palin's claim about there being "death panels" in Obama healthcare as their lie of the year; it was the top "lie" selected by both their editors and their readers. In an ironic - and not unexpected note - Politifact is misleading. You can read Palin's quote at the link above, and note that my predication came true: if Palin's supporters were competent they could have used this issue against her detractors and forced them to offer better coverage; instead, Politifact feels free to keep publishing misleading articles.

That doesn't mean that Palin was being 100% truthful: she was being hyperbolic and, while that certainly "played to the crowd" it also gave Obama supporters such as Politifact and FactCheck a place to hang their hat. If Palin had made a clear but completely fact-based statement it probably wouldn't have gained as much attention. But, it would have been the far preferable way to do things if one's goal is to raise the level of debate in the U.S.

Based on their past history, the goal of Politifact appears to be to spin things Obama's way, and Angie Drobnic Holan does the honors this time in her write up [1]:

1. Holan fails to note that a Palin spokesman later clarified that Palin was referring to the principle of "community standards," which she linked to a New York Post piece about Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, a noted cancer physician an a presidential adviser on health care economics and the brother of the Chief of Staff. (Emanuel is also an occasional contributor to the Atlantic.) (per Marc Ambinder of The Atlantic, [2]). In fact, Emanuel is Obama's "Special Advisor for Health Policy". For an Obama-friendly discussion of Emanuel's comments, see the Ambinder link (and, see the last, anti-Ambinder comment at that link). For more persuasive discussion from the other side, see [3]. For a related discussion that doesn't mention Emanuel, see [4]. (Separating the wheat from the chaff in those links is up to you).

2. Holan pretends the discussion is only about end-of-life counseling and related matters, when Palin's wider point - one about which she is indeed being hyperbolic - is about rationing of healthcare. In her own article, one of Holan's quote sources from her own side admits that rationing exists currently and will exist under Obama's scheme: People intuitively understand that health care reform is about lowering costs, and end-of-life care can be quite costly, [Drew Westen, a psychologist who studies political communication and advises Democrats on messaging] said. The "death panels" claim exploited fears that people already had. Rather than just saying the claim wasn't true, Westen said, a better response would be that there already are "death panels" — run by insurance companies. In Holan's world, the "death panels" in the rationing sense both don't exist and do exist.

3. Holan fails to note that the Senate Finance Committee dropped the end-of-life provisions - one side of the "death panels" claim - in mid-August [5].

Note that Politifact's choices was first revealed on the NPR program "the two-way", write-up by Mark Memmott [6].

[1] politifact · com/truth-o-meter/article/2009/dec/18/politifact-lie-year-death-panels/
[2] politics · theatlantic · com/2009/08/the_death_panel.php
[3] discriminations · us/2009/08/death_panels_hyperbole_yes_a_l.html
legalinsurrection · blogspot · com/2009/08/inconvenient-truth-about-death-panel.html
larouchepub · com/pr/2009/090804ezekiel_fascist.html
pajamasmedia · com/blog/obamas-friends-out-the-death-panels/
[4] spectator · org/blog/2009/08/13/palin-is-not-wrong
[5] hotair · com/archives/2009/08/13/breaking-finance-committee-drops-death-panel-provisions-from-senate-bill/
[6] npr · org/blogs/thetwo-way/2009/12/palin_glenn_beck_obama_lie_of.html


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