It’s generally accepted that politicians–from your local council member to the nation’s president–occasionally bend the truth to make a point or a promise. Getting votes by telling people what they want to hear, or avoiding controversy by not telling people what they should hear, is a sad reality of political life. As in public relations, truth is a valuable commodity and those who tell it are usually rewarded with the people’s trust and support. That’s why it’s so important for voters to seek the truth about what they’re told.
This couldn’t be more important than now in this toxic presidential election year. Aside from name-calling and personal attacks, we’re witnessing a massive assault on facts, with truth taking a back seat like never before. That’s why it’s helpful to look to the fact checkers among us. There are quite a few unbiased, non-political resources we can easily use to explore who’s telling the truth.
My favorite of these resources is politifact.com, a Pulitzer prize-winning website featuring a “Truth-O-Meter” with a simple rating system: “True,” “Mostly True,” “Half True,” “Mostly False,” and “Pants on Fire!” You can browse through specific candidates, elected officials, issues, and media. Not surprisingly, the site has come down especially hard on Donald Trump.
The New York Times’ Timothy Egan wrote last week, “Professional truth-seekers have never seen anything like Trump, surely the most compulsive liar to seek high office. To date, the nonpartisan PolitiFact has rated 76 percent of his statements lies — 57 percent false or mostly false, and another 19 percent ‘Pants on Fire’ fabrications. Only 2 percent — 2 percent! — of his assertions were rated true, and another 6 percent mostly true. Hillary Clinton, who is not exactly known for fealty to the facts, had a 28 percent total lie score, including a mere 1 percent Pants on Fire.”
The public relations profession is sometimes linked to “spinning” the truth, but ethical practitioners eschew such tactics. Politicians are less circumspect. That’s why we need to be aware of false statements and outright lies, and support candidates who deal in truth and facts. This election year, it’s clearly more important than ever. Your thoughts?