Citizens must fact-check political statements for context, accuracy

Politicians by their very nature speak out of both sides of their mouth. This unfortunately makes life harder for good American citizens who try to stay informed on current politics. It begs the question of whether being misinformed is better than being uninformed.

Citizens should undoubtedly keep up with current politics, as they should have an educated idea of who they want to vote for when they go to the ballot. But the shady nature of the American political game dictates that citizens must go the extra-mile and fact-check claims made by politicians.

Fortunately, there are sources out there to make this process short and simple. Fact checking sources like the Pulitzer winning can give brief yet concise rulings on statements made by politicians and political groups. It shouldn’t be a surprise, but should be depressing to learn that it’s rare to find a political statement that is completely true. The website is loaded with claims that are “false,” “mostly false,” “half-true,” and “mostly true.”

For context, of the 20 statements featured on the front page of PolitiFact’s website on Thursday as of 8 p.m., only one claim was rated as completely true. And while these fact-checking sources are not perfect and are certainly not above criticism, they are excellent for giving context and digging up data on otherwise broad statements that give misleading figures or lack proper context.

For example, PolitiFact checked a claim by Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton that said Scott Walker rejected legislation that would have made student loan payments tax deductible. But the bill never made it to the governor’s desk, so Clinton is misleading the public when she says Walker rejected legislation because he never even had the chance to reject it.

Lies are not owned by one political party, as the website also observed a claim from conservative Fox News host Eric Bolling, who said that gun violence is far more common in countries with stricter gun laws. Research shows that the exact opposite is true, PolitiFact found, making this a flat out lie.

And for the record, President Barack Obama did not change the name of Mt. McKinley to “Denali” because it means “black power” in Kenyan. Kenyan is not a language, and “Denali” is neither Swahili, nor English, the two dominant languages of Kenya. The word comes from a rarely spoken Alaskan language and roughly translates to “the high one.” Internet trolls need fact-checking too.

It may seem like a burden to have to constantly fact-check what politicians say, but using sources like PolitiFact, most of which are independent and objective, actually takes little time. Citizens loyal to following the news can pull up the front page of PolitiFact on their smartphone or laptop, and check the same claims they see when they read their morning paper or watch the evening news. Which seems like a small responsibility to ensure the best results for our democracy.

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