LAUNCHED IN 2007 BY THE St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times to fact-check statements made during the 2008 presidential campaign, PolitiFact.com kept vetting the truthiness of statements made by elected officials, lobbying groups and pundits in other states after the election had passed--and last year it won the Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting. Like a McDonald's of political lie detectors, PolitFact began franchising its truth ratings--which range from "True" to the outrageous whoppers labeled "Pants on Fire"--to other newspapers. By September, it added its sixth and seventh state sites by partnering with Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and The Oregonian, respectively. And it most recently added Richmond (Va.) Times-Dispatch.
During the November election, PolifiFact poured over television advertisements, candidate debates, interviews, and mailings of its partners. It rated the campaign claims "Barely True" for "exaggerated, twisted or distorted" information in a majority of them. PolifiFact defines "Barely True" as a statement containing some element of truth, bur it "ignores critical facts that would give a different impression." One candidate, however, often speaks the truth, according to PolitiFact, soon-to-be speaker of the House, U.S. Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio).
Here's a representative sample of how newspapers are using PolitiFact.
St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times
Democrat Alan Grayson
Says Republican Daniel Webster wants to make divorce illegal, even for abused wives.
Webster proposed an optional pre-nuptial agreement that would make divorce much more difficult.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Democrat Michael Thurmond
Michael Thurmond "authored major legislation that has provided more than $250 million in tax relief to Georgia's senior citizens and working families. …