As it turns out, even we can still be surprised by the intellectual depths to which the Oregonian’s PolitiFact Oregon project can sink. Under the helm of publisher N. Christian Anderson III, PolitiFact has become a poorly disguised extension of his right-wing Editorial page.
The latest “ruling” from the PolitiFact team read like dispatches from Bizarro Planet, where up is down and yes means no—and “technically correct” means “mostly false.”
Over the weekend, the Oregonian ran a PolitiFact piece on Secretary of State Kate Brown’s comment about the multiple roles that the Secretary of State has in Oregon.
Here’s what she said: "Our neighbor to the north, the state of Washington, they elect a lieutenant governor, a secretary of state and a state auditor," Brown said in a May television interview. "I basically do all three of those jobs for less than the price of one of them."
(As a former staffer at the Secretary of State’s office under a different Secretary, I can attest to the truth of this. Oregon’s SOS runs many seemingly unrelated agencies: Elections, Auditing, Corporate Filings, Archives, just to name a few, plus sits on the State Land Board AND fills in as Acting Governor if the governor is ever incapacitated.)
PolitiFact Oregon took a look at Brown’s statement, compared her salary to other elected office holders in Washington, and deemed that “when Brown said she’s a threefer, essentially doing in one role what Washington elects three people to do, she’s technically correct. She selects the chief auditor, she is typically seen as the de facto lieutenant governor and, of course, she is Oregon’s secretary of state.”
So there you go. Her statement is correct, and that’s that. Right?
Not so fast. Remember that under Anderson’s watch, “facts” are less important than “twisting the truth and journalistic integrity in order to advance Anderson’s political ideology.”
So, instead, they rated her statement “Mostly False” (pretty much the exact opposite of “technically correct”) by introducing a bunch of facts that Brown never asserted, like the role of agency managers who work under the elected officials.
Anderson is clearly intent on driving away the last of his core readership by pushing the paper to the right so that it resembles papers like the Orange County Register and the Colorado Springs Gazette, the last two conservative newspapers he helmed. But he’s not content to leave his right-wing politics on the opinion page, and he’s now using reporters and fact-checkers to push his agenda.
Frankly, it shouldn’t come as any surprise that the newspaper’s future is now more uncertain than ever.