In your effort to challenge a Capital Times editorial you have mistakenly ascribed the argument therein to Rachel Maddow. In so doing, you have half-quoted her in one instance, misquoted her in another, and misrepresented her overall.
Ms. Maddow is well aware of the Wisconsin budget shortfall. She said so just a few sentences after the line you decided to single out for “truthometry”:
“Even though the state had started the year on track to have a budget surplus—now, there is, in fact, a $137 million budget shortfall.”
To suggest — as your headline does — that we somehow neglected to report on the state’s real budget shortfall is absolutely erroneous.
We recognize the journalistic value in writing a “where did the budget shortfall come from” piece, but, if you need a bogeyman to deny the existence of the shortfall so you can make your case in the Politifact truth-o-meter gotcha format, you should pick someone who didn’t explicitly say, “there is, in fact, a … shortfall.”
First off, thanks to diegueno for pointing this out (though, considering the show had just posted about this around the time I threw up my link, you could have been nicer about it). It’s good to know that Maddow is taking the criticism seriously, especially considering that many politicians and media figures don’t pay PolitiFact a second glance. Above is an excerpt from a letter written by Bill Wolff, executive producer of Maddow’s show. Below is an excerpt from a second letter from Wolff in response to their reaction.
To state unequivocally — as you do here — that Maddow blamed Governor Walker directly for the current budget shortfall is a complete and utter distortion. And, yet, it’s an assertion that is made repeatedly throughout your post:
“Meanwhile, what about Maddow’s claim — also repeated across the liberal blogosphere — that Walker’s tax-cut bills approved in January are responsible for the $137 million deficit?” … There is, indeed, a projected deficit that required attention, and Walker and GOP lawmakers did not create it … Walker’s tax cuts will boost the size of the projected deficit in the next budget, but they’re not part of this problem and did not create it.”
That claim may exist somewhere in “the liberal blogosphere”, but it was never made in our report. Not once. Not only did Maddow say no such thing, you’ve missed her meaning entirely.
Let’s be clear — we aren’t picking sides here, other than to point out that this line from Maddow’s report seems not to jibe with the point that these angry letters make:
The state is not bankrupt. Even though the state had started the year on track to have a budget surplus—now, there is, in fact, a $137 million budget shortfall. Republican Governor Scott Walker, coincidentally, has given away $140 million worth of business tax breaks since he came into office.
Hey, wait. That‘s about exactly the size of the shortfall.
Look, Maddow’s folks are right … PolitiFact took a tiny part of a much larger report (which looked at the cultural roots of unions in the context of Wisconsin) and cherry-picked it. It was unfair to the overarching point Maddow was trying to make. And the headline to the PolitiFact article – “Rachel Maddow says Wisconsin is on track to have a budget surplus this year” – is completely misleading. But to us, that context of these lines certainly seem to support what PolitiFact is interested in – which is that Maddow suggested Scott Walker’s actions helped lead to the deficit. And ultimately, the report is of note, whether or not Maddow is tied to it because it’s something that’s been floating around the ether (it’s been quoted all over Tumblr, including on this site) looking to get cleared up.
Look, Maddow’s got every right to be angry. She’s got a better rep than a lot of the talking heads out there, and this hurts it. She was used as a scapegoat to get at an issue she didn’t originate. But looking at the context of what’s being said in her report vs. what PolitiFact covered, PolitiFact’s report is closer to “True” than “Pants on Fire.” We think, however, they should change that headline, stat. That’s actionable.