by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
A few weeks ago, Donald Trump responded to Meryl Streep’s insults by calling her overrated. Some fact checks came out saying that Streep, in fact, had won many awards. The Associated Press’ “Meryl Streep overrated? Donald Trump picks a decorated star,” was one such example. Four of the seven paragraphs to the story listed awards and honors she’d received.
As Victor Morton noted, “‘She has won a bunch of awards’ isn’t even a prima-facie rebuttal of the claim ‘she is overrated’.” He added, “If anything, ‘She won a bunch of awards’ is a necessary precondition for being ‘overrated,’ i.e. rated highly in first place.”
Exactly. If journalists involved with the “fact” “check” enterprise are capable of self-reflection, they should begin understanding why so many people find it a waste of time at best.
Hemingway cites other examples, including one involving the much-maligned 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
PolitiFact “fact” “checked” a Sean Hannity claim that “The United States Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit is ‘the most overturned court in the country.’” They rated it patently “false.”
Researcher Lauren Caroll said she used SCOTUSBlog’s Supreme Court statistics archive to evaluate the claim and found that the Supreme Court reversed about 70 percent of the cases it took between 2010 and 2015. The Supreme Court reversed 79 percent of cases from the Ninth Circuit, which put it in third place for most reversed court.
But a reader noticed something interesting: the fact check didn’t mention the sheer number of reversals even though the researcher would have had to know the number of reversals to calculate the rate of overturn. And if you just look at the actual number of reversals, not only is the Ninth Circuit the one with the highest number, it’s not even close. From 2010-2015, the Ninth Circuit was overturned at the Supreme Court 77 times. The next highest was the Sixth Circuit, with 28 reversals.