PolitiFact confuses mosque debate it seeks to clarify

If you come across a PolitiFact “Truth-O-Meter” entry that begins like this …

… you'd probably interpret that as meaning that the “Ground Zero Mosque” (which isn't at Ground Zero) is a mosque, right? After all, if the claim that it is “not a mosque” is “False,” then it makes sense to assume that it is a mosque.

But if you kept reading for nearly two dozen paragraphs, you'd learn that PolitiFact “agree[s] with those who say it's imprecise to simply refer to the New York project as a mosque.”

The problem (as I've written before) is that PolitiFact's “Truth-O-Meter” gimmick and its framing sometimes obscure the truth rather than illuminating it. In this case, PolitiFact would have better served its readers by simply presenting the facts of the controversy, rather than framing the piece as a fact-check of Al Hunt's comment and leading with the “False” rating on its “Truth-O-Meter.” Had it done so, it could have gone with a headline and lede that did not create an impression that PolitiFact itself finds “imprecise.”

Meanwhile, take a look at PolitiFact's assessment of the claim that the “Ground Zero Mosque” is at Ground Zero:

Barely True? No! It's false! Don't take my word for it; here's PolitiFact (again, this passage is buried all the way at the end):

Again, we realize many politicians and media figures are using the phrase the “Ground Zero Mosque” -- or as Lazio did, “a mosque at Ground Zero” -- as shorthand to describe the controversial project. It's nearby -- close enough to carry symbolic value to those who oppose it, and even to those proposing the project. But we think those characterizations often give the misimpression that the project is either on the old World Trade Center site or immediately next to it. And that's not right. And so we rate the claim Barely True. [Emphasis added]

It's “not right” -- and so PolitiFact rates it “Barely True”? That simply does not make sense. And, again, it's the result of PolitiFact's insistence on using a “Truth-O-Meter” gimmick with arbitrary and confusing labels. And of an apparent inconsistency in how rigidly it applies those labels.