Refutation of Politifact Article

Politifact misrepresented my Aug. 4, 2017 op-ed, and inadvertently affirmed the op-ed’s claims on crime rising under Gov. Jerry Brown.

1. Misdirection. The body of the Politifact article is 1,269 words. Of that, 158 words are spent on crime statistics going way back to 1965. Another 255 words are spent on statistics from the California Department of Justice report on crime for 2016 which was released on Aug. 17, 2017, almost two weeks after Sen. Moorlach’s Aug. 4, 2017 op-ed.

If a sentence or two had been used to refer to those two time periods, that would have been acceptable. But Politifact’s out-of-time-period presentation, combined, comes to 403 words, or 33% of the total words of the article. It thus misdirects the reader from the actual period at hand, 2011, when Brown became governor again, to 2015, the last year for which data were available as of Aug. 4, 2017. (See below for the segments and their word tallies.)

2. Politifact’s own statements. Let’s look at the other statements in the Politifact article. Direct quotes:

A. “Stanford Law School Professor John Donohue, who researches crime trends, said Moorlach’s claim might contain an element of truth but overall is flawed.

“ ‘One has to be very cautious about politicians making statements about crime because they will often try to make the numbers say something that isn’t quite representative,’ said Donohue. ‘The broad trend for the last 25 years has been down and very benign. Crime is at a much lower level in practically every place today than it was 25 years ago. But in the last couple years there has been an uptick (in California and nationwide), and that’s a reason for concern.’”

Assuming the quote is correct, note: Donohue did not directly mention Moorlach’s name, but, within the quote marks, use a generality about “politicians,” plural. And here’s what Donohue said, within quotes, about the recent period in question: “But in the last couple years there has been an uptick (in California and nationwide), and that’s a reason for concern.”

B. Politifact again: “Had Moorlach narrowed his claim to 2011, Brown’s first year back as governor, through 2015, the crime story would be slightly different. California’s overall crime rate inched up between those years, from 3,007 crimes per 100,000 population to 3,047 per 100,000.”

And that’s precisely — narrowly — the time period in question: 2011, Brown’s first year back as governor, and 2015, the last year available at the time the op-ed appeared. And crime went up.

C. “In his op-ed, Moorlach cited a spike in violent crime in 2015. He’s right for that single year for that type of crime: state justice department figures show an 8.4 percent rise in violent crime in 2015 compared with the prior year.”

D. “Many have cited a PPIC analysis comparing the first half of 2014 to the same period in 2015. It found widespread increases in crime rates in California cities with a population greater than 100,000. Of the 66 California cities that size, 49 saw an increase in violent crime and 48 experienced increases in property crime. Many saw double digit percent increases.”

3. Conclusion. Parsed correctly, the Politifact article in fact — or in Politifact — affirms what the op-ed claimed, “Crime has been getting worse since Jerry Brown was elected governor.”

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