Heroic PolitiFact fact checker fails to check his own facts

I mostly think PolitiFact is a bad thing. Even if it did its job perfectly, the notion that “fact-checking” is some minor subset of journalism and not, you know, kind of the main point, seems incredibly troubling to me. But the worst part is that PolitiFact doesn’t do its job perfectly, and in fact it can frequently be pretty bad at it, like when they invent new and irrelevant tests so that they can declare an obviously true statement to be “mostly true,” or “partly true,” or “kind of true but IDK,” or whatever their ranking system is.

So it is with this piece, fact-checking a Ted Cruz statement about the Iran nuclear deal. This is illustrative because it illustrates that PolitiFact can even do a terrible job when it actually gets the final answer right (Cruz’s statement was rated “false,” which is just shocking given his usual scrupulous commitment to the truth). But in the process of getting to that point, PolitiFact deputy editor Louis Jacobson writes this:

Specifically, the deal requires Iran to give up 97 percent of its stockpile of highly enriched uranium, the kind needed to make nuclear weapons, as well as most of the centrifuges it can use to enrich uranium. In addition, Iran agrees to only enrich uranium to a level unsuitable for weapons for 15 years, and to cease production of plutonium, the other element that can be used to build a bomb. Known nuclear sites would be monitored for 15 years to confirm compliance, and inspectors would have the ability to enter undeclared sites suspected of nuclear use, though with possible delays of up to 24 days.

There’s so much wrong there that I don’t even know where to begin. Lucky for me, Nima Shirazi already covered it:

First, the deal does not require “Iran to give up 97 percent of its stockpile of highly enriched uranium, the kind needed to make nuclear weapons.” Why not? Because Iran doesn’t have any highly enriched uranium to give up.

PolitiFact also erroneously claims that, under the deal, Iran must “cease production of plutonium,” which makes no sense considering Iran has never produced plutonium.

PolitiFact also gets the inspections stuff totally wrong, but I don’t want to over copy from Nima’s excellent piece, which you should go and read right now because I’d like to drive some eyeballs his way over this.

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