Email outreach to PolitiFact’s John Kruzel and Katie Sanders

PolitiFact writer-researcher John Kruzel

After writing an article for PolitiFact Bias containing criticisms of a March 3, 2018 PolitiFact fact check, we sent the following email to the writer and editor asking for either a correction or explanation of what looks like a core error.

We copied the email to PolitiFact Editor Angie Drobnic Holan, PolitiFact Executive Director Aaron Sharockman and International Fact-Checking Network Director Alexios Mantzarlis.

We will update this item if we receive any on-the-record response from PolitiFact.

Dear John Kruzel, Katie Sanders,
cc Angie Drobnic Holan, Aaron Sharockman, Alexios Mantzarlis

Republican guest columnist David Jolly’s second column for PolitiFact drew my attention to a March 1, 2018 fact check by John Kruzel.

Kruzel fact-checked a claim from President Trump stating that an armed and trained person with a gun might have stopped Omar Mateen, the Pulse nightclub shooter, from killing as many persons as he did. Kruzel and PolitiFact issued a “False” rating for the statement. However, the fact check fails to back that rating.

Trump specifically stated that a person with a gun “in that room” might have stopped Mateen. PolitiFact’s basis for rating that claim false was based [sic] on the presence of an armed security guard outside the Pulse nightclub (based on the government report cited but apparently ignored in the fact check).

Unless PolitiFact can somehow justify reasoning that an outside parking lot is “in that room” with Mateen, the entire logic of the fact check collapses.

PolitiFact produced no evidence of any falsehood at all on Trump’s part in this case. If PolitiFact can find no way to justify designating the outside parking lot as a “room” such that Adam Gruler shared the room with Omar Mateen, PolitiFact has produced no evidence at all that the following Trump statement contained any kind of error:

“If you had one person in that room that could carry a gun and knew how to use it, it wouldn’t have happened, or certainly to the extent that it did.”

PolitiFact treated Trump’s claim as an attempted counterfactual where the counterfactual was actual fact thanks to Gruler’s presence. Yet the cited report describes Gruler’s presence and actions in the outside parking lot. Without evidence of a person in the room with Mateen when he was killing Pulse patrons, PolitiFact has no evidence that Trump’s statement was anything other than a reasonable counterfactual statement.

If Trump had claimed Gruler was “in that room” with Mateen while the latter was shooting up the Pulse nightclub, how would PolitiFact have rated that claim?

I look forward to either a correction or a response explaining why PolitiFact regards a correction as unnecessary.

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