Taking that definition, PolitiFact is essentially affirming what Huffington said as “accurate” and, in its analysis, providing the “important details,” “context,” and nuance she could not get out on a Sunday morning news show. In their words:
In ruling on Huffington’s statement, we find much in the public record to support her statement, most notably the Justice Department lawsuit. Certainly there have been hundreds of millions of dollars that Halliburton’s KBR attempted to charge the government that have been denied. Government audits of KBR’s work in Iraq will likely continue for some time, and we do not expect a final accounting on these fronts anytime soon. Huffington glossed over some of these points in her back and forth with Liz Cheney. There’s also much evidence that makes us believe that hundreds of millions of dollars were lost to waste and inefficiency, not deceitful fraud. So we rate Huffington’s statement Half True.
PolitiFact’s handling of the situation was exemplary, the site acting with the transparency befitting an organization positioning itself as a kind of truth police. In fact, it was the publication of three letters supporting Huffington and criticizing PolitiFact’s verdict on PolitiFact’s own “Mailbag” page that inspired Huffington to write on the issue a month after the Half True rating had been published.
PolitiFact editor Bill Adair commented on Huffington’s piece on Media Bistro’s FishbowlDC.
“I respect Arianna’s right to disagree with us, but I think we got it right,” Adair told FishbowlDC in an e-mail. “We spent several days researching her statement and found that while there was the overbilling she cites, there wasn’t clear-cut proof it was fraud. So Half True was the right call.”
Going by the parameters of PolitiFact’s Truth-o-Meter, we think it’s the right call too. A cautious call, true—read the full text of the finding and there seems to be something fishy going on with KBR—but right.
Perhaps it’s just another case of the difference between the old guard, represented here somewhat ironically by a rigorous, old-school, fact-checking Web site, and the new guard in Huffington and her Post.