PolitiFact Wins the “Protagoras” Award

In this post, I look at the third PolitiFact pants-on-fire assertion vs. Donald Trump.

Donald Trump

White nationalist protesters in Charlottesville “had a permit. The other group didn’t have a permit.”

— PolitiFact National on Thursday, August 17th, 2017

Disclosure: This subject involves neo-Nazis and other thugs. Please be aware that I thoroughly detest Nazis. In my opinion, Nazism is one of the two most discredited movements in history, Communism being the other one. WW II took the lives of approximately 50 million people. It was pure evil. Furthermore, having read Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s Gulag Archipelago and Jung Chang’s Wild Swans, and being aware of Pol Pott’s ravages in Cambodia in the 70s and ‘80s and the current madness in North Korea, I put Communism right up there with them. Also, as further evidence of my attitude towards neo-Nazis, I point to my second published book, A Thousand Suns, where Rulon Hurt and particularly his wife, Yohaba, successfully dispatch gangs of Nazi villains both in the U.S. and Europe.

My Opinion

Because of my complete revulsion at the horrors of Nazism, I absolutely don’t ever want to be viewed as someone who is soft on neo-Nazis. But Nazism isn’t the point here. The point is whether President Trump lied about the permits. He didn’t. And I’m reasonably certain that PolitiFact knows that.

And again, I see PolitiFact trivializing a very important situation. The protests around Charlottesville encompassed issues of free speech, political correctness, thuggery, racism, and journalism ethics. Instead, PolitiFact turned it into another clumsy attempt to mock President Trump.

PolitiFact writes:

During the contentious Trump Tower question-and-answer session about protests in Charlottesville, Va., President Donald Trump said that the Unite the Right marchers had a permit to demonstrate, but that counter-protesters did not.

Here’s a portion of Trump’s extensive comments about Charlottesville during the session with reporters:

“There were people in that rally. I looked the night before. If you look, they were people protesting very quietly the taking down the statue of Robert E. Lee. I am sure in that group there were some bad ones. The following day, it looked like they had some rough, bad people, neo-Nazis, white nationalists, whatever you want to call them. But you had a lot of people in that group that were there to innocently protest and very legally protest.

Because I don’t know if you know, they had a permit. The other group didn’t have a permit. So I only tell you this. There are two sides to a story. I thought what took place was a horrible moment for our country, a horrible moment. But there are two sides to the country.”


My Opinion Continued

After writing the above, PolitiFact then presents a copy of the permit obtained by Walt Heinecke on behalf of counter-protestors. PolitiFact concludes: “The existence of the city permit issued to Heinecke flatly debunks Trump’s assertion that the counter-protesters lacked a permit — assuming you understand Trump to mean that counter-protesters had no permit for Saturday’s march.”

What???? Yes, yes, the counter protestors had a permit. BUT IT WAS FOR A DIFFERENT LOCATION. The Unite the Right demonstrators had a permit for Emancipation Park. The counter protestors had a permit for McGuffey and Justice parks. The violence began and was primarily centered at Emancipation Park where one side had a permit and the other side didn’t. President Trump told the truth.

This is not complicated.

Here is the problem with the PolitiFact argument.

  1. In his statement, quoted by PolitiFact above, President Trump clearly states that he’s talking about ‘the following day’ when he is referring to the permits and the violence.
  2. On ‘the following day’, the violence began and primarily occurred at Emancipation Park. At that park, only one side had a permit – the Unite the Right side. The counter protestors had permits for McGuffey and Justice parks, both far enough away to not even be in the picture below of Emancipation Park.
  3. According to the Washington Post, the violence at Emancipation Park began when several dozen armed counter-protestors lined up to block a group of armed Unite the Right marchers who were attempting to enter Emancipation Park. At the place where the violence erupted, only Unite the Right marchers had a permit.
  4. The counter protestors had a right, as did any citizen, to be at Emancipation Park, but not a permit to do so.
  5. Elements of both sides were armed. The counter-protestors blocked the path of marchers intending to enter Emancipation Park for the rally. The Washington Post reports:

“The rally on Saturday was scheduled to go from noon to 5 p.m., but by 8 a.m., the park was already beginning to fill. Rally goers arrived in contingents, waving nationalist banners and chanting slogans. Many carried shields and clubs. A large number also carried pistols or long guns.

Counter-protesters had also gathered early. Members of anti-fascist groups yelled at the rally goers. Many of them also carried sticks and shields. They were joined by local residents, members of church groups, civil rights leaders and onlookers….

A few minutes before 11 a.m., a swelling group of white nationalists carrying large shields and long wooden clubs approached the [Emancipation] park on Market Street. About two dozen counterprotesters formed a line across the street, blocking their path. With a roar, the marchers charged through the line, swinging sticks, punching and spraying chemicals.

Counterprotesters fought back, also swinging sticks, punching and spraying chemicals. Others threw balloons filled with paint or ink at the white nationalists. Everywhere, it seemed violence was exploding. The police did not move to break up the fights.” Washington Post

Emancipation Park


Conclusion: One side had a permit to be at Emancipation Park where the violence was centered, the other side did not.

At the end of its explanation, PolitiFact writes that the “White House” said that President Trump was talking about the violence the night before at the University of Virginia. Which, of course, contradicts what President Trump said in the PolitiFact quote above, where he clearly states he was talking about ‘the following day,’ In any case, if PolitiFact wants to label the White House as having its pants-on-fire about this, then that’s their prerogative, but President Trump was clearly accurate about his claim that only one side had a permit at the scene of the violence on Saturday – the following day. Why are we even discussing this? It’s ridiculous.

My ruling: This is only my third look at PolitiFact’s claims about statements by President Trump. At some point, and maybe I’ve reached that point already, I’m going to start wondering about PolitiFact’s motives. Are they holding themselves to the strictest journalistic ethics or are they allowing their partisan opinions to influence their judgment? At any rate, I’ve completed three of the twenty-one PolitiFact statements. Eighteen more to go.

For this ridiculous attempt to label President Trump a liar, I award PolitiFact the “Protagoras” award – Protagoras being one of the very first of the professional, Greek sophists in 5th century B.C. Wikipedia states: He (Protagoras) also is believed to have created a major controversy during ancient times through his statement that, “Man is the measure of all things”, interpreted by Plato to mean that there is no absolute truth, but that which individuals deem to be the truth.”

In my next post, I’ll tackle the fourth pants-on-fire statement PolitiFact attributes to President Trump:

Donald Trump:

“Study what General Pershing of the United States did to terrorists when caught. There was no more Radical Islamic Terror for 35 years!”

— PolitiFact National on Thursday, August 17th, 2017



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