Robert Higgs is a modest soft-spoken journalist who seems quite unlikely to be managing a hot spot in the undisciplined world of political oratory - some of it true and some of it scandalously beyond Planet Earth. He's the deputy metro editor of the the Plain Dealer, but more to the point in this instance, the editor of PolitiFact Ohio, the wide ranging verifier of truths or lies showered upon voters in any garden variety election campaign.
As Higgs related in a recent talk to the Akron Press Club, the thoroughly researched topics by PolitiFact can draw as much attention from the pols and readers as its rating system - from "true" to "pants on fire". Now that Josh Mandel is gone from the beaten trail of his U.S. Senate campaign, it can be safely reported that he led all other politicians with fiery pants.
Clearly, candidates take great delight in seeing their opponents reduced to ashes from saying things that would not make it past a kindergarten rating system. PolitiFact's pool of reporters spends hours and days checking every possible shred of information that would confirm or deny the veracity of the story line in question. Ohio had its great share of both. But non-partisan fact checkers seemed particularly irritable to the Republican side that indignantly snarled responses to PolitiFact reports, grumbling that "somebody ought to check the fact checkers."
The Daily Caller, the Washington-based right-wing blog, as well as Media Trackers Ohio angrily accused PolitiFact Ohio of being a tool of creepy media lefties, which included a Columbus Dispatch writer who referred to the PD Reports about Mandel.
Come now. A verifiable lefty on the Dispatch reporting staff? Be reasonable!
Nice try, but you instantly learned whose noses were turning red. ( I should also mention that the Washington Post awards "Pinochios" for political lies.)
Higgs hears from all sides and also is aware that more than a few people are paying attention. Like the 20,000 hits that PolitiFact got for the second presidential debate. Or the many requests it gets from the public to check out questionable political statements. If the right-wing doubters are upset by such admirable public service, their grief is just one more benefit derived from the important work of the PD's Robert Higgs and the reporting staff.
PS: Alas, PolitiFact Ohio could be a victim of the severe cutbacks in staff next year. The paper has informed the Guild that it will slice a third of its news staff, according to Connie Schultz. That would reduce it to about 110!