Check the facts

By Dr. Adam Horn

You may have seen the infographic below, it is circulating around the Internet. I decided to take the fact check challenge to see if this information is true. The infographic states that 19 justices were nominated and confirmed in an “election” year. This part is true. In most cases, it was an “election” year. What the infographic does not say is they were nominated and confirmed in a “presidential election” year. Add the word “presidential” and the infographic is incorrect.

This infographic was likely created to imply that Senators Cruz and Rubio’s facts were wrong in Saturday’s Republican debate. Both stated that a supreme court justice has not been nominated and confirmed in an election year in 80 years (actually it was 1940, which is 76 years). “Technically” they were wrong when they said an “election year” and not “presidential election” year. Do you see the semantic difference here? Every year is an election year somewhere in the United States. In the spirit of their argument, most reasonable thinking people probably assumed both men meant presidential election year because Justice Antonin Scalia died Saturday and we are in the midst of a presidential election year.

The fact is only three justices have been nominated and confirmed in a presidential election year since 1900: Frank Murphy (1940), Benjamin Cardozo (1932), Louis Brandeis (1916).

Here’s the proof (see below). Check it out for yourself. This took me about 15 minutes of research. For the record, the infographic is technically right. However, due to its timing, it is misleading because the implication is that Senators Cruz and Rubio were wrong about their facts in Saturday’s debate.

Had Senators Cruz and Rubio said a supreme court justice has not been nominated and confirmed, in a “presidential election” year, in nearly 80 years, they both would have been right. But, because both senators simply said “election” year and not “presidential election” year, this is what makes the infographic correct – though it is misleading in its intent.

The Lesson For Communicators

In the original post that accompanied this infographic it stated that Cruz and Rubio need to check their facts. That’s true. Reality is, we all need to check the facts before posting or stating what we “think” is true because we saw a post that we “liked,” did not check the facts, and believed it to be holistically true. The infographic is correct with the words “election” year. It is incorrect if you add the words “presidential election” year.

Supreme Court Justices mentioned: Kagan (2010), Alito (2006), Breyer (1994), Souter (1990), Scalia (1986), Rehnquist (1986), Blackmun (1970), Goldberg (1962), White (1962), Warren (1953), Clark (1949), Vinson (1946), Murphy (1940), Reed (1938), Cardozo (1932), Roberts (1930), Hughes (1930), Sutherland (1922), Brandeis (1916).

Presidential election years: 1900, 1904, 1908, 1912, 1916, 1920, 1924, 1928, 1932, 1936, 1940, 1944, 1948, 1952, 1956, 1960, 1964, 1968, 1972, 1976, 1980, 1984, 1988, 1992, 1996, 2000, 2004, 2008, 2012, 2016.

I did not do this to defend Cruz or Rubio. They are grown men. They can defend themselves. Also, I did not do this to share or persuade you with any particular political ideology. I did this because people do not take the time to check their facts anymore. We tend to believe the first thing we agree with (see or hear) on TV, or in this case, Facebook.

In this presidential election year, regardless if you are a Democrat or a Republican, please take the time to educate yourself with actual facts before believing everything you read. You don’t have to agree with everything you read, but at least make sure it tells the whole story and that parts of it are not intentionally misleading – much like the infographic.

Adam Horn's photo.

About ucm_pr_program

PRSA certified program in undergraduate public relations education, with growth in graduate education
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