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PolitiFact Gives Biden a Thumbs-Up for Dismissive Claim About Police Work

Since I complained in my column that PolitiFact had given Joe Biden five “Mostly True” ratings in August, and nothing else, they must have noticed, because somehow, Biden already has five “Mostly False” ratings in September. (This underlines how “fact checkers” can choose their evaluations and curate them.) Biden also has two “Mostly True” and two “Half True” ratings this month.

This “Mostly True” article has stuck at the top of the PolitiFact home page for about a week, and I don’t know if this means it’s a popular item, because it has no label. 

“More cops have died from COVID this year than have been killed on patrol.”

This is inherently sensible, since catching this infectious and sometimes deadly disease is more likely than a violent death…but it’s also politically insensitive, suggesting police work isn’t very dangerous. If you think this doesn’t sound bad coming out of a Democrat’s mouth, turn it around: “More black people have died from COVID this year than have been killed by police.” It sounds true, but it also sounds dismissive. 

PolitiFact’s Jon Greenberg explained: 

“Do you feel safer under Donald Trump?” Biden asked Aug. 31. “More cops have died from COVID this year than have been killed on patrol.”

That stat raised eyebrows, and we checked to see if it was true. Biden didn’t say exactly what the best data show, but the comparison is largely accurate.

Tallies of deaths by two national groups show that COVID-19 has killed more law enforcement officers than gunfire and other hazards of the job in 2020. The caveat to Biden’s claim is there is some statistical fuzziness regarding who is a cop and what it means to be on patrol. 

Roughly one-third of these tallies include corrections and detention center officers who work inside institutions where the virus can spread more readily. Some Customs and Border Protection field officers and other first responders are also included. While these occupations are counted as part of law enforcement, they might not come to mind as the cops that Biden referred to. 

The COVID-19 death toll is still the greatest single cause of death when those occupations are excluded.

Greenberg noted that the Office Down Memorial Page concluded it was “Mostly ” true, because if you exclude corrections and detention officers, the death toll from COVID remains at about 70 this year — “still double the loss of life due to gunfire, but not higher than the sum of other causes of death.” Those include from duty-related illness, heart attacks, and vehicle and aircraft crashes.

None of this means PolitiFact is going soft on President Trump. So far in September, they’ve added five “Pants on Fire” lie ratings to Trump — two on Friday. 

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