PolitiFact plays semantics with DeSantis remarks on meth seizures at the US southern Border

On June 21, the fact-checking outlet PolitiFact declared as “half true” Republican Flordia Gov. Ron DeSantis’ comments that “meth … it’s almost all coming across the southern border and it’s been accelerating for the last six months.”

PolitFact interjected semantic arguments about facts not included in DeSantis’ central claim and declared it “misleading” to suggest President Joe Biden’s border policies may be a contributing cause of the increase in meth coming across the U.S. southern border.

 

Summary

  • The meth claim by DeSantis that PolitiFact sought to fact-check, did not include any attribution of blame for the uptick in meth caught at the borer, yet PolitiFact engaged in political activism by defending President Joe Biden’s potential culpability in the matter, rather than sticking specifically to the accuracy of DeSantis’ remarks.
  • PolitiFact claims “meth seizure data does not show a steady uptick in the monthly number of pounds seized” yet data actually does exist showing precisely that – an increase in meth seizures at the border in 2021 over 2020.

PolitiFact’s fact check relates to a press conference the week earlier on Jun 16, by DeSantis. PolitiFact’s central point of contention is that DeSantis “leaves out context in claim about meth and the southern border.” It would be more accurate to say PolitiFact inserted its own irrelevant context on the matter.

PolitiFact claimed DeSantis said the meth problem “is worsening due to President Joe Biden’s immigration policies” (quoting PolitiFact, not DeSantis here). PolitiFact doesn’t actually say where in his 30-minute press conference DeSantis actually said the worsening meth problem is Biden’s fault. PolitiFact further reported: “DeSantis is right about the southwest border now being the most common point of entry for methamphetamine in the United States. But it’s misleading to portray an increase in meth trafficking as a result of Biden’s immigration policies. Increased flows predate Biden’s presidency.”

This “fact-checking” is confusing as there is a disconnect between the central quote DeSantis is being fact-checked for (see above) and PolitiFact’s own paraphrasing of DeSantis’ assertions.

Further, it isn’t clear why Biden’s immigration policies can’t be considered a contributing factor in the rise of meth seizures at the border.

Citing U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) numbers, ABC reported in May (more than a month before the PolitiFact’s fact-check) that so far in 2021 there have been 105,032 pounds of methamphetamine seized at the border, compared to “just over 177,000 pounds of meth seized” in the entirety of 2020. To clarify those numbers, May 18 is the 137th day in the year 2021 (about 37.5 percent of the way through the year). Yet by May 18 (or earlier depending on the delay between the CBP compiling its numbers and ABC reporting them) the U.S. had seen about 59.3 percent of the total meth seizures it saw in all of 2020. Assuming meth is seized at a steady rate throughout the year, that means 2021 is already significantly ahead of schedule to outpace 2020 for meth seizures.

As of June 19 (about 46.3 percent of the way through the year), when PolitiFact produced its fact-check, the CBP estimated it had seized more than 119,000 pounds of meth, about 67.5 percent of the total meth they had seized in 2020.

PolitiFact argued that methamphetamine seizures have been on the rise for years, which is a true statement, but not dispositive of the underlying claim by DeSantis about seizures being on the rise in 2021. The Florida governor said that the last six months (the first six months of 2021) have seen meth seizures at the border “accelerating” (in other words increasing), which when comparing the total meth seized by the CBP less than half way through 2021 against the entirety of 2020, is already plainly evident.

Whether the 2020 to 2021 percentage change is an ultimately larger percentage change than the 2018 to 2019 percentage change or 2019 to 2020 change remains to be seen. If there is a percentage increase in meth seizures in 2021 over 2020, and that percentage increase is higher than the previous year-to-year percentage increases, it is a valid question to ask whether particular policies implemented in 2021 played a significant role in that percentage increase.

PolitiFact’s declaration that the increase in meth trafficking can’t be attributed to Biden’s policies is, furthermore, an assertion of opinion, not fact. What is a fact is that on his first day in office, Biden halted construction of a wall along the U.S. southern border. Biden also ended President Donald Trump’s “Remain in Mexico” policy. The Los Angeles Times reported this month that border apprehensions in 2021 are about five times what they were by the same point in 2020. Objectively, Biden has reversed policies and actions by Trump intended to stem traffic (both of humans and illicit substances) through the U.S. southern border and objectively, that traffic has increased in the same time period Biden reversed those policies.

Leave a Reply