We were intrigued by comments Biden made in Flint, Mich., on Oct. 12, 2011:
"In 2008, when Flint had 265 sworn officers on their police force, there were 35 murders and 91 rapes in this city.
"In 2010, when Flint had only 144 police officers, the murder rate climbed to 65, and rapes, just to pick two categories, climbed to 229.
"In 2011, you now only have 125 shields. God only knows what the numbers will be this year for Flint if we don't rectify it. And God only knows what that number would have been had we not been able to get a little bit of help to you."
Seven numbers there, all easy to verify, right? PolitiFact only needed to consult the source for those figures:
"The City of Flint stands behind the crime statistics provided to the Office of The Vice President. These numbers are an actual portrayal of the level of violent crime in our city and are the same numbers we have provided to our own community. This information is the most accurate data and demonstrates the rise in crime associated with the economic crisis and the reduced staffing levels."
Case closed! Joe Biden's statements get a "True" rating! ...
Yeah, right. Not if you're PolitiFact. Why?
When we looked at the FBI’s crime statistics, we found that Flint reported 32 murders in 2008 and 53 murders in 2010. Biden said 35 and 65 -- not exactly the same but in the same ballpark.
For rapes, though, the numbers seemed seriously off. The FBI showed 103 rapes in 2008 and 92 rapes in 2010 -- a small decline. The numbers Biden cited were 91 rapes in 2008 and 229 in 2010 -- a dramatic increase.
But Biden didn't cite FBI statistics. He cited numbers from the city of Flint itself. Maybe Flint's numbers are inaccurate? Perhaps the FBI stats are more reliable? Hell, no! PolitiFact's own research proves the opposite to be true:
We ran all of this by James Alan Fox, a criminologist at Northeastern University. He said police departments and the FBI often differ in their crime statistics, for reasons both of timing and because of different definitions of crime.
"A police department’s statistics can be more up-to-date than the FBI’s," he said. "So it’s not unusual for them to be different."
What's more, PolitiFact even acknowledges that the FBI's definition of rape is too narrow:
And in fact, the definition for rape is probably the most problematic. The FBI definition -- "the carnal knowledge of a female, forcibly and against her will" -- is particularly restrictive, excluding male victims and other types of sexual assaults. (The New York Times recently published a detailed report on the problems of the rape definition.)
So you have a) Biden accurately citing numbers provided to him by the city of Flint; b) PolitiFact comparing Biden's numbers to a source he didn't use; c) a criminologist saying that the source Biden did use is likely more up-to-date; and d) the New York Times saying that the FBI's classification of rape is too restrictive. And what does this rate Joe Biden? Merely a "Mostly True."
You know what? I rate PolitiFact "Full of Sh*t."