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PolitiFact rates Fox host's claim about Russian oil as 'mostly false' even while admitting she was spot-on

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Some head-scratching analysis

Roy Rochlin/Getty Images

Fact-checking website PolitiFact recently engaged in some head-scratching analysis in an attempt to discredit a claim made by Fox Business Network host Maria Bartiromo — but ended up doing the exact opposite.

What are the details?

At issue were remarks made by Bartiromo during an appearance on "Jesse Watters Primetime" on Feb. 22. While speaking with her fellow Fox host, Bartiromo argued that U.S. dependency on Russian oil was growing at exactly the wrong time: during unprovoked Russian aggression in Eastern Europe.

At that time, the U.S. and other Western allies had, in Bartiromo's opinion, only tepidly responded to Russia's troop-building near the Ukrainian border, by refusing to curtail their imports of Russian energy resources.

As an example, Bartiromo said this: "The United States is also reliant on Russian oil — we have doubled our imports from Russia in the last year. So, [there's] no question why President Biden is begging OPEC and others to pump more oil."

Two days later, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a full-scale invasion of Ukraine, sparking a military conflict the likes of which mainland Europe hasn't experienced since World War II.

As of Wednesday morning, the Biden administration continued in its refusal to cut off U.S. imports of Russian oil, thereby enriching Moscow — despite harsh criticism from key members in Congress.

What did PolitiFact say?

In a Monday column, PolitiFact parachuted in to assess Bartiromo's claim that the U.S. doubled oil imports from Russia as "mostly false."

The fact-checker suggested that when crude oil imports and refined products imports such as gasoline and kerosene are combined, it shows the year-over-year increase to be 28%, not 50%.

But that's not how oil imports are typically categorized. Normally, oil imports and energy imports — which include refined products — are categorized separately. The U.S. Energy Information Administration, which PolitiFact cites multiple times, shows as much by breaking down crude oil imports in a separate chart.

A spokesperson for Bartiromo evidently explained this to PolitiFact, resulting in the fact-checker admitting, "The U.S. more than doubled its crude oil imports from Russia, to about 208,000 barrels a day in the first 11 months of 2021, from 76,000 barrels a day in 2020."

Amazingly, that wasn't enough for the fact-checker to change its assessment, even while it openly admitted that Bartiromo's specific claim was accurate.

"But Bartiromo’s broader point was about the extent of U.S. reliance on Russian oil, which remains fairly modest," the article went on to say. "Russia accounted for only about 3% of overall U.S. crude oil imports in 2021 — a 2 percentage point increase from 2020."

It seems, to cover its tracks, the fact-checker switched gears to argue that Bartiromo's apparent broader point was overstated since Russian imports only make up a relatively small portion of U.S. oil imports as a whole.

But that wasn't the specific claim that PolitiFact was examining, and so its assessment should be changed.

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