Oct
16
2012

Playing the Role of 'Journalist' at a 'Presidential Debate'

Candy Crowley

CNN reporter Candy Crowley was apparently causing the Obama and Romney campaigns to panic over the weekend. Why? She was telling people she might ask a question at tonight's presidential debate. Time's Mark Halperin reported (10/14/12) that has done a series of interviews on her network in which she has suggested that she will assume a broader set of responsibilities. As Crowley put it last week, "Once the table is kind of set by the town-hall questioner, there is then time for me to say, 'Hey, wait a second, what about X, Y, Z?'" The campaigns apparently didn't much care […]

Oct
12
2012

Debate Deceptions Are a Time-Tested GOP Strategy

Corporate journalism is not known for standing up to powerful politicians–or for its long memory. And so, when factchecks of the first presidential debate revealed that GOP candidate Mitt Romney was often not very truthful, sometimes even misstating his own policies, the media not only failed to make much of a fuss over Romney's falsehoods, they also failed to tie them into a GOP tradition of debate dissembling. Wait, did I just say a GOP tradition of debate dissembling? That's right–it's a strategy that was acknowledged as far back as 1984, but it's gone virtually unmentioned in U.S. media since […]

Oct
12
2012

Factchecking the Debate Moderator

With all the newfound interest in campaign factchecking in the corporate media (that enthusiasm shouldn't be confused with being good at it), it's worth remembering that it's not just the political candidates whose claims should be factchecked. The moderators should face some scrutiny too. Last night ABC's Martha Raddatz framed a question this way: Let's talk about Medicare and entitlements. Both Medicare and Social Security are going broke and taking a larger share of the budget in the process. Will benefits for Americans under these programs have to change for the programs to survive? Glenn Greenwald caught that one, and […]

Oct
11
2012

WaPo's Debate Advice: Make Sure Your Lies Are Devastating

Dick Cheney and John Edwards at the 2004 vice presidential debate.

In today's Washington Post (10/11/12), David Fahrenthold goes through some of the more memorable moments from recent vice-presidential debates–including several big, decisive errors. Like this one: In other instances, the job was done with a single well-timed put-down. "I'm up in the Senate most Tuesdays when they're in session," Vice President Richard B. Cheney told then-Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.) in 2004. "The first time I ever met you was when you walked on the stage tonight." That turned out not to be true. But for Edwards, it still hurt. So the lesson seems to be: Make sure your lie is […]

Oct
03
2012

Time: Obama's Lies Are Worse Because They're More Accurate

v_600_cover_1015

In Time magazine's new cover story ("Blue Truth, Red Truth," 10/3/12),  Michael Scherer attempts to sort out the puzzle of campaign season factchecking. But while the cover promises to tell us which candidate is telling the truth, it mostly manages to capture some of the  corporate media's worst factchecking tropes. The article kicks off with a hefty helping of false balance–the tendency to see all problems as coming more or less equally from both sides. Obama complains about Romney's sustained, false claims that the White House is doing away with work requirements under welfare. Scherer notes this is false–and then […]

Sep
28
2012

Romney's Latest Gaffe: Telling the Truth on Taxes

muir-abc-taxes

We're familiar with campaign reports that don't do enough factchecking. But here's a  strange one from ABC World News (9/25/12), which seems to be complaining that Mitt Romney departed from his usual misleading claims about how Obama's been raising your taxes. Pointing this out would be a good thing. The problem is that you have a hard time figuring out what the facts are, because the truth doesn't seem to be the primary concern of the segment. Here's what correspondent David Muir said: MUIR: Today, something from Romney about the President we haven't heard before. Romney has long argued the […]

Sep
19
2012

ABC Misses Real Difference Between Romney, Obama Tapes

From last night's ABC World News (9/18/12): DIANE SAWYER: But we do remember four years ago the president, then candidate, was at a fundraiser, it was during the primary, but he too was caught on tape. JAKE TAPPER: That's right, he was talking about the difficulty of reaching small-town Pennsylvanians and how, because of tough economic circumstances, they get bitter, they cling to religion and guns and xenophobia. But here is the key difference between what then-Senator Obama said four years and this Mitt Romney tape. What Obama said then, that was seven months before the election. He had time […]

Sep
17
2012

At NYT, She Said No to 'He Said/She Said'–but They Said Yes

Margaret Sullivan

The new public editor at the New York Times, Margaret Sullivan, dedicated her first column (9/16/12) to factchecking and false balance. Her conclusion: It ought to go without saying, but I'm going to say it anyway: Journalists need to make every effort to get beyond the spin and help readers know what to believe, to help them make their way through complicated and contentious subjects. The more news organizations can state established truths and stand by them, the better off the readership–and the democracy–will be. It's good news that Sullivan thinks this way–and an improvement over her predecessor's much-maligned column […]

Sep
14
2012

When Not Saying Who's to Blame Is to Blame

Romney/Obama graphic from Time (by Lincoln Andrew)

Time magazine's James Poniewozik (9/24/12–subscription required) says it's been "a banner year for the factcheckers," and yet the facts keep on getting mangled: Yet the traffic violations keep coming. Scads of fibs, exaggerations and misleading statements have been swept up in the dragnet: a super-PAC ad implying that Mitt Romney was responsible for the cancer death of a laid-off worker's wife, a Republican claim that Barack Obama was ditching welfare work requirements, a charge by Senator Harry Reid that someone told him Romney hadn't paid taxes for years, a boatload of statements from Paul Ryan's vice-presidential acceptance speech. Poniewozik has […]

Sep
13
2012

The Case of the Disappearing NYT Piece

Mitt Romney

At Huffington Post (9/13/12), Ryan Grim and Michael Calderone are raising questions about the somewhat mysterious disappearance of a New York Times news article: On Wednesday, the New York Times published a provocative story bylined by David E. Sanger and Ashley Parker, leading with the news that Mitt Romney had personally approved the blistering Tuesday night statement on the attacks in Libya and Egypt that landed his campaign in trouble. But hours later, the newspaper wiped the story out and replaced it with a significantly rewritten piece bylined by Peter Baker and Ashley Parker…. The later version, which appeared on […]

Sep
06
2012

Please Tell Dems What Magic Words on Medicare Are

Washington Post "Factchecker" Glenn Kessler (9/6/12) doesn't like the way Democrats talk about Republican Medicare plans: The claim that Republicans will "end the Medicare guarantee" has been a frequent refrain at the convention, perhaps in response to factchecker complaints about the incorrect charge last year that Republicans would "end Medicare." But this phrase is a bit odd since there is no actual "guarantee" for any program that can be changed by some future Congress. The striking feature of Ryan's original Medicare plan was that when it's fully phased in, most seniors would not be able to afford healthcare.  Ryan's updated […]

Sep
06
2012

AP's Mostly Factless Factcheck

One of the problems with media "factchecking" is the notion that all things must be "checked" equally. If you factcheck a Republican and find three whoppers, your fact check of a Democrat better work real hard to find a comparable level of spin or dishonesty. Which is exactly how Associated Press reporters Matt Apuzzo and Tom Raum approached Bill Clinton's speech at the Democratic convention last night. Clinton's speech–along with others–"either cherry-picked facts or mischaracterized the opposition." But their first example is extraordinarily weak. They quote Clinton talking about the difference between Obama and Republican leadership when it comes to […]

Sep
05
2012

Politicians in Tampa, Charlotte Massaged by Media—Literally

Huffington Post Oasis

When it comes to journalists socializing and otherwise cozying up to the powerful, there's not a lot new under the sun. More than 20 years ago, then-FAIR associates Martin Lee and Norman Solomon wrote about it in their book Unreliable Sources: TV's top journalists are part of the wealthy and influential elite, often socializing with people they're supposed to be scrutinizing. At an awards banquet for the Radio & Television Correspondents Association during Reagan's second term, Kathleen Sullivan (at the time with ABC) was photographed on the arm of then-Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger, while CBS Face the Nation host Lesley Stahl […]