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

Dems Didn't Start Social Security — and Other False Factchecks From Factcheck.org

Rep. James Clyburn (SEIU)

Under the headline "Democratic Disinformation From Charlotte," the website Factcheck.org (9/5/12) took aim at this "dubious or misleading claim": Rep. James Clyburn engaged in partisan myth-making when he said “Democrats created Social Security” while Republicans “cursed the darkness.” History records strong bipartisan support in both House and Senate for the measure President Roosevelt signed in 1935. Later, in explaining this judgment, Factcheck wrote: For sure, there was opposition to the legislation. Sen. Daniel Hastings, a Delaware Republican, warned that it would "end the progress of a great country," as the New York Times reported. But Hastings was in the minority, […]

Sep
04
2012

Newsweek: Obama Needs to Be Clinton

A few weeks ago Newsweek got a lot of attention for Niall Ferguson's factually challenged cover story slamming the Obama case for re-election. This week, in true corporate media style, we get the "other" side: An argument that Obama should move the Democratic party to the right. Peter Boyer's piece, "Why Barack Needs Bill," recycles some of more dubious claims about the effectiveness of Clinton's brand of center-right "triangulation." Since this is the media's usual advice for Democrats– move to the right in order to capture the center– it's worth unpacking. Clinton-style "New Democrats," Boyers explains, "have nearly vanished." And […]

Sep
04
2012

Ryan's Lies… I Mean, His 'Overreaches'

Paul Ryan's RNC convention speech kicked off a lot of discussion about how and when journalists should do factchecking. Some reporters noted that, for instance, the people you factcheck can push back; other pieces wondered if it was making any difference at all. There are plenty of factchecking operations, but there seems to be a feeling that the lying and deception is more significant now than it's ever been. But if you watched TV coverage of the Republican convention, you may not have seen much in the way of factchecking. More to the point, some of the discussions could get […]

Sep
03
2012

When Candidates Lie, REAL Journalists Say They 'Finessed the Facts'

Rachel Maddow/photo by JD Lasica

On the subject of why politicians aren't worried about corporate media factcheckers, a New York Times article from last week (8/31/12) by Alessandra Stanley is worth a second look. Under the headline, "How MSNBC Became Fox's Liberal Evil Twin," Stanley wrote: "You can agree with everything that Rachel Maddow or Ed Schultz say on MSNBC and still oppose their right to say it." Stanley's problem was that "all that attitude" on MSNBC "leaves fewer choices for viewers who like their election coverage with informed commentary without a twist of bias": All that arch sarcasm and partisan brio may rev up […]

Sep
01
2012

Politicians, Don't Worry About Factcheckers–They Don't Worry About Your Lies

Glenn Kessler at the New America Foundation.

"What if it turns out that when the press calls a lie a lie, nobody cares?" That's the question asked by Atlantic editor-in-chief James Bennet (8/28/12) after a raft of Pinocchios and flaming pants failed to sway the Romney campaign from its position that "we're not going to let our campaign be dictated by factcheckers." I think that's the wrong question, though. The real question is: Does the press have the courage to call a lie a lie–and stick by it? It's hard to be hopeful about that when you have one of the media's most prominent factcheckers, the Washington […]

Aug
31
2012

Factchecking the Minnows and Letting the Whales Swim Away

Mitt Romney at the RNC

In an attempted factcheck of Mitt Romney's acceptance speech at the Republican convention, AP's Calvin Woodward (8/30/12) takes on Romney's big laugh line: President Obama promised to begin to slow the rise of the oceans and to heal the planet.  My promise is to help you and your family. Woodward looked into it and found that, indeed, Obama had said something like that. But aren't the important factual questions here whether ocean levels actually are rising, and if so whether it's possible to do anything about them? (The answers are "yes" and "yes," as it turns out.) The Washington Post […]

Aug
21
2012

Niall Ferguson Can't Be Factchecked!

Niall Ferguson's Newsweek cover story "Hit the Road, Barack" has attracted lots of the wrong kind of attention. As Dean Baker put it: It's hard to believe that progressive bloggers didn't get together to pay Newsweek to run Niall Ferguson's piece on Obama. The thing is so shot full of easily identifiable errors no serious publication would ever allow it into print. But printed it was–a lengthy cover-story argument against re-electing Obama, based on an array of charts and economic facts that the Harvard professor believes bolster his case. The first–and arguably most important–error was flagged in a blog post […]

Aug
13
2012

PBS Does 'Both Sides' on Bogus Romney Welfare Attack

Some campaign disputes can be tricky to sort out. Others are not. That's why media coverage that takes the both-sides-have-a-point approach can be so disappointing, if not dangerous. Take Mitt Romney's recent claim that the White House was "gutting" the work requirements in the  1996 welfare "reform" law. As a Romney TV ad put it: "Under Obama's plan, you wouldn't have to work and wouldn't have to train for a job. They just send you your welfare check." That charge earned a "Pants on Fire" from PolitiFact (8/7/12), which pointed out that the policy change that is supposedly at issue […]

Jul
17
2012

David Gergen Factchecks His Friends—and Financial Partners—at Bain

There are some pretty intense factchecking fights over what is true and not true about the Obama campaign's claims about Romney's record at Bain Capital. Media outlets are struggling with how to render a verdict; most seem to think Obama has exaggerated. But one outlet has found a voice willing to deliver a judgment. CNN has published a column (7/16/12) by veteran pundit David Gergen headlined: Facts don't support Obama's charges against Romney This is, for Gergen, pretty strong stuff; he's a talking head whose head mostly talks about campaign strategy and the like. He's not one usually to call […]

Jul
16
2012

Paul Krugman Reads the New York Times

Paul Krugman

Paul Krugman writes today (New York Times, 7/16/12) on media's failure to factcheck campaign claims: Perhaps in a better world we could count on the news media to sort through the conflicting claims. In this world, however, most voters get their news from short snippets on TV, which almost never contain substantive policy analysis. The print media do offer analysis pieces–but these pieces, out of a desire to seem "balanced," all too often simply repeat the he-said-she-said of political speeches. Trust me: you will see very few news analyses saying that Mr. Romney proposes huge tax cuts for the rich, […]

Jul
10
2012

NYT: Tax Factchecking Is for the Editorial Page

The New York Times has a piece today (7/10/12) that pairs Obama's tax announcement with Republican attempts to kill Obamacare, presenting both as "politically charged proposals." It's hard to see how the two are at all similar, but the Times attempts to make the connection, noting that "lawmakers worry about alienating people who like expanded health coverage or tax cuts." That actually confuses matters even more. The vast majority of people would get a tax cut under the Obama plan. Repealing Obamacare would do a lot more harm to a lot more people–i.e., the ones "who like expanded health coverage." […]