Whose Obamacare Stories Are Worth Telling?


Stories about individuals losing their insurance policies are making the national news. But how often do those gaining insurance through the Affordable Care Act make the news?


Final Factcheck: Political Lying Perfectly Balanced

Washington Post fact checker Glenn Kessler had his last election piece in the Sunday edition of the paper (11/4/12)– and it made you glad there won't be any more. The article promised, in the headline at least, "The Best–or Worst?–Pinocchios of This Presidential Race." What it delivered was something else: Eight themes of lying and deception (like "Silliest Blooper" and "Worst Math Skills"), each with one example drawn from each side. In other words, lying was perfect balanced. And the piece closes with this bizarre attempt at "balance": Most complex subject for spinning–bipartisan effort The Obama administration's memo saying it […]


Noise and Nonsense on Benghazi Attack


Over the past few weeks of the presidential campaign we've been hearing a lot–maybe too much–about the September 11, 2012, attack on a U.S. diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, Libya, that killed four Americans, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens. It's been turned into a campaign issue by the Romney team, which has used the incident to charges that the Obama administration is unable to manage foreign affairs and so forth.  The intensity of the Republican pushback has made this into a major story. It was the lead issue in the vice presidential debate, and has been a regular subject on the Sunday […]


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 […]


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 […]


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 […]


When 'Factchecking' Means Telling Your Colleagues They're Liars

Factchecking ought to be an everyday part of each journalist's job, but instead it's relegated to a specialty feature. Maybe lack of regular practice explains why those side efforts are so disappointing. Take Glenn Kessler of the Washington Post's piece (6/21/12) on Barack Obama's latest ad critical of presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney. Kessler gives the ad "four Pinocchios"–reserved for the most deceptive statements: "On just about every level, this ad is misleading, unfair and untrue, from the use of 'corporate raider' to its examples of alleged outsourcing." Kessler was defiant when Talking Points Memo (6/22/12) asked him how he […]


Someone at the LAT Really Likes Paul Ryan

At his Beat the Press blog (4/23/11), Dean Baker caught this in the L.A. Times (4/23/11): Congress is on its first recess since Republican leaders unveiled a plan to end the federal deficit by dramatically changing Medicare, cutting other government programs and reducing taxes. As Baker points out, what the paper is referring to–the Paul Ryan budget proposal–does not "end the federal deficit." As he put it: This is like saying they had a plan to fly to moon because they said they would build a rocket. The whole point is the specifics. How would they build a rocket? How […]


WaPo Puts War-Justifying Words in Saddam's Mouth

Media blogger Eli Stephens (left i on the news, 7/2/09) has posted on a Washington Post lede claiming that "Saddam Hussein told an FBI interviewer before he was hanged that he allowed the world to believe he had weapons of mass destruction because he was worried about appearing weak to Iran." Stephens explains how, as "one of the major pieces of 'evidence' used to justify the invasion of Iraq at the time," this "repetition now, from the mouth of Saddam Hussein no less, would be an important post-facto justification for the invasion." There's just one problem: The claim itself was […]