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theodore M I R A L D I mpa ... editor, publisher, writer
Monday, September 26, 2016
Eight Examples Where ‘FACT CHECKING’ Became OPINION JOURNALISM
Socio-Political Commentary ... Kelly Riddell
The media coverage on the presidential contest seems to have come down to “fact-checking,” with The New York Times, The Washington Post and Politico each doing articles depicting Donald Trump’s lies on the campaign trail.
This is dangerous territory for the profession, for as Wall Street Journal columnist James Taranto opined on Twitter: ” ‘Fact checking’ is opinion journalism pretending to be some sort of heightened objectivity.”
Why you ask? Because most “fact-checkers” are merely liberal journalists looking to prove their preconceived narrative. They cherry-pick the statements to “fact-check” and then decide which data to back it up with. Statistics can be manipulated — for every study coming out of the Brookings Institute, the Heritage Foundation can have a counter argument, depending on the methodology and surveys used. Moreover, much of what they decide to “fact-check” is subjective at best. Nothing that can be pinned down with undisputed data.
In addition, many times politicians use hyperbole to extenuate a larger point — and many times these “fact-checkers” ignore the larger point to focus on the validity of the minutia. Here are the eight most outrageous “fact-checks” used against Mr. Trump in the last few weeks, that explain why the American public’s trust in the media is at an all-time low.
The New York Times:
(1) Trumpquote: “Do people notice Hillary is copying my airplane rallies — she puts the plane behind her like I have been doing from the beginning.” (Twitter, Sept. 20)
Fact-check: “He did not invent the tarmac rally or the campaign-plane backdrop.”
(2) Trump quote/assertions: “Mrs. Clinton destroyed 13 smartphones with a hammer while she was secretary of state.” (Speeches in Florida, Sept. 15 and Sept. 19)
Fact-check: “An aide told the FBI of only two occasions in which phones were destroyed by a hammer.”
(3) Trump quote: “We have cities that are far more dangerous than Afghanistan.”
Fact-check: “No American city resembles a war zone, though crime has risen lately in some, like Chicago. Urban violence has fallen precipitously over the past 25 years.”
Of note, The New York Times wrote on Sept. 9 that “murder rates rose in a quarter of the nation’s 100 largest cities, and that “the number of cities where rates rose significantly was the largest since the height of violent crime in the early 1990s.”
(4) Trumpquote: “We’re presiding over something the world has not seen. The level of evil is unbelievable.” (Sept. 19, Fort Myers, Florida, rally)
Fact-check: “Judging one ‘level of evil’ against another is subjective, but other groups in recent history have without any question engaged in as widespread killing of civilians as ISIS.”
(5) Trump quote: “Hillary Clinton is raising your taxes, it’s a very substantial tax increase.” (Sept. 20 High Point, North Carolina, rally, and a similar statement at least one other time)
Fact-check: “Clinton has not released the full details of her tax plan, but she has sworn off tax hikes for households earning less than $250,000 a year. The vast majority of tax increases she proposes levying affect the highest earners.”
Of note, this fact-check says Mrs. Clinton will, indeed raise taxes. Additionally, in December, when ABC News’s George Stephanopoulos asked her “Is that a rock-solid promise?” (on not raising taxes on households earning less than $250,000) she hedged. “Well,” she said, “it certainly is my goal.”
(6) Trump quote: “Hillary Clinton wants to approve the Trans-Pacific Partnership; that deal will be a disaster for North Carolina, for every state. Your state.” (Sept. 20, High Point, North Carolina, rally)
Fact-check: “CNN tracked 45 instances in which Clinton supported the TPP, including in 2012 when she called it the “gold standard” of trade deals. But facing a challenge to her left from Bernie Sanders, Clinton this year said she opposed it and would continue to as president. The trade pact’s economic impacts are hotly debated, with some arguing it will hurt domestic workers while others arguing it will spur further exports and economic growth.”
Just to be clear, Politico is calling Mr. Trump a liar for calling out Mrs. Clinton’s flip-flop on TPP. Not to mention, her vice presidential candidate Tim Kaine was a vocal advocate of the trade-agreement for the Obama administration in Virginia (before he denounced it, once jumping on her ticket).
The Washington Post
(7) Trump quote: “The policies he [Rudolph Giuliani] put into place ultimately brought down crime by 76 percent and murder in New York by 84 percent.” (Speech in Pittsburgh, Sept. 22, 2016)
Fact-check: “It’s debatable whether the stop-and-frisk policies had such a direct impact on crime, as Trump suggests. Crime is affected by many factors, and New York’s decline in crime mirrored the decline in many other major cities at the time.”
The Post, after admitting the statistics were “debatable” still gave the assertion three Pinocchios. They used their preferable statistics to justify, saying Mr. Trump‘ “cherry-picked” his.
(8) “Hillary Clinton and her campaign of 2008 started the birther controversy. I finished it. I finished it, you know what I mean. President Barack Obama was born in the United States, period.” (Donald Trump, news conference, Sept. 16, 2016)
Fact-check: “Let’s review this again: No, Clinton and her campaign did not start the “birther” controversy.”
Although Mrs. Clinton herself can’t be tied to starting or spreading the birther conspiracy, her 2008 presidential campaign can. Mrs. Clinton’s former campaign manager said they had to fire a staffer (she couldn’t remember if he or she was paid or not) for sending an email relating to Mr. Obama’s birthplace.
Moreover, the former Washington, D.C., bureau chief of McClatchy alleged Clinton ally Sidney Blumenthal asked him to investigate Mr. Obama’s birthplace, essentially starting a whisper campaign. McClatchy even sent a reporter to Kenya.
The Washington Post’s own fact-checker Michelle Ye Hee Lee admitted she heard about Mr. Blumenthal’s whisper campaign, so she called him and he said it wasn’t true (Remember: Mr. Blumenthal was responsible for spreading whisper campaigns about Monica Lewinsky in the 1990s — it’s been documented). But, The Washington Post fact-checker decided to believe Mr. Blumenthal, and gave Mr. Trump four Pinocchios instead.