The Media's 'Fact Check' Smokescreen
Posted 08/30/2012 06:58 PM ET
Case in point was the rush of "fact check" stories claiming Ryan misled when he talked about a shuttered auto plant in his home state.
Washington Post fact-checker Glenn Kessler posted a piece — "Ryan misleads on GM plant closing in hometown" — saying Ryan "appeared to suggest" that Obama was responsible for the closure of a GM plant in Janesville, Wis.
"That's not true," Kessler said. "The plant was closed in December 2008, before Obama was sworn in."
What's not true are Kessler's "facts." Ryan didn't suggest Obama was responsible for shuttering the plant. Instead, he correctly noted that Obama promised during the campaign that the troubled plant "will be here for another hundred years" if his policies were enacted.
Also, the plant didn't close in December 2008. It was still producing cars until April 2009.
An AP "fact check" also claimed that "the plant halted production in December 2008" even though the AP itself reported in April 2009 that the plant was only then "closing for good."
CNN's John King made the same claim about that plant closure.
But when CNN looked more carefully at the evidence, it — to its credit — concluded that what Ryan said was "true."
Media fact-checkers also complained about Ryan's charge that Obama is cutting $716 billion from Medicare to fund ObamaCare. Not true, they said. Medicare's growth is just being slowed.
But Obama achieves that slower growth by making real cuts in provider payments. And in any case, the media always and everywhere call a reduction in the rate of federal spending growth a "cut." So why suddenly charge Ryan with being misleading for using that same term?
In any case, Obama himself admitted that he's doing what Ryan says. In a November 2009 interview with ABC News, reporter Jake Tapper said to Obama that "one-third of the funding comes from cuts to Medicare," to which Obama's response was: "Right."
The rest of Ryan's alleged factual errors aren't errors at all; it's just that the media didn't like how he said it. But since when is it a fact-checker's job to decide how a politician should construct his arguments?
This isn't to say that journalists shouldn't check facts. Of course they should.
The problem is that the mainstream press is now abusing the "fact check" label, using it to more aggressively push a liberal agenda without feeling the need to provide any balance whatsoever. And, as the reaction to the Ryan speech shows, they are now blatantly using it to provide air support for Obama.
Is it any wonder that soon after Ryan's speech ended, the Obama campaign rushed out an ad using the media's "fact check" stories as its source?