When debunking the so-called “fact-checkers,” I’ve often quipped, paraphrasing Donald Trump, that “the fact-checkers aren’t sending their best.”
After reviewing hundreds of their “fact-checks,” it turns out I was wrong. This really is the best they have.
Here are just three more absurd examples of fact-checking gone awry.
The Ninth Circus
In early 2017, PolitiFact’s Lauren Carroll rated Sean Hannity’s unquestionably true statement that the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals is “the most overturned court in the country” false.
Carroll reviewed the stats from 2010 to 2015 and found that the Supreme Court reversed 79 percent of cases from the Ninth Circuit, which made it the third most reversed court by percentage.
In calculating those percentages, Carroll had to look up the number of Ninth Circuit cases overturned and the total number of cases appealed to the SCOTUS—yet the numerator in her equation doesn’t get a mention.
And that’s because had Carroll mentioned them, she would’ve had to admit that from 2010 to 2015, the Ninth Circuit was overturned by the SCOTUS seventy-seven times—while the next highest (the Sixth Circuit) was overturned twenty-eight times—and that the Ninth Circuit had the most cases overturned every year.
The overturned decisions by Circuit courts from 2010 to 2015 were as follows:
As can be gleaned from the chart above, the Ninth Circuit is indeed the most overturned court in the nation.
Pete Buttigieg and the Case of the Racist Bridge
In its most transparent act to save a Democrat from embarrassment to date, after Pete Buttigieg made the case that asphalt was part of systemic racism, the Washington Post was there to defend him…and then reverse course after they realized they were wrong.
In line with the Democrats “everything is racist” approach to public policy, Buttigieg said at a press conference, with a straight face: “If a highway was built for the purpose of dividing a white and a black neighborhood, or if an underpass was constructed such that a bus carrying mostly Black and Puerto Rican kids to a beach, or would have been, in New York, was designed too low for it to pass by, that that obviously reflects racism that went into those design choices.”
As conservatives roasted Buttigieg for the comical and borderline cartoonish picture he painted, the WaPo’s Glenn Kessler said that the claims were backed up by a book on urban developer Robert Moses called The Power Broker. Kessler quoted the following passage to defend Buttigieg:
[Robert Moses] began to limit access by buses; he instructed Shapiro to build the bridges across his new parkways low -- too low for buses to pass. Bus trips therefore had to be made on local roads, making the trips discouraging, long and arduous. For Negroes, who he considered inherently ‘dirty,’ there were further measures. Buses needed permits to enter state parks; buses chartered by Negro groups found it very difficult to obtain permits, especially to Moses’s beloved Jones Beach; most were shunted off to parks many miles further on Long Island.
Kessler learned of the passage from his colleague Philip Bump, who wrote an entire article defending Buttigieg that quoted from The Power Broker.
Then, a mere two days later, Kessler tweeted out: “ADDENDUM: Experts increasingly doubt this story,” which was accompanied by an article he wrote explaining that it turns out this story about roads and bridges “has largely been debunked.”
He also admitted that he was wrong to do a “knee jerk” defense of Buttigieg accusing infrastructure of racism.
There’s no word on if your local overpass is sexist or homophobic, however.
Fact-Checker Spins Out-of-Touch Claire McCaskill Comment, Immediately Realizes He’s Wrong After Pressing “Publish”
After former Missouri Democrat Senator Claire McCaskill was quoted as saying that “normal people” could afford private planes in a National Republican Senatorial Committee ad, PolitiFact’s Louis Jacobson jumped to her defense to help pretend she didn’t say something so embarrassingly out of touch.
Jacobson took aim at an ad from the Senate Leadership Fund that quoted McCaskill as saying that, which he claims is out of context.
“Did McCaskill really say that ‘normal people can afford private plans?’ Jacobson asks. No — the ad leaves out the lead-in question from an audience member that prompted the remark.”
Jacobson tracked down video from the town hall where McCaskill made the remark, elaborating: “It doesn’t show the full town hall—or even the full comment that McCaskill was replying to—but it shows enough to undermine the ad’s argument.”
The transcript of the eighteen-second clip he located in question captured the following exchange:
Audience member: You know, that’s one thing the United States has that nobody else has, is the freedom to fly around and be affordable where a normal person can afford it.
McCaskill: Will you remind them when they come after me about my husband’s plane? That normal people can afford it.
Jacobson concludes from the remarks, “One can argue with the wisdom of making this wisecrack. But it doesn’t appear that McCaskill said that ‘normal people can afford’ private planes.”After publishing his article, Jacobson was then sent the full town hall video which destroyed the entire premise of his fact-check, and a correction now appears:
Initially, we published this fact-check with a rating of False, because based on the video available, it did not appear that McCaskill was talking about private planes. After publication, we received more complete video of the question-and-answer session between McCaskill and a constituent that showed she was in fact responding to a question about private planes, as well as a report describing the meeting. We re-assessed the evidence, archived the original version here, and published the version you see here with a new rating of Half True. We apologize for the error.
But even the revision from “False” to “Half True” is inappropriate.
The justification for the initial “False” rating was that: “The footage in the ad leaves out the lead-in comment that prompted McCaskill’s remark. The full footage makes it clear that McCaskill is echoing an audience member’s observation about how the US commercial aviation system is available to a ‘normal person’—not saying that ordinary Americans can afford private planes.”
In the revised article, the justification for the “Half True” rating is: “She said those words, but the footage in the ad leaves out both the lead-in comment that prompted McCaskill’s remark and the laughter that followed it. The full footage makes it clear that McCaskill was wrapping up a policy-heavy debate with a private-aviation manager and with a riff using the airport manager’s words. In context, she was referring to ‘normal’ users of private planes, as opposed to ‘normal’ Americans more generally.”
How is “normal users of private planes” for newspeak?Matt Palumbo is the author of Fact-Checking the Fact-Checkers: How the Left Hijacked and Weaponized the Fact-Checking Industry and The Man Behind the Curtain: Inside the Secret Network of George Soros
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