The main difference between the two parties seems to be that the right assumes the media is out to get them (i.e., see The Weekly Standard) and the left seems to take it as a personal affront when you call them out (see the reaction to PolitiFact.) Maybe Democrats really believe that tale about the left-wing media bias? In any case, this month’s ruckus about fact checkers simply affirms what we’ve learned in our long experience in Washington.
There is one other enduring myth about fact checkers–that they are somehow a replacement for good reporting. This is a fundamental misunderstanding of our role in journalism.
Fact checking is a complement, not a replacement. Good beat reporters obviously are well placed to analyze issues and spot falsehoods, and that’s an essential part of their jobs. But, especially in a political season, it is difficult to analyze every claim and counterclaim while also writing day-to-day stories about the news. Fact checkers, by contrast, can dig deeply into an issue or even a single statement. We can help explain, at length, how a politician justifies his or her assertion and whether there is much of a factual basis for it.
In other words, the information we provide adds to the rich menu of choices that readers of The Washington Post find when they come to our Web site, in addition to sustained political coverage, beat reporting and various blogs. Sometimes you may choke on the meal we serve, but each day the food (for thought) will be different.
Here's a short list of the quotes that Glenn Kessler from the Washington Post found most untrue this year:
- ‘Obama apologized for America’-Mitt Romney
- ‘I passed the biggest middle-class tax cut in history’-Barack Obama
- ‘Rape in Flint tripled after the police force was cut’-Joe Biden
- ‘Rape in Flint tripled after the police force was cut’-various Republicans and talk radio personalities
- ‘House Republicans will deprive 6 million seniors of their meals’-Nancy Pelosi
- ‘Margaret Sanger built 75 percent of her clinics in black communities’-Herman Cain
- ‘I haven’t said anything inaccurate in any of the debates’-Michele Bachmann
- ‘The GOP voted to kill Medicare’-Various Democrats
It's hard to pic just one out of that list as the "worst of the year." As always, Washington, inside the beltway, is a target rich environment when looking for deceitful an dishonest statements.