Those who read this site regularly (when I actually do post) will note that my disdain for self-proclaimed media “fact checkers” runs wide and deep—with good reason.
Fact Checking Frauds
Last week the Washington Post “fact checker” Michelle Ye Hee Lee decided to exercise her liberal hack muscles and look into GOP presidential candidate Carly Fiorina’s claim that she started her professional career as a secretary before eventually becoming the CEO of Hewlett-Packard.
Let’s start with the facts. Nowhere in the Post piece, nor anywhere else in recorded history, is doubt cast upon the fact that Fiorina worked as a secretary after graduating college, nor is their any doubt she was CEO of Hewlett-Packard.
Despite this, the Post awarded her three Pinocchios (out of four possible) based upon this “analysis:”
Fiorina’s description of rising “from secretary to CEO” conjures a Horatio Alger-like narrative where a character starts at the lowest ranks of an industry, pulls themselves up by their bootstraps and, against all odds, reaches the top position in the industry.
When Fiorina uses this phrase, she often pairs it with saying she came from a “modest and middle class family,” or “challenging the status quo,” which frames her story as an unlikely upstart. She also pitches it as an uniquely American experience.
But the description glosses over important details. Her father was dean of Duke Law School when she was at Stanford, meaning Duke would have paid for most of her college tuition. She graduated from Stanford, and her elite degree played a role in the stories of her at Marcus & Millichap (she was the “Stanford student”) and her convincing the business school dean to accept her into the MBA program (“So, can a liberal arts student from Stanford compete with the analytical jocks you have around here?”).
She worked briefly as a secretary in between law school and business school, but she always intended to attend graduate school for her career. She moved up through AT&T with her MBA, and was placed on a fast track to senior management after her company sponsored her to attend one of the most elite mid-career fellowships in the world. Her role as senior executive at Lucent caught the attention of HP recruiters, to become the company’s chief executive.
Fiorina uses a familiar, “mailroom to boardroom” trope of upward mobility that the public is familiar with, yet her story is nothing like that. In telling her only-in-America story, she conveniently glosses over the only-for-Fiorina opportunities and options beyond what the proverbial mailroom worker has. As such, she earns Three Pinocchios.
So, this “fact-check” isn’t a fact check at all. It’s a lame hit piece designed to point out facts that Fiorina has never hidden, shaded or lied about, in an attempt to tar her as a liar.
The reporter apparently believes that Fiorina’s success was preordained because she came from a relatively well-to-do family. Hard work had nothing to do with it because she went to Stanford and her dad was a law school dean.
A number of critics have slammed the Post for this lame article, including John Sexton at Breitbart and Fox News’ Howard Kurtz gave the piece four Pinocchios. (You can also hear Fiorina herself slam the article here on the Hugh Hewitt Show.)
Frankly, I’m surprised the numbers are that high.