Media Fact-Checking Failures

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Fact-checking

The past couple of weeks have been especially bad for media fact-checking. Two incidents really stand out as the ostensibly unbiased, objective national media have gone all-in on their war on President Donald Trump, their own credibility be damned.

Media Not  Interested in Fact-Checking Sen. Tammy Duckworth

Two Sundays ago, Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) appeared on CNN’s “State of the Union,” and, like much of the media, lied about President Trump’s July 3 Speech at Mount Rushmore.

The Illinois Democrat told CNN’s “State of the Union” that the president’s Friday speech in South Dakota “spent more time worried about honoring dead Confederates” than discussing the number of Americans who died from COVID-19.

“I mean his priorities are all wrong here,” she said. “He should be talking about what we’re gonna do to overcome this pandemic. What are we going to do to push Russia back?”

“Instead, he had no time for that,” she added. “He spent all his time talking about dead traitors.”

You can read a transcript of Trump’s speech here. There is nary a mention of a single “dead Confederate” anywhere in the speech.

Duckworth might be forgiven for depending on mainstream media reporting, which National Review’s Rich Lowry rightly called one of the press’ “most unhinged and dishonest performances of [Trump’s] presidency.”

However, that’s really no excuse for the media’s cadre of “fact-checkers.” After all, this is an easy one. Question: Did Trump spend “all his time talking about dead traitors?” Fact-checkers can even be very generous with this analysis. Change the question from “all” to “any.” Did Trump spend any time during his Mount Rushmore speech talking about “dead traitors?”

A look at the transcript is a big, obvious “no.” You could hit Duckworth with a “false.” Maybe a “pants on fire.” Or a fistful of pinocchios.

After all, it was this appearance, and its controversial aftermath with Fox News’ Tucker Carlson taking aim at Duckworth for her failure to defend statues of America’s founders, that has propelled Duckworth’s name into the discussion for Joe Biden’s VP slot.

But the fact-checkers aren’t the least bit interested in a potential Democratic presidential candidate when they’ve got books to hawk. There’s nothing at the Washington Post. Politifact isn’t interested either. Factcheck.org? Nada. Snopes? Nopes.

News reporting isn’t honest either

Set the fact-checkers aside for a moment. Regular journalists reporting and/or analysis of Duckworth’s TV appearance repeats her false claim about Trump defending dead Confederates with nary a hint of skepticism.

Here’s Matthew Stokes at the anti-Trump The Bulwark:

Duckworth caught, and is continuing to catch, criticism for the interview. Provocateurs on the right have accused her of wanting to cancel George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, although a fair viewing of the interview shows no such thing. Duckworth clearly wandered into the politically correct trap that Trump laid for his opponents when she said on the Washington question that we should “listen to everybody” before going on to note that Trump’s Mount Rushmore speech was given on land stolen from Native Americans and to criticize the president for defending Confederates that she called “dead traitors.”

From New York magazine’s Adam K. Raymond:

Carlson’s attacks on Duckworth stem from the answer she gave to a question over the weekend about the possibility of taking down statues of George Washington. “Well, let me just say that we should start off by having a national dialogue on it,” she said. She also criticized President Trump’s July 3 speech at Mount Rushmore for “honoring dead Confederates” — or “dead traitors,” as she also called them.

After spending quite a bit of time on Google news searches, I failed to find any non-conservative news outlet report that included Duckworth’s “dead traitors” comment and also pointed out that the claim was false.

‘Fact-checking’ President Trump

If the media’s malfeasance with reporting Trump’s Mount Rushmore speech and the resulting controversy wasn’t bad enough, just yesterday we got another top flight example of the media’s complete abdication of anything resembling journalism and embrace of opposition research.

Let’s set aside the failure of Reuters to do basic…journalism…and actually determine if it’s true or not. Instead, aside from oftentimes obnoxious CNN chyrons, how often does the media even attach this sort of snark to anyone not named Trump?

The pile-on by the usual media suspects was immediate.

So, Trump’s statement was false?

Nope.

Here’s the kicker: Trump’s claim is absolutely true. Here’s a U.S. News & World Report graphic via our friends at PolitifactBias.

Fact Checking

You can find similar numbers from a wide variety of sources. Trump’s statement is literally true.

What Jake Tapper, Glenn Kessler and the rest of the usual suspects were highlighting are the per capita numbers. Based on their percentage of the population, blacks are killed by police at a disproportionate rate, but even at that rate, more whites are killed by police because there are more whites total.

How hard is it for a journalist or fact-checker to simply point out that what Trump said was literally true, but it is not the best method for discussing the issue.

Liberals understand this difference between raw numbers and per capita. In fact, they often tout the same absolute numbers rather than per capita when it benefits their political position, like when discussing who receives welfare benefits.

President Donald Trump was apparently unaware that not all—in fact, the vast majority—of welfare beneficiaries are not black as recently as last March, according to a new report.

In the spring of 2017, the newly elected president met with members of the Congressional Black Caucus. During that meeting, one of the members mentioned to Trump that welfare reform would be detrimental to her constituents— adding, “Not all of whom are black,” according to NBC News.

The president was incredulous. “Really? Then what are they?”

Statistically speaking, they were probably white.

There really is no excuse for these so-called truth-seeking journalists not to explain what’s going on here. They have let their own hatred of Trump overtake every principle they used to claim to hold dear. The mainstream media complains about why they aren’t trusted and why people don’t listen to them anymore. This is why. These are self-inflicted wounds.

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