Fact-Checking is an Important Task – I Only Wish that Journalists Would Actually Do It

I believe in objective facts. I believe that there are questions of fact which are known. And, when someone says something, I think it is a 100% legitimate role of the news media to check the facts. I don’t believe that the media should necessarily present candidates with a totally even tone if they are, in fact, not equal. However, if only the media did that. The media believes itself to be doing that. But, unfortunately, they are totally unfamiliar with reason and facts, and can’t actually be trusted to them.

There is a role for opinion journalism, but it needs to be marked as such. Opinion journalism masquerading as an impartial fact-checking maligns the whole industry and profession, especially when done by a major network. The reason I generally prefer blogs to news outlets is because blogs don’t hide who they are or where they are coming from. They don’t pretend to be unbiased reporters and verifiers of fact. And, because they know *you* will be checking them, they actually oftentimes take *more* time to verify their claims.

Note that I am not a Trump supporter. I am not voting for anyone in this election. But the “fact-checking” is ridiculous. I should also note that some of these *would* be workable as a “clarification”. When people are speaking extemporaneously, they speak in more general terms than for written statements. So, I will also mark when it should be a clarification, not a fact-check.

Here is NBC’s fact-checking of the debate. It is truly tragic. Here are the points (though in a different order) (the links to NBC’s full-commentary for each point is in the link just referenced):

Trump said Clinton “acid washed” her private email server. She didn’t. She used an app called Bleachbit, not a corrosive chemical.

This is the “fact-check” that made me write this post. This is a truly ridiculous “fact-check”, and brings the whole idea of fact-checking into question. How does NBC keep promoting this as a fact-check? Obviously this is what he was talking about. He was trying to explain, in normal, human terms, what she did. As a computer programmer, I can verify that “Bleachbit” is the technical equivalent of an acid wash.

Trump said he was against the Iraq invasion. He wasn’t.

This annoys me TO NO END. The only public facts available are from 6 months before the war started. He was ambivalently for the war 6 months before it started. The next known public statement was after the war started 6 months later. Trump did not say that he was publicly against the war, he just said he was against the war. How on earth does NBC know what went through his mind for 6 months? What he talked about with his friends for 6 months? NBC simply *chooses* to fill in their gap in knowledge with an assertion that Trump was against the war. This is outright ridiculous! Does this mean that anytime a private citizen doesn’t make a public record of their beliefs, the media has full authority to just make up what they think you are believing at that time?

Trump said he didn’t urge people to “check out a sex tape” about former Miss Universe Alicia Machado. He did.

Here is the tweet:

Did Crooked Hillary help disgusting (check out sex tape and past) Alicia M become a U.S. citizen so she could use her in the debate?

Here’s what Trump said in the debate.

“It wasn’t ‘check out a sex tape’ it was just take a look at the person that she’s built up to be this Girl Scout who is no Girl Scout,” Trump said Sunday of former Miss Universe Alicia Machado.

True, he used the words “check out”, but it is clear in the context what he meant was “I use as a reference”. He did not actually encourage people to check out a sex tape, which was his claim. The claim that he was encouraging people to watch a sex tape is simply false, at least for people who know how talking works.

Trump said Clinton wants a single payer healthcare. She doesn’t.

As The Hill notes, this has actually historically been a position of hers. Since Trump was referring to what Hillary really wants (rather than what she is campaigning on), this information is pertinent. A better fact check would be to say “she used to, but she doesn’t anymore.” Of course, this would give too much credence to Trump’s claims, so they just say, “she doesn’t”.

Trump said his 2005 recording didn’t describe sexual assault. It did.

It is actually fairly unclear what the recording referred to, or what NBC means by “sexual assault”. If NBC is classifying every attempted kiss by a man without prior permission as sexual assault, then I think they need to explain that to the country. If someone is on a date, and they attempt a kiss, is that really sexual assault? The Trump quote contained very little context, and does appear to be just joking around with guys. If you look at what he actually did when the beautiful female arrived, he only hugged with permission. I have to say, I was much more offended by this comment when it was printed than when I actually watched the video. Is it proper Christian behavior? No. But since when is that the standard that the media judges on?

Trump said health care costs are going up by 68 percent, 59 percent, 71 percent. The national estimate ranges are far lower.

The link NBC has for this is messed up. While I would discourage anyone “fact-checking” the future, if there are reliable estimates and Trump is directly wrong, then they should say so. However, to actually make the claim, they should ask the Trump campaign for the source of their numbers. If it is just a debate of multiple sources, then it isn’t a valid fact-check. If they had better numbers, they should issue a clarification with the specific numbers. Since they didn’t, my guess is that they just don’t agree, not that they have any real information.

Trump said the San Bernardino shooters’ neighbors saw bombs in their apartment. They didn’t.

Just saying, “They didn’t” doesn’t tell the whole story. It is true that they didn’t see bombs. Trump’s point at this point was that people should report suspicious things, and that they aren’t because people aren’t because of the social barriers against it. This is actually corroborated by news reports. Neighbors of the San Bernadino shooters did note suspicious activity, and (which is relevant to Trump’s point), chose not to report it because they didn’t want to be branded as “profilers”. So, on the details Trump is wrong, but on the overall story he is actually correct.

Trump said the nation can’t screen those refugees. That’s false.

Actually, this is a matter of opinion, not fact. Even the factcheck says so:

the refugees are already screened, although like any security program, there are no guarantees

That’s precisely Trump’s point – there are no guarantees, and this is a country that has a lot of bad people.

Trump said Clinton doesn’t know Russia hacked the DNC. U.S. intelligence has said they very likely did.

This is not a fact-check. “very likely” is not the same thing as “know”. Someone should learn the rules of logic. Of course, logic is not taught in today’s schools.

Trump said Clinton’s campaign started the “birther” movement. She didn’t.

The fact-check link is about whether Clinton *herself* started the birther movement. But the *claim* *in the debate* is about whether Clinton’s *campaign* started the birther movement. It, as a matter of fact, did. And, you can’t really blame Trump (or anyone else) for believing the birther story, since it was once fronted by Obama’s own publisher before he was famous. I am not a birther, but there is certainly enough evidence available that makes this a legitimate area for questioning. Also, the “Fact check” fails to note the role of Sidney Blumenthal in all of this.

Trump said Clinton got a man accused of raping a 12-year-old girl “off” his charges. She didn’t.

Actually, she got it reduced to a 1-year sentence. Going from a multiple rape charge to a lesser plea of “fondling” certainly is “getting them off”. Perhaps this could be a clarification, but Trump is correct. Now, I don’t think Hillary did anything wrong here – that was her job as a public defender. There were aspects of it that may have been improper (some claim that Hillary impugned the character of the accuser – if this was done improperly [i.e., it was a made-up character problem], it would be well beyond the requirements for a court-appointed laywer).

Trump said Clinton laughed at a child rape victim. She didn’t.

Once upon a time I listened to the tapes. I can’t say for certain, but if I remember correctly, there may have been some inappropriate laughing, but she never laughed at the rape victim. Here NBC scores correctly. This is a statement of fact about Clinton that is untrue.

Trump said Clinton “viciously attacked” four women. This is largely unsubstantiated.

Since Trump emphasized the word “viciously”, I will concur with NBC here. It is possible that Trump has some inside knowledge about attacks coordinated by Hillary, and, if he does, he should present it. Failing that, she did impugn the reputation of several of them, but I wouldn’t classify it as vicious.

Clinton wants 550 percent more Syrian refugees, Trump said. He’s right.

I’m impressed – they gave one to him.

Trump said he doesn’t know Putin. That’s not what he said before 2015.

This is actually a valid fact-check. Amazing!

Clinton said she wasn’t Secretary of State when Obama proclaimed the use of chemical weapons by Syria was a red line. She was.

Another good fact-check.

As you can see, most of the “fact-checking” is actually just “hit pieces on Trump”. The fact that the media stoops to calling their alternate reality a fact-check shows how horrible the media really is. My suggestion – don’t believe *anything* the media tells you, especially if it is in the form of a fact-check. Chances are, they are just making up facts for themselves.

I may need to make a new category for “media secession”.

Comments are closed.