Thursday, September 6, 2012

CHECKING THE "FACT CHECKERS": AP Puts Out Worst "Fact Check" Ever, On Bill Clinton's Speech (WATCH) (Commentary)

(COMMENTARY - send an e-mail to the AP at

The Associated Press bruised and bloodied fact checkers everywhere with its effort last night on former President Bill Clinton's speech.  While legitimate fact checkers (, PolitiFact and the Washington Post)  produced good reports on the lengthy speech, the venerable AP tried to do its own, and ended up editorializing instead.

This disappointing AP piece could win that title solely on the basis of the last section - addressing the inapposite* Clinton-Lewinsky comment instead of (not in addition to) the Romney official's fact-checkers-be-damned statement.
Here is that section, in its entirety:
CLINTON: "Their campaign pollster said, 'We're not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact checkers.' Now that is true. I couldn't have said it better myself — I just hope you remember that every time you see the ad."
THE FACTS: Clinton, who famously finger-wagged a denial on national television about his sexual relationship with intern Monica Lewinsky and was subsequently impeached in the House on a perjury charge, has had his own uncomfortable moments over telling the truth. "I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky," Clinton told television viewers. Later, after he was forced to testify to a grand jury, Clinton said his statements were "legally accurate" but also allowed that he "misled people, including even my wife."

However, the rest of this "fact check" also comes off as an opinion piece that did not use "facts" - let alone citations to back up its opinions - to refute Clinton's comments. This is most glaring in the first section, where a comment about compromise is "checked" by a speculative, overly-broad commentary that both parties must have been equally responsible when "the grand deal" fell apart. ("The deal died before it ever even came up for a vote." Come on, did it not come up for a vote because House Speaker John Boehner was concerned that some Democrats criticized the President, or because the Boehner could not deliver his caucus?)
The AP piece and the accompanying video that it put out with one of the reporters repeating some of his piece have already received play here in Arizona (For example, the video is featured on the Star's website.)
This Fact Check not only gives the Associated Press a black eye, but it bruises all fact checkers' sharper eyes. With opinion efforts like this being widely-circulated as a "Fact Check" by the AP, it is no wonder that the Romney-Ryan campaign (expressly and especially) feels that it get away with disregarding Fact Checks.

* The famous Clinton "I did not have sexual relations with that woman" remark -made before fact checks and not repeated after widespread ridicule - may well have been an untruthful statement; howeve,r it is far from a campaign official saying that a presidential candidate and his campaign are going to willfully repeat erroneous remarks and ignore a consensus view of fact checkers.

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