Pay close attention to Joe Biden's words tonight. During an appearance on this morning's "Morning Joe" Bill Adair, Washington bureau chief for the St. Petersburg Times and editor of politifact.com, implied that Barack Obama's running mate is not always truthful. Adair told hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski that "from a fact-checker's standpoint, we should be grateful to Joe Biden" because he is "full employment for fact checkers."
Brzezinski asked Adair about "the most outrageous statement" by Biden and Adair pointed to Biden's soundbite in which he says John McCain votes with George W. Bush 95 percent of the time. He discredited it, along with a charge from Hillary Clinton's speech last night about John McCain desire to privatize social security, "I thought, well, in terms of Biden, the 95% is just something where you've got to understand that that's sort of the worse case scenario. He's cherry picking. 95% was last year. Last night one of the things that Senator Clinton said that we'll hear a lot is John McCain wants to privatize social security. We heard it from several of the other speakers last night. You know, that's a real exaggeration. McCain is actually really vague and fuzzy on social security."
Biden's "95 percent of the time" charge may be the "worst-case scenario" but the fact remains that people should pay close attention to what Biden says tonight.
Full transcript below:
JOE SCARBOROUGH: This guy is the nitpicker of all nitpickers. He is the Washington bureau chief for the St. Petersburg Times and also he's the editor of politifact.Com. Bill Adair. What's going on with the Rays? When are the Ray's going to start losing?
BILL ADAIR, St. Petersburg Times: Well it's been interesting that we definitely saw, before Hillary last night, we saw a change in the rhetoric that they are really beginning now to set the narrative about McCain. So we spend a lot of time on politifact fact-checking what was going on last night. We're beginning to really see some of the same claims come up again. Did you hear the one, we've heard it a lot, McCain votes with Bush 95% of the time. And we've heard that from Obama. We've heard it from most recently from Biden. And on our truth-o-meter, we've been pretty harsh on them about that, particularly Biden who said it on Saturday because you hear that and you think wow, McCain's in the tank for Bush.
SCARBOROUGH: By the way, can I just say you should not apply the truth-o-meter to Joe Biden. Because I think we all agree here we love the guy, whether what he's saying is the truth or not, if it's exaggerated, we really don't care. Seriously. He's Joe.
MIKE BARNICLE: We're hopelessly biased.
SCARBOROUGH: You know how the markets already, they sort of, if a hurricane is coming, three days before, they figure that in. We know he's going to exaggerate, so just don't waste your time.
ADAIR: Maybe we should have a special sort of calibrated truth-o-meter for Biden.
SCARBOROUGH: I think you need to calibrate because we love him and we really don't care whether what he's saying is the truth or not. He says it anyway.
BRZEZINSKI: What was the most outrageous thing he said?
ADAIR: I thought, well, in terms of Biden, the 95 percent is just something where you've got to understand that that's sort of the worse case scenario. He's cherry picking. 95 percent was last year. Last night one of the things that Senator Clinton said that we'll hear a lot is John McCain wants to privatize social security. We heard it from several of the other speakers last night. You know, that's a real exaggeration. McCain is actually really vague and fuzzy on social security.
SCARBOROUGH: Let me ask you this question. When Bush was pushing his plan to privatize social security, did McCain support that? You need to go back and check up on that.
ADAIR: You stumped me. Yeah. And yes, he did. He did support it.
ADAIR: When you look at what he has said in his tax plan this time, he's not necessarily embracing the same kind of plan Bush that did in 2005.
SCARBOROUGH: Bill, the past is prologue, my man. The past is prologue.
ADAIR: Well, it's important to look at what these guys say. And that's what we try to do at politifact is to really look at their wording and rate whether it's true or not. And we're really beginning to see the exaggeration.
SCARBOROUGH: Help me out. Over the past couple weeks, the race has tightened up, but it's tightened up because Steve Schmidt and the McCain campaign have come out swinging hard, they've been focused, they've had a lot of attacks, the celeb-attacks, the Moses attack, one of the funniest commercials I've ever seen in my life.
BRZEZINSKI: It was pretty funny.
SCARBOROUGH: And they just keep going after him. I don't need specifics because, you know, in our business we really don't want to know politi-facts, just generally, has the tenor of the attacks coming from McCain campaign been fair? Have they been honest or are they cheap shots?
ADAIR: Well, and I would say not just the McCain campaign, the Obama campaign, too. We're giving a lot of barely true ratings on our truth-o-meter, and that's because they have a grain of truth but the overall point is a distortion. And we've seen a lot more of those over the summer. They used to count for about 12 percent of our ratings now they count for 22 percent.
SCARBOROUGH: So they get a lot more aggressive with the truth.
ADAIR: Absolutely. And the summer-
SCARBOROUGH: That's the way we like it.
ADAIR: -it's been much more aggressive much earlier. And it's -- you really need to be aware, these TV ads that will have a tiny bit of truth and the overall point is just not accurate.
SCARBOROUGH: We now pass it over to MSNBC Senior Statesman Mike Barnicle for a question. Mike.
BARNICLE: Well, can we get an agreement from you that from now to the election you'll stop running down Joe Biden?
BRZEZINSKI: Yeah, really. That's just one thing we have a problem with.
ADAIR: I saw an Obama senior aide the other day, and I told her, I said, you know, I've got to be honest. From a fact checkers standpoint we are grateful for Joe Biden.
BRZEZINSKI: Keeps you in business.
ADAIR: He does. He's full employment for fact checkers.