WashPost Fact Checkers: GOP 'Head-Scratchers' or 'Downright Wrong,' But Obama? 'Depends'

The Washington Post “fact checkers” rarely appear in the paper (mostly on Sundays), so it’s unusual that Glenn Kessler's column appeared in print after the State of the Union on Wednesday and and after the GOP debate on Friday. 

Apparently, the Republicans were worse fact-manglers than Obama. The headline Wednesday was “Some claims depend on how you tilt the numbers.”

The headline Friday is “Debaters put forth some claims that are head-scratchers or downright wrong.” 

The headline writers may be adding zest today instead of the fact checkers, but the contrast is obvious. Obama’s fact-checking article was 757 words, and the Republicans took 1,108.     

Now when Obama cherry-picks his own administration’s record for political effect, does that merely “depend on how you tilt the numbers”? Or is it misleading? This was an Obama fact-mangling, as Kessler described it: 

 "Manufacturing has created nearly 900,000 new jobs in the past six years."

The low point for manufacturing jobs was reached in February 2010, and there has been a gain of 878,000 jobs since then. But Bureau of Labor Statistics data show that the number of manufacturing jobs is still 230,000 fewer than when Obama took office in the depths of the recession -- and 1.4 million fewer than when the recession began in December 2007. Indeed, the United States gained only 30,000 manufacturing jobs in all of 2015.

Kessler weirdly led on Friday with Marco Rubio’s claim that Hillary Clnton lied to the families of the Benghazi victims. It’s somehow a “head-scratcher” because the family members tell differing stories about whether she blamed a video. Some said she did, some said she didn’t. There’s no doubt, however, that Hillary blamed a video for days, including as the caskets landed at Andrews Air Force Base, when she told her family it was a terrorist attack. 

In the “downright wrong” category appeared to be Chris Christie claiming he didn’t support Sonia Sotomayor for the Supreme Court (even if he claimed “she wouldn’t have been my first choice”) and Donald Trump claiming “very few” Syrian refugees were women or children. 

Kessler concluded with two claims that were semantic disputes in the undercard debate. When Carly Fiorina said  "We have record numbers of men out of work,” Kessler wrote “This statement is a bizarre claim, apparently touted by right-leaning websites.” If she had said “record numbers of men out of the labor force,” he wouldn’t find it bizarre. He’s complaining that she’s counting retired men (and discouraged men) as “out of work.” 

Mike Huckabee “checks out,” but he doesn’t quite agree with the Southern Poverty Law Center on hate crime, as if they were the definitive keepers of “hate” facts: 

 "The hate crimes in this country - over 5,500 - about 1,100 were religious hate crimes. And of those, 58 percent were directed toward Jews. Only 16 were toward Muslims." -- Mike Huckabee

The former Arkansas governor's reference to the FBI's Uniform Crime Report hate-crime figures checks out. But there are some caveats to note.

The 2014 Uniform Crime Report's hate-crimes data show that of the 6,727 hate-crime incidents, 1,140 were anti-religious hate crimes. Of those 1,140, 56.8 percent were crimes motivated by anti-Jewish bias, and 16.1 percent involved anti-Muslim bias.

Crime statistics in the Uniform Crime Report are vastly underreported, because they only capture voluntary reporting from a fraction of police jurisdictions in the country.

The Southern Poverty Law Center reports that the real number of hate crimes could be 25 to 40 percent higher than FBI totals, which "means the real 2014 total of anti-Muslim hate crimes could be as many as 6,000 or more."

Kessler worried about Fiorina’s dependence on “right-leaning websites,” but can’t locate SPLC anywhere on the Left, despite its controversial classification of Christian-right organizations as "hate groups." How does the "Fact Checker" column suggest that it may be a "fact" that a leftist group imagines there might be 6,000 annual Islamophobic "hate crimes" that aren't yet documented? 

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis