'Facts First' CNN Wonders If Anyone Really Cares About Biden Mangling Facts

Listen to the Article!

Is this an apple, or a banana? The usual self-confident and self-appointed defenders of truth at CNN aren't sure because the controversy at hand is not one that involves President Trump, but rather former Vice President Joe Biden and a story Biden has been telling about the war in Afghanistan.

On Friday, CNN At This Hour guest host Fredricka Whitfield led off with the Washington Post article that reported "that 'in the space of three minutes Biden got the time period, the location, the heroic act, the type of medal, and the military branch, and the rank of the recipient wrong, as well as his own role in the ceremony.'" 

But first, Whitfield offered the obligatory mention of the Post "Fact Checker" numbers. "The Washington Post's ongoing count of false and misleading statements from President Trump currently stands at over 12,000. So what happens when political opponents in the race for the White House make false or misleading statements?Well, this morning, the spotlight is on a story Joe Biden is telling on the campaign trail."

Even the chyron said "Biden's moving but false war story under scrutiny while running against Pres. Trump who has told 12,000+ lies." That would be...a misquote. The Washington Post always says "false or misleading statements," but they probably don't mind the exaggeration. 

Whitfield then brought on Washington Post reporter Matt Viser onto discuss his article on Biden, and Trump, and how the voters will react.

After Viser mentioned that here is a story involving Biden and an Army sergeant named Chad Workman that is true, Whitfield decided that after years of CNN making harsh judgments about Trump mangling facts, that now it's entirely up to voters, not reporters: "So voters are going to have to decide whether, you know, misremembering is something very egregious or if it's something more, is it trying to win or steal attention with the intention of not getting the facts straight."

 

 

 

 

Viser agreed, "do those details matter to people or not? And I don't know. As you point out in the lead-in, President Trump has had 12,000 lies and misstatements as our fact checker has tallied. So do those have the gravity that they have in the past, given the current dynamics? I don't know the answer to that." Whitfield then recalled Hillary Clinton's Bosnian sniper fire tale as another politician with an inaccurate war story, but eventually brought it back around to Trump, "President Trump, who regularly lies, distorts, as the Washington Post is pointing out, 12,000 false or misleading statements, is this now latest war story example, you know, from Biden, his response to it today, will it be measured differently because we're now in the age of Donald Trump?"

To wrap up the segment, Whitfield asked, "can [Biden] criticize the president, the sitting president for mistruths if he's being challenged himself about not quite getting all the details right?" Viser concluded by saying that at least, unlike Trump, Biden is capable of feeling shame over such things, a sentiment shared earlier on Friday on New Day.

Perhaps one reason why Trump has over 12,000 lies and misstatements attributed to him is because of a double standard that this story illustrates. When Biden tells a misleading story, the media decline to unequivocally condemn him, when Trump engages in obvious hyperbole to say that 1,000 hamburgers would reach a mile high, WaPo's fact checkers are on the case. Even humor gets a "fact check."

Here is a transcript from the August 30 show:

CNN

At This Hour with Kate Bolduan

11:47 AM ET

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD: So, The Post reports that, I'm quoting now, “in the space of three minutes Biden got the time period, the location, the heroic act, the type of medal, and the military branch, and the rank of the recipient wrong, as well as his own role in the ceremony. So, joining me right now is one of the reporters that broke the story, Matt Viser. Matt, good to see you. So your colleague at the "Washington Post," Jonathan Capehart asked Biden about your reporting and I want to get your reaction to Biden's response. Listen. 

BEGIN AUDIO CLIP

JOE BIDEN: I was making the point how courageous these people are, how incredible they are. This generation of warriors. These fallen angels we've lost. And so I don't know what the problem is. I mean, what is it that I said wrong? 

END AUDIO CLIP

WHITFIELD: All right. So what are your thoughts? I mean, you already -- you already spelled out in the newspaper that he got a lot of details wrong about it. But his response is, you know, I was paying homage to these fallen heroes and what's the matter with that? 

MATT VISER: So there is a true story that Vice President Biden does have and it's Sergeant Chad Workman and he is the one who did have an encounter with Joe Biden that he says during that emotional climax at the tail end of his story from Friday night. That's not the story that the vice president has been highlighting, though. The story that he was telling the other night involved a different province in Afghanistan at a different time period. It's a different medal and a different branch of the military. So he seems to be talking about a different event in that instance, not the one of Chad Workman, which we should say is true. We've tracked down that army sergeant and spoken with him and he does confirm that that did happen. 

WHITFIELD: Is he troubled at all that Biden may have a few things misconstrued or confused? 

VISER: He didn't. We mostly wanted to confirm that that story did occur and he says, yes, it did, and that he had a connection and he thought that the vice president understood his emotional moment of not wanting a medal when a fellow service member had died. 

WHITFIELD: So voters are going to have to decide whether, you know, misremembering is something very egregious or if it's something more, is it trying to win or steal attention with the intention of not getting the facts straight. 

VISER: Yeah, and do these details matter to people? Does it matter -- I mean the vice president is talking about a ravine when it's a Humvee. He's talking about a silver star when it's a bronze medal. You know, do those details matter to people or not? And I don't know. As you point out in the lead-in, President Trump has had 12,000 lies and misstatements as our fact checker has tallied. So do those have the gravity that they have in the past, given the current dynamics? I don't know the answer to that. 

WHITFIELD: And immediately what came to mind when I heard this story was this has happened before. It's not the first time a presidential candidate has gotten a war story, war-related story kind of wrong. Remember, Hillary Clinton gave a speech during the 2008 campaign where she said whereas first lady she landed in Bosnia under sniper fire. "The Washington Post" debunked that story as did other outlets in 2008. But when you have now a president, President Trump, who regularly lies, distorts, as "The Washington Post" is pointing out, 12,000 false or misleading statements, is this now latest war story example, you know, from Biden, his response to it today, will it be measured differently because we're now in the age of Donald Trump? 

VISER: And that's a possibility. I mean I think that the challenge and the Biden campaign would point that out. That compared to President Trump, his misstatements don't compare. The challenge for Biden and his campaign is he's facing other democratic primary challengers who have not had as many sort of these misstatements and these verbal gaffes and sort of telling stories that don't quite add up. So I think the challenge for him is do Democratic primary voters hold this against him or not. We don't -- we don't sort of know the answers to that. Voters tend to be forgiving about the vice president at the moment. 

WHITFIELD: And quickly, a challenge for Biden, can he criticize the president, the sitting president for mistruths if he's being challenged himself about not quite getting all the details right. 

VISER: Yeah. And President Trump seems to have no shame about criticizing somebody else, even though he's lied about something. So I think Vice President Biden tends to sort of have a little shame in that process. 

WHITFIELD: All right. Matt Viser, thanks so much. Good to see you.

NB Daily Campaigns & Elections 2020 Presidential Afghanistan CNN Major Newspapers Washington Post Video Matt Viser Fredricka Whitfield Donald Trump Joe Biden
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