Eleven AP Reporters Turn Up Little in Palin 'Fact Check'

November 15th, 2009 3:39 PM
The Associated Press recently assigned eleven of its writers to fact-check Sarah Palin's new book "Going Rogue." AP's team of truth-seekers only found six errors the former Alaska Governor's book, most of which were trivial and presumably not worth the time of a team of reporters.

"AP writers Matt Apuzzo, Sharon Theimer, Tom Raum, Rita Beamish, Beth Fouhy, H. Josef Hebert, Justin D. Pritchard, Garance Burke, Dan Joling and Lewis Shaine contributed to this report", reads the sign-off of Calvin Woodward's fact-check. Even with this impressively large crew, the AP seemed to stretch to find objectionable statements in "Going Rogue".

Here's a fact-check that supposedly required a squad of reporters to unearth:
PALIN: Says she made frugality a point when traveling on state business as Alaska governor, asking "only" for reasonably priced rooms and not "often" going for the "high-end, robe-and-slippers" hotels.

THE FACTS: Although she usually opted for less-pricey hotels while governor, Palin and daughter Bristol stayed five days and four nights at the $707.29-per-night Essex House luxury hotel (robes and slippers come standard) for a five-hour women's leadership conference in New York in October 2007. With air fare, the cost to Alaska was well over $3,000.
Mark Steyn notes the absurdity of this statement.
That looks like AP paid 1.8333333 fact-checkers to agree with Mrs Palin: She says she didn't "often" go for "high-end" hotels; they say she "usually opted for less-pricey hotels". That's gonna make one must-see edition of "Point/Counterpoint".

Or is AP arguing "four nights" counts as "often"? Is that the point? AP assigned 11 reporters to demonstrate that four is a large number?
The AP also fact-checks something as intangible as Palin's motivations for writing the book.
PALIN: "Was it ambition? I didn't think so. Ambition drives; purpose beckons." Throughout the book, Palin cites altruistic reasons for running for office, and for leaving early as Alaska governor.

THE FACTS: Few politicians own up to wanting high office for the power and prestige of it, and in this respect, Palin fits the conventional mold. But "Going Rogue" has all the characteristics of a pre-campaign manifesto, the requisite autobiography of the future candidate.
The AP does unearth a couple interesting--but hardly damning--inconsistencies in Palin's work, such as her criticism of her predecessor in Anchorage for staffing former lobbyists. She did in fact employ her own. But it hardly seems like an efficient use of the AP's resources to task 11 writers with uncovering this truth.

"It appears to be a tribute to the factual accuracy of Palin's book that eleven hostile AP reporters can't come up with anything better than this," writes John Hinderaker at PowerLine.

The AP tried very hard to find things to fact-check in "Going Rogue". 1.83 reporters per mistake is quite an operation for little substantive news gathering. That the story included quips that didn't seem to contradict what she said in the book, or speculated about her emotional and intellectual background, demonstrates the lengths to which the AP will go to criticize Palin and her work.