CBS on Fact Checking Hillary: People Just Remember ‘the Big Ones’

The journalists at CBS This Morning on Friday featured the founder of PolitiFact to talk about all the lies coming from the Democratic and Republican presidential candidates. Yet, most of the segment, unsurprisingly, was spent on Donald Trump. When the conversation finally meandered to Hillary Clinton, it was to explain that she fabricates less and that voters only remember her “big” ones. 

Guest co-host Dana Jacobson began “Donald Trump isn’t the only person on the campaign trail having trouble with facts. Trump, Hillary Clinton and their running mates are keeping fact checkers busy.” Yet after brief clips of both candidates, Gayle King chose to focus on Trump and his claim that Barack Obama “founded” ISIS. 

King demanded, “Donald Trump says he was being sarcastic with his latest comment. Does that exempt him from the fact or fiction test?” 

After another question on Trump, guest co-host Jeff Glor lectured, “Is there some point to the notion that the checking system need to be refined at all when somebody says the sky is not blue? I mean, is there a need to fact check that?” 

Jacobson ended the segment by finally turning to Clinton. PolitiFact founder Bill Adair insisted that the Democrat lies an average amount, but that people just remember the “big” ones: 

BILL ADAIR: Her percentage of false and "pants on fire" ratings is about the same as American politicians. I think it's 13 percent. By contrast, Trump is at 55 percent. But I think what has happened with Secretary Clinton is that people remember the big ones. And so, the statement with Comey that you played earlier, you know, that was one where she repeated something she had said before that the checkers had said was false and people remember those big moments.

 In June, PolitiFact refrained from giving Clinton’s latest e-mail lie a “pants on fire” rating. 

A transcript is below: 

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CBS TM
8/12/16
8:03:16 to 8:08:27
5 minutes and 11 seconds 

DANA JACOBSON: Donald Trump isn’t the only person on the campaign trail having trouble with facts. Trump, Hillary Clinton and their running mates are keeping fact checkers busy. All of the comments you are about to hear are not true. 

DONALD TRUMP: Hillary Clinton wants to abolish, essentially abolish the Second Amendment. 

HILLARY CLINTON: We have the most dynamic, productive work force in the world. Bar none.  

MIKE PENCE: She actually said out loud, “We are going to raise taxes on the middle class.” 

TIM KAINE: The thing that has amazed me is the depth of his trash talking of Latinos. saying that all Mexicans are rapists and going after, you know, Latino immigrants. 

TRUMP: The Obama/Clinton war on coal has cost Michigan over 50,000 jobs. 

CLINTON: Director Comey said that my answers were truthful and what I said is consistent with what I told the American people, that there were decisions discussed and made to classify retroactively certain of the e-mails. 

GAYLE KING: Joining us now to separate fact from fiction this election season is PolitiFact’s founding editor. His name is Bill Adair. He’s also a Duke journalism professor and he joins us from good old Raleigh, North Carolina. Hello, good to see you, Bill Adair. 

BILL ADAIR: It is. Good morning, Gayle. 

KING: So you just heard the montage we put together of untruths. Before we get into specifics, how does this season compare to political seasons in terms of factually challenged statements, if you will? 

ADAIR: Well, it’s been crazy busy for us at PolitiFact. The magnitude of the claims, in particular the magnitude of the falsehoods, is really remarkable and I think it reflects how the media has changed and there is so many more ways that candidates can get their messages out without the filter of the news media and that allows them to say things that often aren't true. 

KING: Donald Trump says he was being sarcastic with his latest comment. Does that exempt him from the fact or fiction test? 

ADAIR: I'll tell you, we had originally rated his claim “pants on fire,” which is our lowest rating, the rating we use for falsehoods that are not just false, but ridiculously false. But, you know, it's really remarkable. Here is a talking point that he’s been used for several days now. He doubled down on it yesterday as you noted in the interview with Hugh Hewitt and now he claims he was sarcastic. It's just truly remarkable. I think we need a new rating on our truth-o-meter for this.  

JACOBSON: You're talking about the claim that he had that Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton under ISIS. Our John Dickerson says it's statements like that that Trump is sort of baiting these fact checkers like you to keep the conversation going. Is that what he is doing?

ADAIR: Well, I think it is remarkable that he wants to keep the conversation going, particularly when I can't any communications strategist would say it makes sense. I mean, he is getting fact checkers and other journalists to appoint out again that his statements are false, and it just makes no — it doesn’t make a lot of sense. Is he baiting fact checkers? You know, I think he likes baiting everybody. 

JEFF GLOR: But, Bill, I mean, is there some point to the notion that the checking system need to be refined at all when somebody says the sky is not blue? I mean, is there a need to fact check that? 

ADAIR: Well, we are selective in what we fact check at PolitiFact. We will fact check claims where people wonder and, “really, is that true? And I think with the claim that President Obama and Hillary Clinton founded ISIS, I think it’s legitimate, you know, people will hear that and wonder, “Really? What role did they play?” And that’s what we did at PolitiFact. And we found that ISIS was actually founded in 2004. So, four years before Barack Obama was elected. And those are the sorts of things we fact check. So, it’s not like we are social scientists. We are journalists and we are trying to satisfy our readers and viewers' curiosity. 

JACOBSON: Hillary Clinton is obviously not immune. A recent poll, 59 percent of people say that Hillary Clinton is dishonest. How does she stand up against the fact checking and that percentage as well? 

ADAIR: You know, it’s interesting. Her percentage of false and “pants on fire” ratings is about the same as other American politicians. I think it’s 13 percent. By contrast, Trump is at 55 percent. But I think what has happened with Secretary Clinton is that people remember the big ones. And so, the statement with Comey that you played earlier. You know, that was one where she repeated something she had said before that the checkers had said was false and people remember those big moments. 

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