Washington Post "Fact Checker" Glenn Kessler did three CNN interviews and an MSNBC interview celebrating his latest finding that President Trump has reached the perpetually perfidious plateau of 10,000 "false or misleading claims." On Monday's New Day, anchor John Berman helpfully set up Kessler to explain all his findings. The part about Russia is the most interesting (and the most obsessive CNN concern).
JOHN BERMAN: There's a lot of Pinocchios running around without pants, the bottomless Pinocchios, as I like to say. The publishing of the Mueller report, or the release of the Mueller report has opened up a whole new phase as well, correct?
GLENN KESSLER: Yes, because what he keeps saying is that the Mueller report found no obstruction. That's not true. The Mueller report outlined five to ten instances that could be grounds for obstruction. But it said to the president is a sitting president is not indicted for obstruction. So it -- Mueller left it to Congress. But to run around and say he had total exoneration, which he likes to say, is not correct.
BERMAN: Yes, every time he speaks about the Mueller report, you can almost see the meter, your meter, going up. He can't help but talk about it without saying things that aren't true.
If you navigate Kessler's charts of Most Repeated Claims, you'll notice a change since the last time we exchanged information. This was the "No collusion" chart a few weeks ago:
This is the new "No collusion" chart that's up now:
When I asked Kessler via email today if this was fully transparent, he replied:
Your email prompted me to go back and review how me had been categorizing those claims. As I wrote to you: “Yes, that’s a fair point. It started as a way to indicate a repeated claim related to the Russia investigation. But now I think it adds confusion, especially in light of the Barr letter. I am examining whether to recode some of the material for the next update.”
So I went back and looked at all 225 and broke it up into more defined categories. For instance, saying that the Democrats colluded became its own category. (72 times) Saying he was totally exonerated became its own category, and quickly grew (30 times). Saying the collision allegation was just a Democratic excuse for losing (21 times). And so forth. Those changes ended up shrinking the broader category that the investigation was a hoax, etc. to 122. (The numbers are going to add up to more than 225 because obviously more things have been added.)
I am appreciative of your original inquiry, since it forced me to go back and realize we had not been as precise with this category as possible. We are always looking for ways to improve the database with each update.
Berman wasn't going to ask Kessler anything challenging about the way his team collects this material, and why Democrats (the Clintons in particular) have never drawn this kind of obsession. Berman signed off with "Glenn Kessler, thank you for counting. We'll let you get back to work." Hours later, CNN anchor (and former Obama official) Jim Sciutto concluded "Glenn Kessler, keep on top of it. It's great work and it's an important work at this time."
One of the problems with this kind of count is the way Trump haters quickly say "10,000 lies" instead of the milder "false or misleading statements" line. "Facts First" types messed up.
-- Sciutto began his interview by claiming "The Washington Post says President Trump's lie count since entering office has now hit five digits." Kessler then said "We are pretty reluctant to use the word 'lie,'" which is hilarious since they use cartoon Pinocchios, which apparently doesn't symbolize lying.
-- MSNBC's Stephanie Ruhle said on Monday morning "The Washington Post fact checkers today say he's crossed this threshold of 10,000 lies."
-- CNN's Alisyn Camerota cited "10,000 untruths" on New Day on Tuesday.
This also happened on Twitter with CNN and other blue-check accounts:
It even happened with The Washington Post Editorial Board! (Embarrassing.)
News sites got it wrong.
Late-night comedians just enjoyed the exaggeration.
Anti-Trump authors just sounded bitter.