WaPo's Kessler Exposes Biden's 'Absurd Claims About Rising Rape and Murder Rates'; Elsewhere, a Near Non-Story

October 21st, 2011 6:07 PM

In June, when yours truly last blogged on a Glenn Kessler piece (at NewsBusters; at BizzyBlog), the Washington Post's "Fact Checker" was calling Barack Obama's claims about the accomplishments of the auto-company bailouts "one of the most misleading collections of assertions we have seen in a short presidential speech." He gave Obama's claims three Pinocchios ("Significant factual error and/or obvious contradictions").

Today, Kessler went to four Pinocchios ("whoppers") on Vice President Joe Biden's claims about the prospects for a rise in rapes and murders if the $35 billion section of Obama's "American Jobs Act" devoted to "saving" public-sector jobs doesn't pass. NB's Noel Sheppard did a great job on the "macro" aspect of Biden's bogus claim this morning. Kessler's clean-up has to do with Biden's supposed exemplar, the city of Flint Michigan, where the Vice President claims that murders have doubled and rapes have tripled in the past year (bolds are mine):

Biden’s absurd claims about rising rape and murder rates

In the battle over the administration’s jobs bill, Vice President Biden this week has been making the startling case that more people will be murdered or raped if the legislation is not passed. His argument is that in cities such as Flint, Mich., the murder and rape rates have soared as the police force has been cut back for budgetary reasons.

When challenged by a reporter from a conservative publication about his charge (see video below), Biden stood his ground and said without more money, “murder will continue to rise, rape will continue to rise, all crimes will continue to rise.” As he put it, “Go look at the numbers.”

Okay, challenge taken. What do the numbers show?

... Murder did go up—though the rate did not double from 2009 to 2010, as Biden claimed. But rape has gone down. Biden actually asserted it had tripled.

... Interestingly, Flint Police Chief Lock has repeatedly asserted that cuts in staffing had little effect on the crime rate.

As the Flint Journal reported in May: “Officials said the fact that 46 police officers were laid off last year had little to do with the escalating crime. Most of the crimes were between people that knew each other. ‘No matter how many officers we have, we can't stop disputes between two people in their own homes,’ Lock said.”

... the vice president should know better than to spout off half-baked facts in service of a dubious argument. Even if one believes there is a link between crime and the number of police—which is debatable and subject to many caveats—there is no excuse to make the dramatic claim that more people will die or be raped without additional funds for police. When making such a breathtaking charge, you had better have your facts straight.

Four Pinocchios.

The press has had over a week to report on and investigate the veracity of Biden's assertions, the likes of which would almost certainly be far more prominent news if a conservative or Republican had said something similar. So here's a roundup of the quite light coverage:

  • The "as expected" news is that WaPo itself referred to Kessler's work in two other places. But Erik Wemple also accused Human Events videographer Jason Mattera of a "sneaky little maneuver" for daring to ask if threatening an increase in rapes if a bill doesn't pass is appropriate behavior for a Vice President. At the paper's Plum Line blog, Greg Sargent tersely noted Kessler's work and FactCheck.org's Biden takedown.
  • At the Associated Press's main national site -- searches on "Biden rape," "Biden rapes," "Biden murder," and "Biden crime" (not in quotes) return no results.
  • The same four searches done on the past 30 days at the Los Angeles Times ("rape," "rapes," "crime," "murder") return either no results or no relevant results.
  • At the New York Times yesterday (on Page A27), Robert Pear avoided Biden's specifically mentioned locale by writing: "Mr. Biden said that because of police layoffs, 'murder rates are up, robberies are up, rapes are up' in many cities." What about Flint, Robert?

Thus far, with some Democratic defections, hasn't passed. WaPo's Sargent is all hot and bothered that the media isn't universally denouncing Republicans for being in the way, when the fact is that a few Democrat defections made the vote 50-50.

Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.