The Associated Press seems determined to become even worse at "fact-checking" politicians' statements than Politifact, the current cellar-dwellar in that regard. At the rate things are going, the wire service, in addition to richly earning its nickname "the Administration's Press" since January 2009, appears to be in line for yet another: "Associated Politifact."
In his "fact check" following last night's Republican debates, the AP's Josh Lederman outrageously argued that Jeb Bush's indisputably true statement about job creation while he was Florida's governor needed to be qualified because of what happened during the next three years under successor Charlie Crist.
Keep in mind that Lederman prefaced his work by pretending that he was compiling "A look at some of the claims in the debate and how they compare with the facts." The headline claims to look for "TRUTH VS EXAGGERATION IN GOP PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE."
Here's the Bush statement, and Lederman's response:
Jeb Bush stated three facts:
- He was in office for eight years.
- While he was in office, 1.3 million jobs were created. In citing that statistic, Bush used the federal government's Establishment Survey of employers. For Florida, it shows a pickup of 1.319 million payroll jobs, the difference between the seasonally adjusted 8.034 million figure seen in December 2006 and 6.715 million in December 1998. The former Sunshine State governor could have instead referred to the Household Survey of residents, which shows a pickup in the number of Floridians employed of 1.518 million (i.e., 200,000 more) during that same period.
- Florida's job market and employment situation were "better off" at the end of 2006 compared to the end of 1998, with over 20 percent more people employed and a miniscule unemployment rate of 3.4 percent compared to 4.1 percent.
These are all indisputable facts completely free of any exaggeration, and are in fact arguably understated.
That's it. Josh Lederman should have stopped there, and in the name of objective fact-checking was really obliged to stop there. But, apparently, he just couldn't.
Lederman effectively contends that Bush is largely and perhaps fully responsible (there are no qualifiers in his writeup) for the 900,000 Establishment Survey jobs which were lost during the first three-fourths of successor Charlie Crist's one and only (thank goodness) term.
No, Josh. Charlie Crist did that all by himself, turning his back on the Bush policies that worked almost as soon as he took the gubernatorial oath of office. Among many things, he broke a no new taxes pledge by signing on to a $2.2 billion tax increase in early 2009, and changed the tone towards business coming out of state government from one of hospitality to indifference, or worse.
Construction employment during Jeb Bush's terms grew from a seasonally adjusted 456,00 in December 1998 to 669,000 in December 2006. That increase of 213,000 works out to 46.7 percent, which Josh Lederman "cleverly" rounded way up to 50 percent. He's only been at AP for just over three years, but he appears to have picked up most of the wire service's dishonest tricks. Crist ruined Florida's business climate so completely that construction employment when he left office in December 2010 was only 338,000, i.e., over 25 percent lower than it was at the beginning of Jeb Bush's two terms.
Lederman also seems to want relatively uninformed readers to believe that Bush and Bush alone created Florida's housing bubble, when we know that the federal government was primarily responsble for that — particularly government-sponored enterprises Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
Finally, Lederman seems to think that it's Jeb Bush's fault that many Floridians borrowed heavily against their homes' equity and often frivolously spent the funds. So not only is Bush responsible for Charlie Crist's disastrous reign as Sunshine State governor, he's also responsible for all the bad financial decisions the state's individuals and families made! How does he sleep at night? (That's sarcasm, folks.)
As noted earlier, Lederman has demonstrated a level of fact-checking dishonesty which gives Politifact a run for its money.
Several more such reports, and the AP will indeed deserve the nickname "Associated Politifact."
Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.