Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Another dimension to the Janesville GM plant fact check

Hot Air's Ed Morrissey performs an important service by emphasizing that Paul Ryan's RNC speech mention of GM's Janesville plant was entirely accurate.

Clearly, the job of “fact checker” in the mainstream media must not involve research skills.  Nor does it take much in comprehension, because these supposed fact checks started with a misrepresentation of what Ryan actually said.  Here are his actual words, emphasis mine:
President Barack Obama came to office during an economic crisis, as he has reminded us a time or two. Those were very tough days, and any fair measure of his record has to take that into account. My home state voted for President Obama. When he talked about change, many people liked the sound of it, especially in Janesville, where we were about to lose a major factory.

A lot of guys I went to high school with worked at that GM plant. Right there at that plant, candidate Obama said: “I believe that if our government is there to support you … this plant will be here for another hundred years.” That’s what he said in 2008.

Well, as it turned out, that plant didn’t last another year. It is locked up and empty to this day. And that’s how it is in so many towns today, where the recovery that was promised is nowhere in sight.

Morrissey points out in his post that a number of mainstream media fact checkers published stories claiming Ryan was inaccurate in talking about the Janesville plant.

Here's how PolitiFact continues to play it:
Here is a look at the accuracy of various statements Ryan made Wednesday night, based on past PolitiFact rulings and other sources as noted:

Closed GM plant: PolitiFact Wisconsin evaluated Ryan’s statement — made both before the convention and in his speech — that Obama broke his promise to keep the Janesville auto factory from closing.

The claim was rated False due to the lack of evidence Obama explicitly made such a promise and the fact the Janesville plant shut down before he took office.
During his convention speech, Ryan referred to Obama's promise of economic recovery, not a promise to keep the Janesville plant open.  Ryan quoted Obama accurately about the Janesville plant, in fact.  Given that Ryan said nothing about an Obama promise to keep the plant open, it is irrelevant when the plant closed.  And as to the timing of the closure, Ryan provides what seems like adequate context.  He says the plant was at risk when Obama made his speech.  He points out the plant didn't last another year.

Ryan's convention speech was too accurate for PolitiFact.  So PolitiFact did not fact check Ryan's convention speech regarding the Janesville plant.  It fact checked a different statement Ryan made earlier in 2012 and claimed it was fact checking Ryan's convention speech.
Ryan stirred memories of the factory on Aug. 16, 2012, attacking President Barack Obama during a campaign speech in Ohio.

"I remember President Obama visiting it when he was first running, saying he'll keep that plant open. One more broken promise," Ryan said.

He made the same point Aug. 29 during his speech to the Republican National Convention in Tampa.
The ensuing fact check emphasizes things only specifically found in the Aug. 16 speech.

These types of errors appear to go beyond mere incompetence.  They look like designed misdirection.  When a fact check claims to check something said at a convention it should stick with what was said at the convention.  That's something no competent reporter should bungle.

Are we to believe the team at PolitiFact responsible for this fact check was collectively that incompetent?


Morrissey updated his story with a new post including video and additional comments.  And it's worth reminding readers that even though PolitiFact checked a statement other than the one Ryan made at the convention it still blew the call.

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