Saturday, April 18, 2015

Breitbart News and Eric Wemple on fact checkers

The April 17 installment of Breitbart News' interview with the Washington Post's Eric Wemple features a section on fact checking. John Nolte, the Breitbart News interviewer, let Wemple turn the tables on which was conducting the interview, but on the bright side Nolte brings makes points Wemple probably wouldn't touch.

No. 1 highlight :
EW: Here are my thoughts on that specifically, and I told Glenn the same thing: You are saying that the Washington Post disproportionately targeted Republicans, and that’s fine. My only point is that I don’t think anyone can expect politicians from any party to lie at an even rate.

BNN: That wasn’t my approach with the Washington Post, though. My argument wasn’t that Kessler was calling more Republicans liars, my issue was that, by 2-to-1, Republican statements were chosen for the fact check treatment.
Credit Nolte with correcting Wemple's straw man. But the problem with the Fact Checker and PolitiFact comes at the point story selection and truth ratings intersect. Neither one tells the whole story by itself.

Nolte follows up by emphasizing the subjectivity of the ratings. Wemple offers a counter of sorts: That criticism also comes from the left.

From this point in the interview, Wemple stops giving his take and the rest of the fact checking section has Wemple prompting Nolte for his take. There's no admission from Wemple that the ratings are subjective. Wemple's abandonment of the issue leaves an implicit "the fact checkers are criticized from both sides so they must be doing something right" argument.
BNN: When PolitiFact fact checks a quip from Ted Cruz about Iran celebrating “Hate America Day” — everyone knows what he means, but they still call him a liar. It just goes too far. A subjective decision is made to get literal so Cruz can be called a liar. Kessler did this one once where Romney said Obama had never gone to Israel — and that was a fact. But Romney got Pinocchios because Kessler made a subjective decision to make certain context relevant. That’s an opinion column, not a fact check.

EW: PolitiFact is big on context too. Like the time Rachel Maddow went crazy on them. In a State of the Union speech, Obama took credit for creating so many jobs and PolitiFact said that wasn’t entirely true because those jobs were not created as a result of his policies.

BNN: Exactly!

EW: You think she’s right about that.

BNN: I think she’s dead right about that. That’s a subjective decision to bring in subjective context. Put it on the opinion pages.

EW: And you think that cudgel is used more often against Republicans.

BNN: Much more often.
Do you agree that the ratings are subjective, Eric Wemple? If so, then what does that say about claims that harsher ratings of Republicans show that Republicans simply lie more?

The meat of this issue comes from the fact checkers' framing of political truth-telling: Republicans lie more. But the fact checkers' methods remove the foundation for the frame.

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