Fifteenth in a series of endless, tireless, exhaustive, hairsplitting, obsessive, resounding, never-before-attempted, conclusive posts on the fact-checking industry
Today’s assemblage of the fact-checking industry’s leading lights at a National Press Club talkathon revealed a common strategy for rebutting claims that fact-checkers pursue their work with a bias: Talk about how both sides clobber you.
Bill Adair, the top editor of PolitiFact, noted how he’d attended a party over the summer in which someone accused his outfit of being too tough on Democrat Tim Kaine. Not long thereafter, the Republican Party of Virginia published its 86-page document that argued the exact opposite. “The nature of what we do is disruptive,” said Adair.
Brooks Jackson of FactCheck.org noted, too, that bashing his outfit is a bipartisan pursuit.
Glenn Kessler, The Washington Post’s fact-checker, breaks down his audience into thirds: one faction that likes his work, another that calls him a ”screaming conservative,” and a third that sees him as a “liberal hack.”
And Kessler makes an interesting remark about the partisan sociology of fact-checking haters.
Democrats, he argued at the panel discussion, show more anger than others at adverse Post rulings. “Maybe that’s because they believe the myth about the liberal media,” he quipped. He later said more via e-mail:
My experience has been that in general Democratic operatives get more upset about adverse rulings, whereas Republicans tend to shrug them off. (There are obviously exceptions.) My comment was meant a bit in jest, but I attribute this difference to conservatives thinking they never get a break from the media and Democrats acting as if the media is more on their side. No one has actually told me that — it is just a feeling I get sometimes.
As for how he maintains neutrality in issuing his rulings, Kessler claims to pull off a high-wire mental trick. “I don’t pay heed to who’s making the statement,” he said.
How does that work? Kessler elaborates post-session via e-mail:
I look at all politicians with cold-eyed realism. For years, I have joked that my autobiography will be titled “Waiting for people to lie to me.” I am not being cynical, just realistic. I have been spun so often by politicians of all stripes on so many issues that it hardly matters what my personal beliefs are. So I look at each statement in isolation and determine the factual basis, not caring who said it — just seeing where the facts lead me.
The Fact-Checking series so far:
Fourth: Clinton bedevils fact-checkers.
Seventh: Biden and Obama keep checkers busy.
Eighth: A task for fact-checkers: Did the administration apologize for American values?
Thirteenth: Catch the error in this Washington Times invite.
Fourteenth: AP editor cites Bachmann fact-checking ‘quota.’