Ninth in a series of endless, tireless, exhaustive, hairsplitting, obsessive, resounding, never-before-attempted, late-night posts and conclusive posts on the fact-checking industry.
Need yet more evidence that fact-checkers conduct their business in a silo separated from impact on politicians? Try the Romney apology-tour fact-check, Chapter Umpteen.
The fact-checkers seemed a bit fatigued by Mitt Romney’s latest round of allegations that the Obama administration goes around apologizing for America. That’s the line of attack that the Republican presidential candidate unleashed in a Wednesday morning news conference following the deadly attacks against U.S. personnel in Egypt and Libya. Several times Romney claimed that the Obama administration’s statements in anticipation of and in response to unrest in that region amounted to “apologizing” for American values or some variation on that sentiment.
Here’s how PolitiFact expressed its familiarity/frustration with the candidate’s continued reliance on this rhetorical standby:
This is a theme for Romney: He has long accused Obama of apologizing for America, starting in 2010, when Romney published No Apology: The Case for American Greatness. Since then, he has repeatedly criticized what he has called an “apology tour” by Obama shortly after he took office. PolitiFact has examined those speeches, consulted experts on speechmaking and apologies, and rated Romney’s claim Pants on Fire.
And here’s the corresponding paragraph from the FactCheck.org treatment:
Romney has falsely accused Obama of “apologizing for America” many times before. The line has been a dependable applause-getter with conservative audiences. But we found no basis for this claim in Obama’s previous speeches and remarks. And other fact-checkers came to similar conclusions.
Though both checking organizations proceeded with historical baggage, they gave fresh analysis to Romney’s charge that the statement from the U.S. Embassy in Cairo — and other official proclamations — communicated apologetic messages. That statement, issued before the attacks, reads as follows:
The Embassy of the United States in Cairo condemns the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims – as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions. Today, the 11th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, Americans are honoring our patriots and those who serve our nation as the fitting response to the enemies of democracy. Respect for religious beliefs is a cornerstone of American democracy. We firmly reject the actions by those who abuse the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of others.
PolitiFact asked four apology experts whether those words constituted the sort of regretful statement that qualifies as an apology. The three who responded delivered an unequivocal negative — sort of a “no apology” tour of their own!
FactCheck.org, likewise, found “no basis” for the apology angle.
To round things out, the Associated Press titled its piece: “FACT CHECK: Romney misstates facts on attacks.” Not a good fact day for Romney.
A Romney pollster said a while back that the campaign won’t be “dictated by fact-checkers.” Now we have a clean shot at fact-checking that claim. If it’s true, expect to hear more “apology”-oriented attacks on the Obama administration in the home stretch of this election.
Read more in this series:
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?