Third in a series of endless, tireless, exhaustive, hairsplitting and obsessive posts on the fact-checking industry.
CNN is proud of the broadcast that immediately followed vice-presidential nominee Paul Ryan’s speech Aug. 29. “We immediately raised some of the issues,” says Sam Feist, CNN’s Washington bureau chief. Indeed, after some analysis of the address, this exchange between Wolf Blitzer and John King went down:
BLITZER: But John, you know, as you and I well know, the Democrats and certainly the Obama campaign, they were watching this speech. They were going through it line by line and you are getting and so I am, every journalist is getting, a lot of e-mail right now pointing out to what they claim are falsehoods, misleading statements, lies, if you will, that were made by Paul Ryan.
And I guess those fact checking is only about — just getting ready to begin.
KING: Yes, the fact checking is beginning. Our team at CNN is at it, Wolf, already. Other news organizations will do it as well. And you can be certain that’s how it goes in campaigns. The Democrats will go through it line by line. Some of it will be clearly you will say that was a stretch. Other things will be debatable in politics.
And one thing Paul Ryan talked about was that GM plant that closed in Janesville. That plant was shut down under the Bush administration. That happens to be a fact. Now he mentioned President Obama came to Wisconsin and thought maybe it would be reopened if the auto industry were revived. That may well be a fact as well, but the plant did close in the Bush administration. That’s one.
There’s a huge debate issue, though, about Obamacare. The president’s health-care plan. It does get savings from Medicare and use them for the health-care plan. There’s a big debate about whether those savings come from the program, the administration says no, that they come from payments that would go out to doctors and other things. So you’re taking money, but that again would be debated in the campaign.
Later in the show, Ari Fleischer took issue with the fact-checkers, arguing that the Janesville plant was still doing some work during the Obama administration. “Paul Ryan was right. The fact checkers are wrong,” says Fleischer.
Feist suggests that meaningful and conclusive exchanges over facts in the presidential campaigns germinate effortlessly at a place such as CNN. As opposed to, ahem, other cable networks that may identify with certain political positions and parties. Fact-checking, says Feist, is “an important part of our mission as the only cable news channel that hasn’t picked sides in this election. We’re the one network that asks tough questions of both parties. We’re not rooting for one team or the other.” Conventions, he goes on, are spectacles at which people “tend to hear only one side” of the story. “One of CNN’s unique missions is to make sure we tell the other. We’re the network best positioned to do that. It’s one of benefits of being the only network that hasn’t chosen sides in this election”
This stupendous series so far: