Second in an endless, tireless, exhaustive and hairsplitting series about the fact-checking industry.
Earlier today, Fox News aired a little fact-checking segment. Spearheaded by Fox’s Shannon Bream, it started out by taking apart a contention from Julian Castro about jobs, and all but debunked it. Keynote speaker, statement about job creation, Democratic convention — fair game for the Fox fact-checking operation.
Then it moved to this statement by Michelle Obama:
I love that for Barack, there is no such thing as “us” and “them” – he doesn’t care whether you’re a Democrat, a Republican, or none of the above … he knows that we all love our country … and he’s always ready to listen to good ideas.
Whoa, call in the reinforcements, Fox! There are so many dicey factual representations in that statement, we may need to subcontract with PolitiFact or something. Joking aside, Fox actually did find the passage ripe for fact-checking, and I’ve transcripted Bream’s content-scrub to illuminate just how the network went about things. Regarding the first lady’s boast about the president’s nonpartisanship, Bream said:
That’s something we’ve repeatedly heard the president say over last couple of years as well. Republican leaders, as you would imagine, take issue with that. They point out when it comes to the really big issues , like the jobs bill, like the deficit deal, which affected our credit rating, like the health care law, which changed our entire health care system as we know it in this country---that they were rebuffed. House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell both talk about a number of times that they’ve reached out to the White House, their phone calls were not returned, they couldn’t get a meeting. And that in those pieces of legislation that were passed, ultimately they claim none of their ideas were included.
Under the guise of a fact check, Fox has ascertained that the president’s most steadfast opponents have accused him of not listening. Thus one of the dangers of the fact-checking megatrend — that outlets will slap the designation on a quarter-assed investigation of a non-factual, even sentimental, representation and place it in a realm where it doesn’t belong.
When asked whether the claim about Obama’s bipartisanship is factually checkable, FactCheck.org Director Brooks Jackson e-mails these thoughts:
No, not by our standards.
How can anybody know what’s inside somebody else’s mind? We can’t say as a matter of fact what Obama or anybody else cares about, or loves. We only know what they SAY they care about, or love.
As for whether he’s “always ready to listen to good ideas,” he’s said he is ready, and he’s certainly reached out (remember the health care summit? Or the fact that the ACA contains some pilot studies of whether malpractice reforms would have any appreciable effect on rising health care costs?) But what’s a “good” idea? That’s a matter of opinion. Republicans think their ideas are peachy, and BO doesn’t care for a lot of them.
The monster fact-check series so far: