November 5, 2013
(Photo by Charles Dharapak/AP) (Charles Dharapak/Associated Press)

Washington Post fact-checker Glenn Kessler last week examined this claim from President Obama, among other similar ones as he campaigned in his first term for passage of his signature reform:

“That means that no matter how we reform health care, we will keep this promise to the American people: If you like your doctor, you will be able to keep your doctor, period. If you like your health-care plan, you’ll be able to keep your health-care plan, period. No one will take it away, no matter what.”

— President Obama, speech to the American Medical Association, June 15, 2009 (as the health-care law was being written.)

Kessler issued Four Pinocchios for the series of claims, though he doesn’t allege a lie. “I can’t get into someone’s head,” Kessler tells the Erik Wemple Blog via e-mail.

Last night, on the “O’Reilly Factor,” Fox News contributor Bernard Goldberg claimed just that ability: “I think he lied to us.” Host Bill O’Reilly found more “nuance” in the situation: “I don’t believe Barack Obama read the law. And I don’t believe Dianne Feinstein read the law. I don’t believe they read it, okay. I don’t believe they know what the hell is going on, either of them. I believe that they are — like a lot of other Americans, very ideologically disposed to giving healthcare to everybody. And that’s their goal.” Translation: The president was too clueless to lie.

This morning on CNN, host Ashleigh Banfield exchanged words over alleged Obamacare mendacity. Commentator Will Cain said this about the president’s comments “It was not a mistake, it was a lie.” Banfield retorted: “[M]aybe I’m a bit of a Pollyanna. But I don’t like to suggest that plans are launched with lies. I just don’t like you saying it’s a lie when you were not there devising that policy,” said Banfield, as highlighted by NewsBusters.

This very same question surfaced in the outrage over a New York Times Sunday editorial arguing that the president “clearly misspoke” when he made the claim about keeping insurance plans. New York Times Public Editor Margaret Sullivan received complaints about that bit of soft-pedaling: “Don’t you think a reasonable person would call that lying? Even the word ‘misspoke’ is Orwellian ‘doublespeak’ and part of the ‘newspeak’ your editors resort to when trying to rationalize Obama’s blatant lies,” wrote one disillusioned reader.

Editorial Page Editor Andrew Rosenthal defended “misspoke” by telling Sullivan, “We have a high threshold for whether someone lied.”

That threshold comes straight from the dictionary: “Lie”: “To make an untrue statement with intent to deceive.” Do Goldberg, Cain et al have the goods to clear this bar?

Erik Wemple writes the Erik Wemple blog, where he reports and opines on media organizations of all sorts.
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