WaPo’s fact checker Glenn Kessler may want to watch his back in conservative circles. He’s gotten himself into hot water with Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and is sure to be branded a liberal hack and firmly entrenched in the so-called “mainstream” media.
In a writeup today, Kessler took the senator’s words and twisted them. He writes about Cruz’ repeated assertion that “the single biggest lie in politics is that Republicans are the party of the rich.”
Kessler goes on to unravel all the ways in which Cruz’s assertion that this is a lie is actually the truth, but ultimately admits that Cruz’s statement could be construed as opinion. Kessler says he tries to steer clear of fact-checking opinions. He gives Cruz three Pinocchios out of four, saying, “We can’t quite go all the way to Four Pinocchios, given that this could be viewed as an opinion, but Cruz is going to need better data before tossing around dramatic claims of lies.”
Is WaPo‘s fact checker trying to push Democratic soundbites?
“The premise of this so called fact check is completely off base and wrong, Cruz’ spokeswoman Catherine Frazier told The Mirror this afternoon in a phone call from Reagan Airport as she prepared to board a plane. “Sen.Cruz is simply making a point that under policy of small government, people in most need have the most opportunity to climb the economic ladder and not being trapped in poverty. It’s another example of the mainstream media pushing the talking points of the Democrats.”
This wouldn’t be the first time that Kessler’s work was criticized by those he has covered. But a scan of those who have taken issue with his stories comes from both ends of the political spectrum. A story he wrote in 2006 concerning poor relations between then-Sec. of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Sec. Donald Rumsfeld earned him a crack from Rumsfeld. While appearing on Laura Ingraham‘s conservative radio show, Rumsfeld was asked, in reference to Kessler’s piece, if he’s on the outs with Condoleezza. Rumsfeld said the story was “nonsense” and “just typical Washington Post stuff.” The Center for Media and Public Affairs, however, said in 2102 that a review of his work indicated that he equally criticizes Republicans and Democrats. And the liberal blog, Talking Points Memo, has also denounced his work.
The Mirror sought comment from Kessler on his story.
Somehow we don’t anticipate him speaking at the Heritage Foundation anytime soon.
UPDATE: Kessler responded to The Mirror, saying he gets invited to fewer parties as a result of his day job.
“I know they weren’t happy with the column, but I also gave them a fair amount of space to make their point.
I play no favorites for liberals or conservatives. Just yesterday I knocked President Obama, and a few days before that I gave 4 Pinocchios to a Senate Majority PAC ad that attacked the Koch Brothers. In fact, the last time I checked, I have given virtually the same number of Pinocchios to Democrats and Republicans since we moved to a new format (early September). I know that Senator Cruz is not a fan of mine—he attacked me on the floor of the Senate during his filibuster—but the staff of a very senior Senate Democrat recently produced a study (as part of a complaint to the newspaper) that purported to show I was more lenient on Senate Republicans than Senate Democrats.
Fact checks are never done, either. Part of the reason for my ruling today was that Cruz set a very high bar—calling it the ‘biggest lie in politics’ — but then could offer no comprehensive data to back up his assertion, whereas there was plenty of data arguing against his claim. (Voting patterns, public opinion, economic performance, etc.) But I am always open to new information, and could reassess if I receive something that points in the other direction.
As for people not wanting to talk to me, I don’t have that concern. But for some reason, ever since I started doing this, I get invited to fewer parties.”
UPDATE #2: I should’ve seen this coming. Kessler fact-checked my story and made a valid point. I’ve slightly altered the copy above to reflect it. But I’ll let him explain: ”One small point re your story—I wasn’t saying that it was my opinion, I was saying that one could argue that Cruz’s assertion was opinion, and thus should not be fact checked. As I wrote: ‘One could have the opinion that Republican policies will be better for the poor, and obviously Cruz believes that.” I try to check facts, not opinions. I struggled with whether this was opinion—in which I would not have fact checked it—or an assertion of fact. I ultimately decided it leaned toward a fact, since he used the phrase ‘biggest lie.’”