DC Trawler

“Fake But Accurate” Has A New Friend, Courtesy of WaPo: “Nonsense Fact”

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Back in 2004, as Dan Rather was sabotaging his own career with phony documents that told him things he wanted to believe, his ideological comrades at the New York Times backed him up with this all-time classic of the journalistic arts: “Memos on Bush Are Fake but Accurate, Typist Says.”

Fake. But accurate. That’s the standard when the target is a Republican. Just because something isn’t true, that doesn’t mean it can’t be useful.

Ten years later, finally we have the other side of that coin. What if something is undeniably true, but it’s not useful to Democrats? How do they explain it away with one handy phrase?

Take it away, “fact-checker” Michelle Ye Hee Lee of the Washington Post:

“On tax reform, we, right now, have more words in the IRS code than there are in the Bible — not a one of them as good.”

–Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), speech at International Association of Fire Fighters legislative conference, March 10, 2015

Comparing the number of words in the U.S. tax code with the number in the Bible is a common theme among conservatives who fault the tax code for being overly burdensome…

Cruz is correct on the comparison of words in both texts. But

Whoa. Wait. This is supposed to be a fact-checking piece. Is the fact under examination true or not? Well, it’s true. The “fact-checker” says so right at the top.

Then there’s a “But.”

I hate big “Buts” and I cannot lie. If you’re claiming to be a fact-checker, your work ends after you’ve, y’know, checked the facts.

But… it’s Ted Cruz, and Ted Cruz is one of the bad guys, and Ted Cruz can’t be allowed to say things that don’t advance the cause. True, false, whatever. Must. Stop. Cruz.

Which is why, almost 900 words later, “fact-checker” Michelle Ye Hee Lee gives us her verdict:

This is a nonsense fact, something that is technically correct but ultimately meaningless. Thus it is not worthy of a Geppetto Checkmark but neither does it qualify for a Pinocchio.

Nonsense. Fact. In other words, it’s somehow neither true nor false. Sure, it’s technically correct. But it’s not politically correct.

She continues:

Cruz makes the point that tax policies need to be drastically simplified, and many Americans likely would support that sentiment. But such a crude comparison, which provides no nuance or context, doesn’t capture why the tax code has become so complex and how it affects taxpayers.

If that sounds like an opinion to you, that only means you know the difference. You’re not a trained professional.

John Nolte asked WaPo’s chief “fact-checker,” Glenn Kessler, to expand:

How does an opinion/editorial of this kind fall under the definition of a “fact check?”

I don’t see this an opinion. It was a fact check of a statement.

“Cruz is correct on the comparison of words in both texts.” That’s fact. The rest is opinion. That’s what the word “opinion” means. Either veteran newsman Glenn Kessler honestly doesn’t know that, or he’s just a dishonest hack. Or, considering he works for the Washington Post, both.

Nonetheless, Nolte remained patient:

Has WaPo’s Fact Check column ever been used in this way before against a Democrat? Where you take what is an incontrovertible fact and use the Fact Check column to explain why you believe it is a “nonsense fact” — which is a completely subjective opinion?

I disagree that this is an opinion.

Of course you do, Glenn.

“This statement is true, but it doesn’t matter” is purely opinion. It is the definition of an opinion. But Glenn Kessler, professional “fact-checker,” wants that opinion to be a “fact-check.” That’s his story, and he’s stickin’ to it.

I welcome the helpful phrase “nonsense fact.” It makes the whole “fact-checking” genre a lot easier.

To dismiss.