This election cycle has seen countless numbers of reporters become addicted to “fact checking” everything Donald Trump says in the hopes of derailing his campaign.
These fact checks often express a reporter’s subjective opinion and usually exist in the realm of what The Federalist’s Mollie Hemingway calls “hyper-literalism.”
Two recent great examples of that hyper literalism come from NBC News. Over the weekend, the outlet fact checked Trump on him saying he never claimed to be perfect and on his debate claim that Clinton “acid washed” her emails. Both important matters were declared false on the pretense of taking every Trump statement literally to the point of ridiculousness. (RELATED: Media Bias: NBC News ‘Fact Check’ Declares False That Hillary ‘Acid Washed’ Her Server)
Fact checking Trump has seemed to have done nothing to the man’s candidacy, while at the same time undermining the credibility of fact checks in general.
There’s one fact check that is consistently bantered around without first looking into the actual details of the claim.
Trump and many of his allies often repeat some variant of “people saw suspicious material in the house of the San Bernardino terrorists but didn’t say anything because they didn’t want to racially profile.” This sometimes gets morphed into “many people saw bombs all over their house,” as Trump said in Sunday night’s debate.
Reporters are quick to go into a rage spiral any time this claim is made by Trump or one of his surrogates, and Sunday night was no exception.
"Many people saw the bombs all over the apartment" in San Bernardino. This is one of the baldest lies Trump has told on the debate stage.
— Brian Stelter (@brianstelter) October 10, 2016
Trump AGAIN says without ANY evidence that "many people" saw bombs all over the San Bernardino shooters' apartment floor. No proof.
— Sopan Deb (@SopanDeb) October 10, 2016
There is no evidence to support claim Trump just made about “many” people seeing “bombs” all over San Bernardino shooter’s apartment.
— Oliver Darcy (@oliverdarcy) October 10, 2016
But there’s a major problem with all these accusation of “bald lies” — Trump’s claim has a basis in reality. As reported by The Daily Caller, Mediaite and other outlets, neighbors of San Bernardino terrorist Syed Farook’s mother saw a lot of suspicious activity going on next door but did not report to police because they didn’t want to racially profile. (RELATED: Neighbor Didn’t Report ‘Suspicious Activity’ For Fear Of Being Labeled Racist)
Along with the neighbor, there’s the likelihood the mother and potentially other family members knew about the plot beforehand.
Now it is true that the individual who saw something going at the Farook house was not a confirmed Muslim (even though Farook’s mother is a Muslim) and would not constitute “many people.” It is also not clear whether they saw what turned out to be explosive devices.
Thus, Trump’s claim as stated is not entirely accurate, but reporters aren’t declaring it wrong on the parts that Trump gets wrong. To them, the accusation that anyone — Muslim or non-Muslim — saw suspicious behavior and didn’t report it due to PC culture is entirely false.
However, as the evidence lays out, that accusation is not a bald-faced lie.
The reason why reporters shriek it’s a falsehood — besides the desire to disprove the fact that political correctness comes with a body count — is that PolitiFact marked it as “False” earlier in the year and it appears none of them have any desire to question that judgment.
The reason why it was false, according to PolitiFact, was because “conservative sites” like The Daily Caller reported on it, it was the neighbor of the mother — whom Farook frequently visited with and was close with — not of the terrorists themselves, it was a second-hand account and no one said they specifically thought an attack was being planned.
The technicalities added up to a judgment of total falsehood.
As Trump repeats the claim now, it’s not accurate though. What he should be saying is “people saw suspicious behavior and didn’t report it out of fear of racially profiling.” He can also bring up the accusations that Farook’s mother may have known what was going on but failed to report it to authorities. Those would be more accurate statements than what he is stating now.
Even though reporters suffering from Trump Derangement Syndrome will still froth at the mouth and probably call it false (as they’ve done before), the actual truth would be on his side.