WaPo’s Fact Check On Gillespie’s MS-13 Claims Accidentally Proved His Point

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Anders Hagstrom Justice Reporter
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A Tuesday fact check from The Washington Post attempted to prove that claims from Republican candidate Ed Gillespie were “false” and “misleading,” but totally proved Gillespie’s point instead.

Gillespie, who is running for governor in Virginia, has repeatedly claimed that there are more than 2,000 MS-13 gang members in Fairfax County, Virginia’s wealthiest county. WaPo contested this claim and clarified that while there are an estimated 2,000 members of 80 different gangs in Fairfax county, only 1,400 of those belong to MS-13.

The article later quotes Jay Lanham, a former executive director of the Northern Virginia Regional Gang Task Force (NVRGTF), who said Gillespie’s 2,000 number is “probably pretty accurate.” The newspaper nevertheless gave Gillespie’s claim two Pinocchios.

WaPo cites numbers from the Fairfax County Police Department that say there are only 1,400 MS-13 members, but Lanham argued the NVRGTF’s numbers were more accurate, as “most of the estimates from the police department are going to be on the low side.” (RELATED: ICE Director On MS-13: ‘My Gang Is Bigger Than Theirs’)

According to WaPo, even Gillespie’s 2,000 number is “relatively small” given Fairfax has a population of more than 1 million. Compared with the number of police, however, even WaPo’s measure of 1,400 MS-13 members is massive.

If WaPo’s number is accurate, there are more MS-13 members in the county than there are police officers.  The county employs 1062 patrol officers, and even including special units their numbers only reach 1,350, according to a 2015 annual report from Fairfax police. (RELATED: Sessions Approves New Tools To Annihilate MS-13)

WaPo justified its two Pinocchios rating with the claim that Gillespie is misleading voters by using the highest estimate available, but even the lower estimates show that the county’s largest criminal organization can match county police man-for-man.

The two Pinocchio rating denotes “significant omissions and/or exaggerations. Some factual error may be involved but not necessarily. A politician can create a false, misleading impression by playing with words and using legalistic language that means little to ordinary people,” according to WaPo.

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