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Leaning into the false notion that both Joe Biden and Trump are being "inaccurate" in their public comments on the Covid-19 pandemic, the New York Times recently offered up a woeful fact check effort that promotes the Both Sides idea that Democrats and Republicans have trouble telling the truth about the health emergency. It’s a completely a false premise and the Times is being reckless by spreading it at a time when Trump's doing nothing to stem the rise tide of a deadly public crisis.
Here's the Biden comment the Times fact checked: "Without a uniform plan and guidance from the federal government that state and local leaders can use to inform their reopening plans, this is going to continue to be worse than it would’ve been otherwise." Dead-on accurate, right? The Trump administration has abdicated its leadership role during this public health emergency, especially as states struggle with trying to reopen their economies, and conditions are getting worse.
The Times however, ruled Biden's common-sense statement was an "exaggeration" because the White House did in fact release “opening up American again” guidelines, even though the Times conceded they were "vague." Truth is, many red state governors simply ignored the guidelines, in part because Trump himself signaled they should be ignored.
By dinging Biden's comment and highlighting it as "inaccurate," the Times fact check gave the impression that Trump has provided guidance and a clear plan during the pandemic. As I detail below, that's an incomprehensible reading of the current crisis, and how Trump has actively made the pandemic response worse at every juncture by wallowing in a dangerous cocktail of public lies and contradictions. The newspaper gently concedes that White House messaging on reopening "has been far from uniform," which may be one of the great understatements of the year.
The Times' failure represents a larger problem with media fact checks in the age of Trump. Initially designed to hold both parties accountable by drilling down on public statements to determine their veracity, the fact check model ceases to provide any worth when one of the two parties makes a complete and unapologetic break with the truth, as today's GOP has done. That radical move effectively demolishes the fact check frame, because what's left is a wild imbalance — one party tries to stick to the facts, the other doesn't care. And that imbalance is rarely acknowledged in the fact check process.
By doing a forensic sweep of Democratic statements in the same space that outlets such as the Times detail the relentless, never-ending lies of Trump (even though the Times won't call them "lies"), the exercise gives the false impression that Trump's dangerous lies are on par with slight exaggerations assigned to Democrats. On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being complete truths and 10 being complete untruths, fact checks of Democrats suggest they basically operate in the 1-2 range, while Trump hovers around 30 or 40. (He claims 99% of Covid-19 infections are harmless.)
By all means, the media should keep fact-checking Democrats and make sure their campaign rhetoric is accurate. The problem is media fact-checkers are still using traditional methods and criteria to put Democrats under a microscope to look for minute factual stumbles, while Trump is proudly demolishing the truth on an hourly basis.
Note that the Times' Biden fact check insisted his statement about Trump's handling of the reopening was part of a pattern of "inaccurate" claims the Democrat had made. That's the exact word the Times used for its recent fact check headline in which Trump lied without pause about military spending during a recent speech at West Point. It's a huge problem for the Times to be using the same phrase to describe Trump's monumental fabrications and Biden's so-called exaggeration about Trump not providing guidance during the pandemic.
Consider that Trump recently retweeted this outrageous claim: "Everyone is lying. The CDC, Media, Democrats, our Doctors, not all but most, that we are told to trust. I think it’s all about the election and keeping the economy from coming back, which is about the election. I’m sick of it."
Providing "guidance"? Trump's doing his best to destroy public trust. And that was Biden’s point.
This, while the White House has launched an orchestrated smear campaign against Dr. Anthony Fauci, an unfathomable move during the height of a pandemic as the Covid-19 virus infections spike nationwide. It also defies reason and public safety that Trump is demanding schools reopen with crowded, in-person classes when experts at the CDC say that path represents the "highest risk" for students.
And it’s not just Trump. The entire Republican Party seems committed to reckless pandemic lies. Last week, Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) said it wasn't clear whether children can get and transmit COVID-19 — the same day Texas reported more than 550 COVID infections in children ages 9 and younger.
Biden's claim that Trump hasn't provided a "uniform plan and guidance" for the pandemic is spot-on accurate. For the Times call it an "exaggeration" and "inaccurate" is absurd. It's even more dangerous for the Times to hold up its fact checks and pretend Biden and Trump have similar trouble telling the truth.
There's a new book coming out soon that looks fascinating: The Hunting of Hillary: The Forty-Year Campaign to Destroy Hillary Clinton. Written by former Newsday reporter Michael D'Antonio, the book delves into how the conservative movement, often teaming up with the Beltway press, was able to wage war on one of the most celebrated public servants of her generation.
Here, D'Antonio looks at when the GOP successfully peddle its bogus claim, via Republican Peter Schweizer's Clinton Cash book, that Clinton was forever corrupt. And they did it by enlisting major newspapers to spread the word in the form of book "exclusives":
As ideal host bodies, The Times and The Post energized the arguments in Clinton Cash and disseminated them to other outlets, where they were reprinted. Their distillation of Schweizer became fodder for broadcasters, including the New York public radio station WNYC, which devoted more than half an hour to a conversation with one of the authors of its first big news report about Uranium One and the Clinton Foundation. From this point forward, those who would defend Schweizer and his book could point to the paper of record and note that it had seemingly certified that a genuine controversy had been revealed.
FUN STUFF — BECAUSE WE ALL NEED A BREAK
Matthew Barber, "Easily Bruised"
I stumbled across this song from 2008 recently and can't stop listening to it, especially on sticky summer nights out back. Barber's voice, the gorgeous melody, and his heartfelt message of love and longing strike a mighty chord.
Now without a love I really got nothing
Without a love I'd hang up my shoes
It'd be a world of suffering
If this one I was ever to lose
So I'm hanging on with all of my power
I'm hanging on as tight as a noose
Around the midnight hour
She said remember that I'm easily bruised