Fact Checker Flashback

Fact Checker Flashback July 3, 2012

Glenn Kessler, who writes the Fact Checker blog and column for the Washington Post, has got himself into a bit of a jalapeno. Sean Higgins’s title pretty much sums it up here: “Washington Post Fact Checker: I Don’t Fact Check Our Own Writers.”

The stated reason Kessler won’t fact check his own paper “despite the many pleas of readers to do so” is that it would be a distraction from the real purpose of his beat, which is “checking the rhetoric used by politicians and interest groups.” [Surely it has nothing to do with job security- ed. What is this, Kausfiles circa 2005?]

There are good reasons why Kessler ought to have made an exception here, because the Obama campaign is using the disputed reporting of the Post to bash Romney. But my sense is, most people would let that slide if he actually did a good job with Fact Checker’s core function.

During the Republican primaries, Kessler tried to “fact check” the statements of Herman Cain on Planned Parenthood founder and unapologetic eugenicist Margaret Sanger. He ignored Sanger’s well known comment about pulling up “those human weeds which threaten the blooming of the finest flowers of American civilization” and several other prominent statements about racial cleansing through birth control.

Ignoring all of that, Kessler declared Sanger a “racial pioneer” who may, admittedly have had an ever-so-slightly “paternalistic attitude toward African Americans.”

Kessler’s comments spurred Mollie Hemingway to write the single best sentence of spleen-venting media criticism I have ever read: “Dear God, I hope that the Washington Post‘s Glenn Kessler isn’t asked to fact check something about American slave owners.”

UPDATE: Kessler responds here. So do I.

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