Fact Checker Flashback

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.

  • Glenn Kessler

    Fyi, you misunderstand my role. I fact check statements by politicians. There is more than enough for me to do there. If you have an issue with Washington Post reporting, then go to the Washington Post Ombudsman. That Post article was widely misinterpreted, especially by the Obama campaign. The facts as presented in the article were not in dispute; it was the interpretation.

    As regards “racial pioneer,” in my annual note to readers I wrote that I regretted using that phrase, saying it had been a “poor choice of words.” Mollie Hemingway was certainly among the many readers who made that clear to me.


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