Fact Checking the Fact Checker

Fact Checking the Fact Checker July 4, 2012

The Washington Post‘s Fact Checker Glenn Kessler has responded to my last post in comments. That was rather sporting of him, but I’m still not certain he grasps what his critics are trying to say.

Kessler commented:

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.

Couple of things:

1) Glad to hear him concede that referring to well known eugenicist and Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger as a “racial pioneer” was a “poor choice of words.”

2) Pretty sure I understand his role. I wrote, “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.'”

3) I made the case that he ought to have made an exception about the controversy in question. His own paper reported that Mitt Romney’s former financial firm, Bain Capital, had invested heavily in firms that outsourced jobs. The Obama campaign used this to cut attack ads.

4) Kessler writes, “The facts as presented in the article were not in dispute; it was the interpretation,” but the Romney campaign surely disputed the facts and demanded a retraction.

5) In my reading, the Romney camp had a point and I think Kessler quietly concedes that by trying to shift the debate into interpretation. Here is Team Romney’s Powerpoint presentation on the subject.

6) Kessler grants that the points put forward by the Romney campaign are correct, but he explains “The actual article, in fact, does not say that transfers of U.S. jobs took place while Romney ran the private equity firm of Bain Capital.”

7) To which one can only reply “Oh, come on!” The Post report‘s title is “Romney’s Bain Capital invested in companies that moved jobs overseas,” and here are the first two graphs:

Mitt Romney’s financial company, Bain Capital, invested in a series of firms that specialized in relocating jobs done by American workers to new facilities in low-wage countries like China and India.

During the nearly 15 years that Romney was actively involved in running Bain, a private equity firm that he founded, it owned companies that were pioneers in the practice of shipping work from the United States to overseas call centers and factories making computer components, according to filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

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