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.

Sean Higgins’s Grandfather, RIP

The logo for Jeremy Lott’s Diary is modeled on the logo for a stand-alone blog that I once owned and sort of operated. I say “sort of” because, at my request, a friend named Sean Higgins took it over. He did all of the posting there for years. This created problems for Sean. People were constantly asking him, “Wait, why are you blogging on JeremyLott.net? Is that a pen name or something?” We eventually had to include a picture of both of us so that he could say “No, look, there’s Jeremy and there I am standing next to him.”

I say this by way of introduction to Patheos readers. I will undoubtedly post links to Sean’s pieces here from time to time. Maybe he’ll even take this blog over at some point. Today, Sean gives us an obituary of his grandfather, Robert “Bob” Higgins, a World War II vet from the European theater who “came within an inch of death at least five times in the Big One, all but one of those times during the siege” of Bastogne.

Sean explains the importance of that siege: “Control of Bastogne was key to the Battle of Bulge: Literally all the usable roads ran through it.” So of course the Germans “surrounded the town and demanded surrender.” But Bob Higgins’s unit wasn’t budging: “[The Germans] received a one-word response from the 101st: ‘Nuts.’ An American medic helpfully translated this into German as ‘Du kannst zum Teufel gehen,’ which, roughly speaking, means, ‘You can go to Hell.’”

As Bob Higgins explained it to his grandson, “We were paratroopers. Landing behind enemy lines was what we were trained for, so when the Germans said, ‘We have you surrounded,’ we thought, ‘So?’ We were always surrounded.”

From Sean’s description, his grandfather sounds like one hell of a guy. Always sorry to see one of those old soldiers go.


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