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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Who are you and what have you done with Glenn Kessler.

[ed note I decided not to post this back in the day so it has been sitting as an unpublished draft for a while. Kessler's giving Romney two Pinocchios for, among other things, a claim which Kessler has awarded four Pinocchios in the past, provokes me into posting it]

Recently Glenn Kessler fact checked an obviously true statement by Katherine Sebelius, asked experts who confirmed that it is true, described it as outrageous and awarded her three pinocchios.

There are a number of unanswered questions about the Ryan Medicare plan. It has not been fleshed out with legislative language, and that has allowed opponents to assume the worst about it. Certainly, serious questions have been raised about what the proposed changes would mean for people facing suddenly high health costs. But the budget debate in Washington is fierce enough that senior officials should avoid the temptation to make outrageous charges.

Sorian’s statement is clearly a pullback, and that earns the secretary some credit. But this is in some ways akin to the false claim that Obama wanted to create “death panels” in the health care law.

Sebelius could have chosen to highlight the trade-offs people might face, or questioned the vagueness of Ryan’s proposals to deal with people who can’t afford to pay their bills. Instead, she decided to present a highly inflammable comment as a statement of fact — that there was “no question” people would run out money “very quickly” and then they would “die sooner.” She should be ashamed.

Three Pinocchios

OK lets see. Kessler denounces Sebelius for not taking into account a magic asterisk which isn't in the plan she discussed. Evidently she must assume that something will be done, which will cost nothing and provide health care. This is insane. Kessler demands that the debate on a proposal start when it is fleshed out. This is a terrible proposal. One point of debate is to guide the fleshing out of proposals.

He presents no evidence which contradicts Sebelius's claim. He argues by analogy "akin" and says her statement is bad for the debate. This is not fact checking.

Outrageously, he denounces Sebelius for a non quote in which he patches together snippets of two words each. This is unacceptable. The facts asserted by a fact checker must be above suspicion. I think Kessler should adopt a rule of no paraphrases. He should, I'd say he must, stick to quotes (possibly with ellipses indicated with three dots). It is unacceptable that a fact checker puts words in someone else's mouth.

Enough about Kessler what about me ? Why am I so late to this ? Well I knew the post would upset me and everyone was writing about it so I tried to resist. The double standard of treating Boehner's clearly false claims as arguable and treating Sebelius's clearly true claim as outrageous so its as if it were false, because facts don't matter to the Post's fact checker is just too much.

I see this as a tragic fall. For a while, I don't remember if it is weeks or months, Kessler allowed the facts to influence his fact checking. But facts have a clear liberal bias. They can't have that at the Post, so he has decided to comment on tone and call it fact and to note then dismiss false claims of fact.

I no longer hope that the Washington Post will become a newspaper again. It is a Ballancepaper where the facts are not allowed to interfere with reporting.

Here I think he has made

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