The Free Press is no fan of “fact-checkers.”
That’s because the “facts” they select to “check” often tend to favor Democrats over Republicans. Which essentially makes such analyses little more than left-wing opinion columns by another name, one that seeks to confer authority and gravitas because it’s supposedly dealing with “facts.”
The Washington Post offers another example of how useless “fact-checks” are.
On Thursday, President Joe Biden spoke at North Carolina A&T University and invoked his new talking point – “Putin’s price hike” – to explain why inflation is galloping upward like Secretariat in the home stretch at Belmont.
Biden slapped blame for a jump in inflation on the Russian leader and his invasion of Ukraine.
WaPo “fact-checker” Glenn Kessler scrutinized Biden’s claim. In his analysis, he noted, “Without saying so directly, he’s referring to the monthly change in prices, not the annual change. Let’s go through the math, using the monthly numbers.”
Kessler continues: “Prices rose 1.2 percent from February to March. (That translates to a 15.9 percent annual rate.) Now let’s express this increase in basis points, which is one-hundredth of 1 percentage point. So a 1.2 percent increase would be 120 basis points. Energy prices rose 11 percent last month. Since energy is 7.547 percent of the basket, we multiply that figure by 11. That gives us 83 basis points. That is then divided by the overall number of 120 basis points (83/120), yielding 69.1 percent. In other words, that’s how much energy prices contributed to the monthly increase. Biden rounded that up to 70 percent.”
Except, he then acknowledges that Biden, in his own comments, suggested he was talking about the inflation number that most Americans understand – the annual increase, which was 8.5 percent and the biggest spike in 41 years.
Kessler even admits the Post bought into that.
“Many people might believe the president was referring to the headline annual number in the inflation report – 8.5 percent – and that Biden was saying 70 percent of that figure was attributable to an increase in energy costs. We certainly did when we first heard this line,” he wrote.
Kessler then admits he went with the spin offered by Biden’s economic team, which focused on the monthly increase in prices – which almost no one would have considered or taken from Biden’s speech, which came two days after an inflation report noting an 8.5 percent year-over-year increase that Kessler called “dismal” and “grim.”
Yet this analysis doesn’t help the case for either Biden or Kessler.
Imagine the American public understood what Biden allegedly meant – and there is considerable skepticism that a president who shakes hands with the invisible man would make this distinction.
We would then accept that Vladimir Putin is responsible for an increase in prices of about 0.84 percent – which, had Biden said that, would have sounded like almost nothing without doing the convoluted math practiced by Biden’s advisers and Kessler.
The problem for Kessler – and Biden and Democrats generally – is that inflation generally and gas prices particularly began spiking almost from the moment Biden took office. Kessler wrote that gas prices jumped 48 percent between March 2021 and March 2022, which is elevating nearly six times as fast as overall inflation. There is no way that’s all Putin’s fault.
Kessler then admits what any rational observer of Biden would have.
“Ordinary people might certainly have assumed he was referring to the 12-month inflation rate, not the one-month figure. … Most Americans care about the inflation rate over the past year, not the past month,” Kessler wrote.
His conclusion: “We went back and forth over whether some level of Pinocchios was warranted. We were tempted to award Two Pinocchios, essentially half true. We certainly would be more comfortable if Biden had referred specifically to monthly inflation figures. But he did refer to the invasion that began 50 days ago. So we will leave this unrated and let readers decide for themselves.”
It’s a bogus move for a “fact-checker,” but really “let readers decide for themselves” should be the watchword, meaning we can and should be done with all manners of “fact-checking.”
We, however, should not expect anything but a punt on issues like this from the WaPo and Kessler.
After all, just as Biden took office, Kessler said the Post saw no need to continue a lie-by-lie tracker for him as it had done so for former President Donald Trump – even though Biden was the guy who once dropped out of a presidential campaign for plagiarism and who routinely lied as a candidate.
That gets to the heart of “fact-checking.”
As former longtime CBS News reporter Bernard Goldberg wrote in The Hill last September, “Why isn’t it a ‘lie’ when Joe Biden says something false or dishonest?”
He then provided the answer.
“When Donald Trump misled the American people, the media somberly told us that he was a ‘threat to democracy.’ When Biden misleads the American people it’s because … well, you know, that’s simply Joe being Joe.”
And the “fact-checkers,” when not spinning the Democrats’ spin, will “let readers decide for themselves.”