Insists that Both Sides Do It: Glenn Kessler is the editor of the Washington Post's Fact-Checker blog. This morning, he posted his list of the twelve biggest whoppers of the entire year.
At the top of the Post's web site, these statements are currently being advertised as "the most outrageous claims" of the year. This is the way the copy reads at the top of the site:
Who made the most outrageous claims in 2015?If you click the link, you get to peruse Kessler's choices. He introduces his list like this:
The presidential campaign has dominated our coverage. In particular, businessman Donald Trump—who rocketed to the top of the GOP field—also soared to the top of our list.
By Glen Kessler/Fact Checker
"It's time for our annual round-up of the biggest Pinocchios of the year."
What were the year's most outrageous claims? Who made these outrageous misstatements? In our view, Kessler's list is rather strange—except as an illustration of a form of journalism which everyone has long rejected as bogus.
Who made the year's most outrageous claims? For starters, Brian Williams didn't make the list!
We'll chalk that one up to professional courtesy. But Carly Fiorina didn't make the year-end compilation either.
Who did make the year's biggest misstatements? Uh-oh! Executing an awful old mandate, Kessler matches six misstatements by Republicans with six misstatements by Democrats. He rattles them off in perfect order—Rep/Dem, Rep/Dem—all the way to the end.
We've never seen a more perfect execution of the "Both Sides Do It" mandate. In the year of Williams, Fiorina and Trump, it makes for a puzzling display.
Let's be fair! Kessler lists misstatements by Candidate Trump in three of the twelve spots on his list. Still and all, his seating chart reads Rep/Dem, Rep/Dem all the way to the bottom.
Fiorina's dogged misstatements about Planned Parenthood didn't make the list. Instead, Kessler includes relatively marginal alleged misstatements by the likes of Hillary Clinton, John Kerry and Elizabeth Warren.
We were puzzled by parts of the Kerry indictment when it appeared in March. It doesn't make better sense today. (Hint: A person can "help organize" a hearing he doesn't himself attend.)
The alleged misstatement by Clinton is a bit skeevy too. As best we can tell, it isn't clear that Kessler even knows that the statement in question is false.
Obama had to be included, of course. His "outrageous claim" seems somewhat less than outrageous too. But if you're wed to "Both Sides Do It," it simply has to be done this way. By law, you're required to list six howlers from each of the warring tribes.
Might we state a few basic principles at this point?
Fact-checking is a good thing; silly fact-checking isn't. Fact-checking starts to get silly when fact-checkers invent silly rating systems (in this case, based on Pinocchios) or when they create year-end lists to compete with those which name the year's best movies.
Largely because of Candidate Trump, this has been an extremely strange, watershed year in the realm of public misstatement. No one else has ever repeated bogus claims with such total abandon, unless it's Kessler's own colleagues at the Post or figures from talk radio.
Fiorina followed Trump off the edge of the world with her Planned Parenthood misstatement, which she simply refused to acknowledge, repair or correct. But because of Kessler's seating chart, she didn't make the list.
A year-end essay by a fact-checker might have noted such facts. Instead, Kessler constructed the ultimate "Both Sides Do It" list. Because of his "Both Sides Do It Equally" mandate, he didn't have room for Fiorina, or for several more of Trump's extremely weird repeated misstatements.
In our view, Kessler's list is strange and sad. As we scanned it, we thought of Goofus and Gallant.
Do you remember Goofus and Gallant? The youngsters have been starring at Highlights for Children magazine since 1948. They are used, in cartoon form, to illustrate good deportment.
Goofus always screws everything up; Gallant does everything right. To refresh yourselves about this pair, you can just click here.
Goofus is naughty and Gallant is nice. But so what? If Santa worked the way Kessler does, Goofus would get the same toys Gallant does every year! The youngsters were equally wrong!
Fiorina made no gross misstatements this year. Neither did Brian Williams.