Erik Wemple and Ball Four: Is this our day for fiery language? In this new post, the Washington Post's Erik Wemple endorses the use of the fiery term "lie" by big major fact-checkers.
His nugget passage appears below. Lori Robertson of FactCheck.org argues against the use of the term "lie."
In response, Wemple says fact-checkers should maybe use the term in certain cases. We were struck by the alacrity with which he wanted to go there:
WEMPLE (3/9/17): Asked to elaborate on FactCheck.org’s aversion to “lie,” Robertson cites the industry-standard explanation: “Was there intent to deceive?” That’s a question that’s tough to answer, and it’s required to prove the definition of “lie.” There’s another layer to the rationale, too: “Our official policy is the ‘intent’ argument, but … if we said somebody lies every other day, to me it sounds like name-calling,” says Robertson.Is Wemple right? If a politician "states falsehoods that have been contradicted numerous times by well-distributed reporting," is it "fair to reach the conclusion that he has lied?"
That’s not to say that Robertson hasn’t heard the cries for “lies.” “My question for people who want us to say this: Why? Why is that so important to you?” says Robertson. “I mean, is that valuable in some way for us to say somebody lied? Or is it more valuable for us to explain, ‘This was false and let us explain why. Let us give you some other information.’ I think that larger context is maybe more important than the label.”
How about this: Both are important. When the president states falsehoods that have been contradicted numerous times by well-distributed reporting—sometimes directly to him in interviews and the like—it’s fair to reach the conclusion that he has lied.
Maybe! But before you used that thrilling term, wouldn't you want to ask the pol, or his staff, why he keeps making the claim in question? Wouldn't you want to tell your readers what the pol said in response?
Politicians are not required to agree with fact-checkers, even those as celebrated as Robertson or Wemple. We were struck by Wemple's thinking here:
In his head, he wanted to go to the supposition before he sought and transmitted all the relevant information. Even in these enlightened times, we humans tend to be like this.
We recall the famous statement by Gene Brabender in Jim Bouton's classic, Ball Four: "Where I come from we just talk a little while. After that we start to hit.”