Yet another fine fact-checking mess!


Glenn Kessler returns to Benghazi: In our previous post, we discussed Rachel Maddow’s reaction to PolitiFact’s latest strange rating.

Maddow said PolitiFact is ruining fact-checking all by itself. Yesterday, we thought Glenn Kessler tried to do his part at his Washington Post Fact Checker site.

As you know, Benghazi is back in the news. Yesterday, Kessler linked to his original post on this topic, in which he awarded Susan Rice two Pinocchios for statements she made on the September 16 Sunday programs.

He said he thinks that, “over time,” his original post “has held up rather well.” We read it again we and thought it was awful. And we're inclined to like Kessler’s work, although we no longer know why.

To read Kessler’s latest post, click here. Remember the basic law of this game:

Fact-checking sounds like a great idea—until you see other folk do it!


  1. The Fact Checker seems to have slipped up more than once.
    In addition to "strongly suggested", "concluding that", "Reading between the lines", etc., there is this:

    "As we noted in our timeline of administration statements, it took two weeks for the White House to formally acknowledge that Obama believed the attack was terrorism."

    The Fact Checker has his facts dead wrong here:

    The attack was Sept. 11: 7:43 p.m. Associated Press alert: “Libyan security official says 1 American shot dead, another wounded in attack on USconsulate.”

    Mr. Obama applied the “terror” label to the attack in his first public statement on the events in Benghazi, delivered in the Rose Garden at the White House at 10:43 a.m. on Sept. 12, though the reference was indirect. “No acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation, alter that character or eclipse the light of the values that we stand for,”

    1. Isn't that the same mistake Romney made that, once and for all, killed his chances?
      "Please proceed...."

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  4. Here, from Kessler's timeline, is why TDH doesn't like his fact checking:

    For political reasons, it certainly was in the White House’s interests to not portray the attack as a terrorist incident, especially one that took place on the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks. Instead the administration kept the focus on what was ultimately a red herring — anger in the Arab world over anti-Muslim video posted on You Tube. With key phrases and message discipline, the administration was able to conflate an attack on the U.S. Embassy in Egypt — which apparently was prompted by the video — with the deadly assault in Benghazi.

    Officials were also able to dismiss pointed questions by referring to an ongoing investigation.

    For whatever reason, TDH decided that Susan Rice was getting a raw deal in all this. So TDH got snookered by the red herrings and references to (post-election) investigations. Unsurprisingly, TDH fails to point out any reason today why Kessler's work back in September is "awful." Embarrassing.

    Why doesn't TDH admit that more skepticism toward the politicians' statements would have been a better approach? Susan Rice's critics did get many things wrong and TDH can point that out as well--but without the context that she was primarily dissembling for the benefit of her boss, TDH's points were, and are, worthless.

    1. "For whatever reason, TDH decided that Susan Rice was getting a raw deal"

      "For whatever reason?" My hat is off. You are the consummate bullshitter, sir!

      The "whatever" was of course the widespread factual misrepresentation of what Rice actually said.

      But you know that. Why pretend otherwise?

    2. So you think Rice did get a raw deal. Ok. That explains why TDH's readership left the building.

      As I plainly said above, Rice's critics got many things wrong. But that wasn't the main event...except at TDH.

      In real time, TDH was defending the powerful, careerist dissembler and it was pointed out in numerous comments. Any thoughts now on this?:

      Hicks said he spoke by telephone with Stevens shortly after armed men stormed the compound. “Greg, we’re under attack,” Stevens said, according to Hicks. Hicks said American officials in Libya concluded from unspecified Twitter feeds that al Qaida-affiliated Islamist extremists were carrying out the attack. He confirmed that officials on the ground never believed that the attack grew out of a demonstration.

      - Hicks slammed U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice’s appearance on Sunday news shows days after the attack, when she linked it to angry demonstrations in the Muslim world against the video denigrating Islam. “I was stunned. My jaw dropped,” Hicks said in response to a question from Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C. “I was embarrassed.”

      - Rice's comments flatly contradicted Libyan President Mohammed Magariaf's public statement that the attack was the work of terrorists, effectively humiliating him, with the result of delaying the FBI's access to the compound, Hicks said.

      Instead of calling Kessler's work "awful" without any sort of supporting evidence or analyis, TDH should tip its hat to Kessler who saw through the fog of administration "gorilla dust" and laid out what was happening back in September.

    3. The aim of this blog is exposing press misconduct, and documenting the nuts and bolts so that media consumers can understand some of the subtext. You seem to think that showing how a doctored account of an event, in this case Rice's appearances on a certain Sunday's talk shows, can spread through our mainstream media, is not important. Or that Rice's malfeasance is so egregious, that noone can speak of any other person's actions surrounding this episode.

      There certainly were plenty of other places that trumpeted your point of view, so I don't get your demand that this blog must explore how Rice was a water carrier.

    4. Rice and what Rice knew or didn't know are almost incidental to the fact that the administration was attempting to impose a favorable (and false) narrative around the events in an effort to deceive the public. Obama's generic use of "act of terror" did not change the fact that he and his administration were engaged in this deception, but it was enough "proof" for any dishonest defender to hang his hat on.

    5. Isn't a US Administration misleading the American public a dog bites man story?

      Is asking that the media be accurate "defending" Rice?

  5. "The aim of this blog is exposing press misconduct, and documenting the nuts and bolts so that media consumers can understand some of the subtext."

    That's a fair comment. But then what is wrong with Kessler's work that was cited in this post? Where was the misconduct in Kessler's "awful" work--either now or back in September?

    Back in real time, Kessler gave an excellent account of the administration's effort to spin the events in Benghazi. TDH thought the story was that Susan Rice was being thrown under the bus. Does anyone think that TDH's account has held up better...even strictly as media analysis?

    1. I went back and reread Somerby's post on Oct. 30 concerning Kessler's post on the administration's effort to spin the Benghazi events. After showering Kessler with praise for his work in total, he presented what he took to be subtle, read-between-the-lines speculations out of place in a fact-checking piece. What's wrong with that again?

    2. In the above May 8 post to which these comments are attached, TDH says this about Kessler:

      "He [Kessler] said he thinks that, “over time,” his original post “has held up rather well.” We read it again we and thought it was awful. And we're inclined to like Kessler’s work, although we no longer know why."

      What's wrong with that is that it compounds TDH's misguided Benghazi coverage by trashing those who reported well in real time.

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