Who is Linda Qiu: Recently, the New York Times got into the fact-checking game.
They were rather late to this trend.
At present, their fact-check presentations are being done by Linda Qiu. We'll admit that we've occasionally thought her work falls short of the mark.
This morning, Qiu has a high-profile FACT CHECK piece in the hard-copy Times. She fact-checks Donald J. Trump's recent speech, the one he gave Wednesday night.
Qiu starts like this, hard-copy headline included:
QIU (6/23/17): An Adoring Crowd, And a Dozen Things That Aren't TrueSure enough—twelve fact-checks follow. That's an even dozen.
President Trump returned to familiar rhetorical territory during a raucous campaign-style rally in Iowa on Wednesday night, repeating exaggerations and falsehoods about health care, jobs, taxes, foreign policy and his own record.
Here’s an assessment.
Qiu's third fact-check is very significant. She offers this brisk report:
QIU: He falsely claimed the United States is “the highest-taxed nation in the world.”That's exactly the kind of fact-check a major newspaper should stress. It reviews a major, gong-show claim—a major claim which gets made all the time. Through this standard claim, millions of voters get disinformed about a very basic topic.
In 2015, the United States ranked in the middle or near the bottom compared among 35 advanced economies in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development by the typical metrics: No. 28 for total tax revenue as a percentage of gross domestic product, No. 22 for corporate tax revenue as a percentage of G.D.P. and No. 13 for tax revenue per capita.
That was an excellent fact-check. By way of contrast, it seems to us that Qiu's sixth fact-check isn't:
QIU: He falsely claimed Gary Cohn paid “$200 million in taxes” to serve as his economic adviser.All of a sudden, we're off in the weeds, and we seem to be splitting an extremely fine hair. This is the kind of nit-picking point which will convince many people that they're dealing with a partisan, and that they should therefore ignore all her points.
Mr. Cohn, the former president of Goldman Sachs, was required to divest company shares under ethics laws, and sold about $220 million worth of Goldman stock. He also received a cash payout of about $65 million. The nearly $300 million payout is, of course, eventually subject to taxation but characterizing it as money paid to the I.R.S. is not accurate.
Other fact-checks were hard to follow, or made minor small points, or seemed to take us toward the land of difference of opinion or emphasis. At one point, we experieneced major puzzlement. Because of certain claims we heard last night, we were especially interested in this topic:
QIU: He said he would bar immigrants from receiving welfare benefits for five years, but they already are prohibited."Legal permanent residents who haven’t worked in the United States for 10 years are not eligible for food assistance or Medicaid within the first five years of entering the country?"
The requirements sought by Mr. Trump have largely been in place for two decades since the passage of welfare reform or the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996.
Legal permanent residents who haven’t worked in the United States for 10 years are not eligible for food assistance or Medicaid within the first five years of entering the country. States have the option of waiving the Medicaid rule for pregnant immigrants and children.
Refugees, asylees and victims of trafficking can collect some benefits, and immigrants who’ve served in the military are eligible without a time requirement.
Are we missing something here? Has any such person "worked in the United States for 10 years" "within the first five years of entering the country?"
There may be a way to exit this maze, but we'd have to guess what it is.
We've been frustrated by Qiu's presentations in the past. For that reason, we finally decided to check her background.
She's three years out of college (University of Chicago, 2014). We're just wondering:
Reducing labor costs can be great if that's what we're looking at here. But at a newspaper like the Times, does fact-checking seem like a major beat for someone of such tender years?
Presumably, a person that young could do that job. That said, we've often thought that Qiu's work isn't quite up to snuff at this point in a very important field.
Is this the best the Times can do? Youthful scribes to the side, we find ourselves asking that question a fair amount of the time.