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TPaw Gets ‘Fact Checked’



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The Associated Press is not impressed with Tim Pawlenty’s new truth-telling streak. “A parsing of Pawlenty’s opening-day statements shows they were not the whole truth,” the AP remarks in a new piece.

So what are they offended by? Let’s start with this example:

PAWLENTY: “ObamaCare is unconstitutional.” — USA Today column.

THE FACTS: Obama’s health care overhaul might be unconstitutional in Pawlenty’s opinion, but it is not in fact unless the Supreme Court says so. Lower court rulings have been split.

First, Pawlenty wrote this in an opinion piece. Second, it wouldn’t be factually incorrect if someone opined that something that the Supreme Court had ruled constitutional — Dred Scott, anyone? — was, in their mind, unconstitutional.  (Full disclosure: I previously worked at USA Today as a fact checker.)

Another example:

PAWLENTY: “There’s only four governors in the country that got an A grade from the tough-grading Cato Institute for fiscal management. I was one of them.” — ABC’s “Good Morning America.”

THE FACTS: Cato may be a tough grader, but it is hardly objective. The institute holds staunch libertarian views, including a passion for smaller government, and graded governors in 2010 according to their success in cutting taxes and spending. Pawlenty tied for third with Democratic Gov. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, behind South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, both Republicans.

The catch: Pawlenty never said Cato was objective. He said they were tough graders (something that those GOP governors who couldn’t get past B’s and C’s ever would probably agree with!) and that they gave it to him based on his handling of fiscal issues – which is accurate. And he may have tied for third, but that was high enough to get him an A.

Other false statements the AP found include Pawlenty’s statement that “Barack Obama has consistently stood for higher taxes.” The only claim I found that looks like it might have some validity is the criticism of Pawlenty’s comment that Minnesota is no longer one of the top 10 worst states in terms of taxation. (Although Minnesota Public Radio has a piece here that seems to look more deeply into the claim than the AP’s quick hit and finds that there are some ways in which Minnesota is no longer in the top ten most-taxed states.)

It’s too bad, at a time when we could use more fact checking in journalism, that the AP is publishing absurdities like this.



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