Politics & Policy

A New York Times ‘Fact-Checker’ Misfires on Guns

(Reuters photo: Jim Young)
Three claims, three biased analyses

Theoretically, it might make sense for a news outlet that bills itself as the nation’s “paper of record” to have a daily or weekly column devoted to fact-checking the claims and assertions made by America’s punditariat. Theoretically.

But “Spurious Chart, Data on N.R.A. Spending Mislead in Gun Debate,” from NYT fact-checker Linda Qiu, reaffirmed every right-wing criticism of this practice.

After the horrific Mandalay Bay massacre on the Las Vegas strip Sunday night, the Left immediately pivoted to the usual gun-control talking points, sparking a number of responses from popular conservative writers and journalists. In her column, Qiu focuses on three of the most debated gun-related claims, starting with a chart created in 2015 by Mark J. Perry of the conservative American Enterprise Institute. The graph depicts a negative correlation between the number of privately owned firearms and the nation’s gun-homicide rate.

Popular conservative commentator Ben Shapiro and the conspiracy-minded InfoWars journalist Paul Joseph Watson both shared the chart this week and noted that an increase in the number of firearms in the United States hadn’t led to an increase in murders. Pretty simple, irrefutable stuff.  

Qiu admits the “impact of gun silencers can be overstated,” and accurately reports that even with a suppressor, the shots from Stephen Paddock’s AR-15 would be only 30 decibels quieter — still “as loud as a jackhammer.” Yet that doesn’t stop her from indulging Clinton’s inane speculation that a silenced rifle could have made Paddock harder to locate because of the concert’s “blaring music.” Of course, the music quickly ceased as Jason Aldean and his band exited the stage after the first barrage of shots rang out, and knowing Paddock’s exact location would not have done much good for those caught in the middle of his ambush. Further, law enforcement located Paddock not by tracing his fire, but by the activation of his hotel suite’s smoke alarm.

Qui’s “fact checking” column is just the latest installment of many in the liberal media’s endless effort to delegitimize conservatives’ participation in the nation’s political discourse. The regular use of rhetorical strawmen, however obvious, demonstrates just how easily partisans can co-opt something as innocuous as “fact checking.”


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