Last week, USA Today decided to fact check reality. Presented with a photo of President Biden checking his watch during the return of dead US service members to American soil, reporter Daniel Funke said that was wrong. Dont believe your lying eyes.
No, Funke insisted, Biden only checked his watch after the ceremony was over. No matter that military family members were already quoted saying the president did it multiple times.
Then, calamity. Pictures revealed that Biden checked his watch at least three times. Funke was forced to fact check his fact check, which he did grudgingly as a clarification. USA Today couldnt even bring itself to say the fact was true. It was changed to missing context. USA Today correction. Pictures revealed that President Biden checked his watch at least three times. USA Today
What context? The only one we can think of is the context that this makes Biden look bad and we cant have that.
Its tempting to dismiss these fact checkers as navel-gazing propaganda, but the problem is they are increasingly used by social media companies to censor information.
In the summer of 2020, USA Today ran a fact check that claimed that the 1994 crime bill, strongly promoted by then-Sen. Joe Biden, did not bring mass incarceration to Black Americans. Funny, lots of people on the left dont think this is a lie, and USA Todays reasoning is based on an analysis by The Brennan Center for Justice that called the bills legacy complicated not exactly a debunking. An inmate at the Mule Creek State Prison. In 2020, USA Today ran a fact check that claimed that the 1994 crime bill, strongly promoted by then-Sen. Joe Biden, did not bring mass incarceration to Black Americans. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Yet Facebook-owned Instagram, citing USA Today, banned people from expressing that opinion as false information. Coming just months before the 2020 election, this was a blatant example of USA Today and Facebook stifling criticism of Biden.
When you cant fact check, meanwhile, just ignore. The New York Times and CNN didnt cover Bidens impatience at all. It sounds like a broken record these days, but can you imagine what would have happened if President Trump had checked his watch at a military funeral? The Times newsroom would have gone to Defcon 1. Paul Krugman would have had a stroke.
Actually, one doesnt need to imagine this at all since the Times just showed exactly how differently it treats the presidents of two different parties. We all remember the help me out here Ukraine phone call that led to Trumps first impeachment, and The Times covered wall-to-wall. Well, Reuters reveals that Biden had an Afghanistan help me out here phone call to President Ashraf Ghani, asking him to say the Taliban werent winning, whether its true or not. Biden was desperate to keep to his timetable to pull out of the country before 9/11, and, yes, to benefit himself politically. Fox News excerpt. President Joe Biden made a phone call to President Ashraf Ghani, asking him to say the Taliban werent winning. Fox News President Joe Biden (R) hosts Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani. Reuters revealed that President Joe Biden had an Afghanistan help me out here phone call to President Ashraf Ghani. Pete Marovich/Pool/Getty Images
But you wont read about that second phone call in The Times. Joseph A. Wulfsohn of Fox News notes that not only is the Times willfully ignoring the call, so are CNN, MSNBC, ABC, NBC and CBS. Its not a scandal, these outlets plainly hope, if they dont cover it.
One more since were on a roll. Rolling Stone (yes, they are still publishing, who knew) ran a story saying that rural hospitals were flooded with people who overdosed on ivermectin, a horse dewormer being promoted as a COVID cure, to the point that gunshot victims were being turned away. Other outlets rushed to pick this up, because hey, look at these hicks! Turns out it wasnt true, and the one person Rolling Stone quoted didnt actually work at the hospital. But why let the facts get in the way of a good story which we believe is Rolling Stones motto following its Duke gang-rape fantasy.
Now, pundits will say this isnt a big deal because using ivermectin isnt a good idea. But by printing outrageous lies, Rolling Stone undermines its own cause. It makes it harder for medical professionals to build trust. Rolling Stone. Rolling Stone ran a story saying that rural hospitals were flooded with people who used ivermectin and then dying by the dozens. Fox News Ivermectin. Ivermectin is a horse dewormer being promoted as a COVID cure. Luis Robayo/AFP via Getty Images
The Post has a weekly column called Whoppers where we collect examples of craven partisan misinformation. We thought it would last just a month or two, but we find ourselves so overrun with examples that the problem is having enough room to cover it all.
Weve listened to media writers bemoan that they cannot control the flow of information anymore. Why are people turning to those dark corners of the interwebs? Well, when you ignore a major presidential scandal broken by a well-respected wire service, exaggerate and obfuscate, then use fact checks to try to dismiss the truth, what credibility do you think youre due? Chew on that missing context.