On Friday, Time Magazine staff writer Kate Pickert published what she described in the title as a “fact check” of Breitbart News Senior Editor-at-Large and Government Accountability Institute President Peter Schweizer’s reporting on the number of times President Barack Obama and Health and Human Services Secretary met in the three-plus years between the passage of the Affordable Care Act and November 30 of this year. Pickert claims to have debunked Schweizer’s reporting that showed the two met only once.
But Pickert’s evidence countering Schweizer’s exhaustive reporting involves only her belief in what Joanne Peters, an Obama administration spokesperson, told her:
The problem? Sebelius and the President did meet– a lot. “She is frequently at the White House for meetings related to the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, including dozens with the President in the last year alone,” says Joanne Peters, a spokeswoman for HHS. “In fact, she met with the President just yesterday.”
Pickert then adds her opinion that…
The problem with Schweizer’s analysis is his data set: Cabinet Secretaries who regularly come to the White House are not always recorded in the White House visitors log or listed on the president’s public schedule.
To start with, what is missing from Pickert’s “fact check” is reporting and/or any effort involving independent verification of a statement from a government spokesperson. If Pickert chooses to believe what her government told her, that is up to her. But passing along as fact a statement from the government without any reporting to back it up does not rise to the level of a fact check.
Reporting should start with government statements, not end with them.
Finally, what Pickert fails to mention, or failed to research in Schweizer’s reporting, is that he did directly address the issue of Cabinet Secretaries and the visitors log:
When asked whether the nonpartisan GAI report shows a deficiency in Obama’s “leadership skills” during his White House press briefing, Carney alleged that “cabinet secretaries don’t regularly get entered into the visitor’s logs” and alleged that Obama meets “frequently” and “regularly” with Sebelius.
As Breitbart News Senior Editor-at-Large and Government Accountability Institute President Peter Schweizer noted on Fox News’s Hannity on Wednesday, though, GAI examined the White House visitor logs and found that whenever Sebelius went to the White House, it was for social functions with “dozens or hundreds of people.” He noted on Hannity that if Obama met with Sebelius and left the meetings off the books, Sebelius would be the only cabinet secretary whose meetings with the White House were concealed.
The Government Accountability Institute report found that since Obamacare was signed on March 23, 2010, Obama met with “various Cabinet secretaries a total of 277 times,” but his presidential schedule did not “document a single one-on-one meeting” with Sebelius. There was, though, “one instance of Secretary Sebelius meeting jointly with the President and Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner.”
Because Time Magazine and Kate Pickert have not engaged in any reporting, and apparently put no effort into independently verifying a government spokesperson pushing back on a negative story, we see no facts that in any way refute Schweizer’s reporting.
Because it is misleading to readers, we respectfully request Time Magazine and Kate Pickert retract the dissemination of a statement from the government as a “fact check.”