Washington Post Fact Checker Relies on Dictionary to Protect Jeanne Shaheen

Washington Post Fact Checker Relies on Dictionary to Protect Jeanne Shaheen

On Monday, the Washington Post Fact Checker issued four Pinocchios to an anti-amnesty ad blasting Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) for aligning 99% of the time with President Obama–a man who has promised executive amnesty for illegal immigrants. Embarrassingly, the Post‘s pedantic review invoked that most outmoded of rhetorical tropes–the old grammar school “According to Webster’s Dictionary…” side-step–as it performed linguistic gymnastics in an attempt to refute an ad whose premise is patently true.

The ad, which was sponsored by Ending Spending Action Fund (ESAF), states that Shaheen votes with Barack Obama 99% of the time, a fact the ad sources to CQ Roll Call. The Post Fact Checker chose not to challenge this portion of the ad. “We will lay aside the 99 percent claim,” wrote thePost, because it has been “ably examined by our colleagues at PolitiFact.” Indeed, PolitiFact rated the claim “Mostly True.” 

The Fact Checker then stated it would focus on the ad’s claim that, “After the election, Obama admits he will give amnesty to 11 million illegal immigrants.” After conceding that many of ESAF’s back-up materials for that claim come from none other than the Washington Post, the Fact Checker then devolves into a silly game of elementary semantics and actually links to Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary entry for the word “amnesty. 

Quoth the Post‘s grade school banality: 

As we have noted before, “amnesty” is a loaded phrase when used in the context of illegal immigration.The dictionary definition is: “The act of an authority (as a government) by which pardon is granted to a large group of individuals.”

The Post Fact Checker goes on to assert that because the Senate’s “Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act” does not perfectly align with the Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary definition that it looked up online, the bill “did not contain anything as sweeping as that dictionary definition of amnesty.” 

Yes, the Washington Post actually wrote and published that statement.

Undeterred, the Post Fact Checker continued, this time choosing to parse whether the actual number of illegal aliens who stand to receive executive amnesty is less than 11 million and perhaps closer to five million.

“Note the 5 million number,” says the Fact Checker. “That’s much lower than 11 million, which by itself is considered the total universe of undocumented immigrants in the United States.”

Very good, Fact Checker! You’re right, five is less than 11. You get a gold star today!

Or maybe not. Indeed, as the Post Fact Checker admits a few paragraphs later: “At this point no one really knows the exact impact. But the odds are the number will be much less than 11 million.”

Yes, and the odds are, “If you like your health insurance, you can keep your health insurance.”


So, in the end, the Washington Post “Fact Checker” assigned four Pinnochios to an ad with two main claims–one which it concedes was proven “Mostly True” by its progressive cousin Politifact and the other which it says “no one really knows” about but that, “odds are,” may be less than the ad states.

The Post Fact Checker would do well to use its Merriam-Webster dictionary to look up “inane” and”non sequitir” the next time it plans on running its predictable pabulum against those who support protecting America’s borders.


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