Glenn Kessler did not author a somewhat bizarre fact check that appeared in the Washington Post Tuesday. That came courtesy of Michelle Ye Hee Lee, who criticized Republican Senator Ted Cruz over his claim that the American tax code has more words than the Bible. Ms. Lee concludes that this is indeed a 100% true fact, but then spends hundreds of words to back up her opinion that it is a “nonsense-fact.”
Kessler is the editor of the Fact Check column and was kind of enough to respond to five questions from Breitbart News about a controversial “fact check” that many, including myself, believe is a completely subjective attack on Cruz disguised as a fact check.
Except where noted this has not been edited.
1. How does an opinion/editorial of this kind fall under the definition of a “fact check?”
I don’t see this an opinion. It was a fact check of a statement. A key part of any fact check is whether there is proper context and whether it might make sense to ordinary people. This is a pretty good example of comparing apples and oranges—something that often results in Pinocchios. But in this case I decided to give Cruz a break, as the counting of pages is a relatively minor factoid. Previously, such counting pages has resulting in Pinocchios.
2. Has WaPo’s Fact Check column ever been used in this way before against a Democrat? Where you take what is an incontrovertible fact and use the Fact Check column to explain why you believe it is a “nonsense fact” — which is a completely subjective opinion? I ask only because the two examples linked [in the Cruz column] are critical of Republicans.
I disagree that this is an opinion. It is a similar to applying the rating scale—except in this case we awarded no Pinocchios. I gave some examples above of when we gave Pinocchios to Democrats for seemingly true facts used in a misleading way. In the course of a year, generally there are an equal number of fact checks of Democrats and Republicans.
Ed. Note: Here are the Democrat examples provided by Kessler:
3. Is this something we can expect more of in the Fact Check column? Pols ridiculed for using what are facts but a fact a subjective Fact Checker considers “nonsense.”
I welcome similar examples by other politicians. Though frankly I prefer to give Pinocchios!
4. Why did you believe the Fact Check column was the best place (as opposed to the editorial page) to attempt make a case that Ted Cruz and other Republicans are using a fact you find unacceptable?
I don’t find the fact unacceptable. The point of the fact check was to point out that it’s is a nonsensical comparison. Politicians are certainly free to keep making that comparison despite the results of the fact checks.
5. Is this an attempt to stop Republicans from using a comparison you find acceptable?
I never pay attention to the party of the speaker making the statement. I know you may find this hard to believe, but after more than three decades of covering Washington I see no difference between the parties in their willingness to manipulate the truth in service of advancing their political interests. I frankly don’t care who is saying the statement—I just want to shed like on the facts behind political rhetoric. This is a simple example of apples and oranges.
Breitbart News thanks Glenn Kessler for his response.
John Nolte on Twitter @NolteNC