A Model of Thorough Fact-Checking…

…the New York Times is not. On Monday, the Times published an article criticizing John McCain for failing to check thoroughly enough into Governor Sarah Palin’s background before selecting her as his running mate. The Times cited a “series of disclosures [that] called into question … how thoroughly Mr. McCain had examined her background before putting her on the Republican presidential ticket.” As it turned out, though, it was the Times that failed to investigate thoroughly. One of its “disclosures” was false, as the paper admitted this morning:

An article on Tuesday about concerns over Senator John McCain’s background check of Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska, his choice of running mate, misstated the history of her political party affiliation. As The Times has since reported, she has been a registered Republican since 1982; she was not for a couple of years in the 1990s a member of the Alaskan Independence Party, which advocates a vote on whether her state should secede.

I don’t think the McCain campaign needs any lessons from the New York Times on how to conduct a proper factual investigation.

So, where does this correction leave the “series of disclosures” that were so significant that they merited a front-page article? Now that the paper’s error has been airbrushed from the article, three “disclosures” remain: Bristol Palin is pregnant; Governor Palin is represented by counsel in connection with an investigation into the firing of the state’s public safety commissioner, and Todd Palin had a DUI arrest 22 years ago, when he was 22 years old.

This is a remarkably feeble list. McCain and Palin say they knew about the pregnancy, and there is no evidence to the contrary. So, while I think they mishandled it by not bringing it up the first time the family was introduced, this is not a vetting issue. As for the “investigation,” it is old news and the fact that Palin has a lawyer adds nothing. In fact, the firing of the commissioner was obviously justified, and the investigation is going nowhere. Again, this is no evidence of any failure in the process. Finally, the fact that the candidate’s spouse got a DUI when he was 22–about the age when Barack Obama, by his own admission, was doing illegal drugs–is so laughably irrelevant that it can only be on the list of “disclosures” as a make-weight.

All in all, this appears to be another effort by the Times to create news rather than report news.

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