Press Pretends to Fact-Check Trump, But Only Misleads Readers

We have seen this pattern over and over: Donald Trump says something that may be debatable or exaggerated, and in their quest to bring him down, reporters and editors publish “fact checks” that are more misleading than what Trump said in the first place. It happens every day.

Yesterday, Trump delivered a speech to a GOP gathering in Philadelphia. He talked for around 27 minutes; you can see the full speech here. Apparently there wasn’t much for reporters to take issue with, as purported fact checks focused on what he said about crime. At 20:23, Trump says:

But to be a rich country, we must also be a safe country. Right now, too many families don’t feel secure. Just look at the 30 largest cities. In the last year alone, the murder rate has increased by an estimated 14%. Here in Philadelphia, the murder rate has been steady–just terribly increasing. And then you look at Chicago. What’s going on in Chicago? I said the other day, what the Hell is going on?

What Trump says about the increase in the homicide rate in the 30 largest cities is accurate, and no one can question the disaster that is Chicago. So reporters plucked out from his paragraph on crime the sentence about Philadelphia.

The Associated Press released an AP FACT CHECK: No murder surge in Philly despite Trump claim.

President Donald Trump made a misleading claim when he told Republican lawmakers Thursday that Philadelphia’s murder rate has been “terribly increasing.”

Last year, the city logged 277 homicides. That was a slight decline from 2015, when the city had 280 homicides.

The numbers were up from 2013 and 2014.

The average of 2015 and 2016 was up 12.5% from 2013 and 2014. Is that “terribly increasing”? Arguably so.

But in previous decades the homicide totals nearly always exceeded 300, and reached 500 in 1990.

Was Trump talking about an increase over previous decades? The AP can’t be that dumb.

It is true that the 27 homicides recorded for the month through Wednesday were the highest total for January since 2012. But a single month’s numbers can’t be used to predict how a year will end up.

Philadelphia Police Department data tell us that so far in 2017, homicides in the city are up 37%. Is that “terribly increasing”? Definitely. But the AP helpfully tells us that “a single month’s numbers can’t be used to predict how a year will end up.” Of course, Trump didn’t predict how the year would end up. He said homicides had been terribly increasing, which is true.

Here it is the Associated Press, not President Trump, that is engaging in misleading behavior.

Likewise with CBS News, which summarized Trump’s speech and had this to say about the section on crime:

Addressing violent crime in major urban areas, the president specifically called out cities like Philadelphia and Chicago.

Note that like the AP, CBS doesn’t mention, let alone question, Trump’s basic point, which is that after decades of decline, the homicide rate in America’s large cities is rising alarmingly. Their purpose is obfuscation.

Of Philadelphia, the president said “the murder rate has been steadily — I mean, just terribly increasing.” But according to local statistics from Philadelphia police, serious crime in the city fell to record levels last year.

According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the statistics — part of year-end uniformed crime reporting data provided by the Philadelphia Police Department — showed that fewer violent crimes occurred in 2016 than in any other year since 1979.

But Trump referred specifically to murder, not “serious crime” or “violent crimes.” CBS’s purported fact check is irrelevant.

President Trump sometimes exaggerates and he sometimes gets facts wrong (although, of course, nothing as serious as “the average family will save $2,500 on health insurance” through Obamacare). Still, he is a more reliable source of information than the liberal press.

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