Four Pinocchios for the Washington Post

The Washington Post’s fact checker, Glenn Kessler, accuses Marco Rubio of a “misleading tweet” involving “manipulated video,” and assigns Rubio’s tweet (actually a retweet) four Pinocchios. Sounds serious! Here it is:


So what, exactly, is the “manipulation”?

The video that Rubio tweeted was deceptively edited, removing a key part of Omar’s comment. Moreover, the headline on the original tweet misleadingly asserted: “Ilhan Omar contends that Americans ‘should be more fearful of white men.’”

Omar was interviewed by Al Jazeera host Mehdi Hasan, who asked her: “A lot of conservatives would say the rise of Islamophobia is the result not of hate but of fear, a legitimate fear they say, of quote-unquote Jihadist terrorism, whether it’s Fort Hood, San Bernardino or the recent truck attack in New York. What do you say to them?”

Omar’s full comment is above. But the clip tweeted by Rubio snipped out these words: “so if fear was the driving force of policies to keep America safe, Americans safe inside of this country.” That rendered Omar’s statement as:

“I would say our country should be more fearful of white men across our country because they are actually causing most of the deaths within this country. We should be profiling, monitoring and creating policies to fight the radicalization of white men.”

I am in favor of quoting opponents in full, although I know from experience that it is rare for liberals’ attacks to include more than a sentence fragment. But here’s the point: how does the omission of “so if fear was the driving force of policies to keep America safe, Americans safe inside of this country,” change the import of Omar’s statement? How do those additional words make Omar’s assertions either less false or less offensive?

They don’t. Omar falsely asserts that “white men…are actually causing most of the deaths within this country.” That is incorrect, according to FBI homicide data, and constitutes a racist slur. And her advocacy of “profiling, monitoring and creating policies to fight the radicalization of white men” is contextualized, but not made any less offensive, by her reference to the goal of “keep[ing] America safe, Americans safe inside this country.” That is obviously the goal when you talk about homicide.

This is a good example of a “fact check” that isn’t really a fact check at all, but rather a parroting of Democratic Party talking points. Kessler rewrites Omar’s words, as seen in the video, to make them less offensive. He quotes an Omar spokesman who says she intended to refer to terrorist attacks by white supremacists:

Now, Omar could certainly be faulted for using sloppy language. She never actually refers to white supremacists or white nationalism in her answer, which is one reason it was so easily manipulated.

“Easily manipulated” equals quoted correctly, or rather, portrayed correctly (if not quite completely) on video. Omar’s comments were both false and racist, and Kessler is simply carrying water for his party.

A final point: if the Post is suddenly concerned about political actors who launch attacks based on incomplete quotes, he should turn his attention to the thousands of instances where Democratic Party news sources, most notably including his own paper, have denounced President Trump’s criticisms of The Squad as “racist” without quoting them in full. This is what Trump actually said in his most notorious tweet:

Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came. Then come back and show us how it is done.

He did not suggest deporting The Squad, unlike both Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, who both have said that Trump should be deported. If Kessler devoted himself to assigning Pinocchios to all of the Democratic Party sources (including his own newspaper) who denounced Trump’s tweets without quoting them in full, he would have time for nothing else between now and retirement.

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