Glenn Kessler writes a “fact check” column for the Washington Post. I find the column helpful because Kessler usually does a good job of stating what’s correct and what’s incorrect about the statements he’s checking.
On the other hand, I think Kessler’s liberal bias comes into play when he applies his “Pinocchio Test.” It seems to me that he’s more inclined to award lots of Pinocchios to conservatives who have misstated things than to liberals who have done so to a comparable degree. (But then, this view may reflect conservative bias on my part).
Kessler’s column would be better if he simply struck to the facts and ditched the Pinocchio bit. But I suppose he needs a gimmick and, perhaps, an outlet for his liberal bias.
Kessler’s latest fact check concerns statements by Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren about the 2014 shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. Harris tweeted:
5 years ago Michael Brown was murdered by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri. . . We must confront systemic racism and police violence head on.
Not be outdone, Warren tweeted this, half an hour later:
Brown was murdered by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri. . . .
Hard though it is for liberals to earn four Pinocchis from Kessler, the maximum number he awards, Harris and Warren accomplished this feat with their claim that Brown was murdered.
And rightly so. The evidence did not support the claim. Even the Obama Justice Department so concluded.
Kessler lays out the evidence that led the DOJ to clear Officer Wilson. He cites the testimony of 13 witnesses. Here are four examples:
Witness 104: “Wilson did not fire his gun as Brown ran from him. Brown then turned around and ‘for a second’ began to raise his hands as though he may have considered surrendering, but then quickly ‘balled up in fists’ in a running position and ‘charged’ at Wilson. Witness 104 described it as a ‘tackle run,’ explaining that Brown ‘wasn’t going to stop.’ Wilson fired his gun only as Brown charged at him, backing up as Brown came toward him.”
Witness 108, a 74-year-old black man: This man, a reluctant witness, confided to a friend that he “’would have f—— shot that boy, too.’ In saying so, Witness 108 mimicked an aggressive stance with his hands out in front of him, as though he was about to charge.” He did not come forward to police, but detectives tracked him down and he reluctantly “explained that Wilson told Brown to ‘stop’ or ‘get down’ at least ten times, but instead Brown ‘charged’ at Wilson.”
Witness 102: “Wilson only fired shots when Brown was coming toward Wilson. It appeared to Witness 102 that Wilson’s life was in jeopardy. … Witness 102 said he wanted to ‘bring closure to [Brown’s] family,’ so they would not think that the officer ‘got away with murdering their son.’”
Witness 104: “Wilson did not fire while Brown momentarily had his hands up. Witness 104 explained that it took some time for Wilson to fire, adding that she ‘would have fired sooner.’”
Kessler notes that some of the witnesses testified as they did even though they feared reprisals. He also points out that two other liberal Democrats who are running for president — Sens. Cory Booker and Kirsten Gillibrand — have accurately described the shooting of Brown as a killing, as opposed to a murder.
When you’re more demagogic than Booker and Gillibrand, you have well and truly earned four Pinocchios.
One last point. It’s one thing to make false statements about, say, taxes or crowd size. It’s another falsely to accuse someone of murder and to use the false accusation to peddle the notion that policing in America systematically puts innocent black lives in jeopardy.
Such a claim is divisive and incendiary — far more so than anything President Trump has said about race.
Harris has stated that “we need a president who doesn’t fan the flames of race and division.” But with her false claim about the Brown shooting — a claim so at odds with the facts that the Washington Post awarded it four Pinocchios — Harris is doing just that. So is Warren.
One of these two candidates may be our next president. Neither should relish having to govern in a racial environment as toxic as the one they are promoting through false statements like the one about Michael Brown’s case. Americans should fear being governed in that environment.