Washington Post fact checkers correct Biden, gently [UPDATED]

The fact checkers at the Washington Post are biased, but not corrupt. They will fact check and correct false statements by Democrats.

But when it comes to rating the false statements — a highly subjective exercise — they are more forgiving of Democrats. They tend to go light on the number of “Pinocchios” they award Dems, compared to Republicans. And it’s my impression that they are more inclined to fact check statements by Republicans than those of Democrats.

Which brings us to Joe Biden’s performance at yesterday’s press conference. Glenn Kessler, the Post’s lead fact checker, spared Biden from the awarding of Pinocchios [see UPDATE below]. However, he did identify a series of false statements by Biden.

They included the following (with Kessler’s response):

Biden – To hear them [Republicans] complain when they passed a close to $2 trillion Trump tax cut, 83 percent going to the top 1 percent.

Kessler – Biden uses a misleading Democratic talking point that has often earned Two Pinocchios. The nonpartisan Tax Policy Center estimated that initially more than 80 percent of taxpayers would get a tax cut, with less than 5 percent getting a tax increase. The top 1 percent received 20.5 percent of the tax cut in 2018. . . .

Biden – I also set a goal before I took office, of getting the majority of schools in K through 8 fully open in the first 100 days. Now, thanks to the enormous amount of work done by our administration, educators, parents, local, state education officials and leaders, a recent Department of Education survey shows that nearly half of the K-through-8 schools are open now, full time, five days a week for in-person learning.

Kessler – Biden is referring to a survey, released Wednesday, that surveyed schools on the situation in January, just as Biden took office. So the numbers do not reflect anything that has happened on Biden’s watch. Moreover, Biden overstated what the survey found. . . .

Biden – Well, look, the idea that I’m going to say, which I would never do, that if an unaccompanied child ends up at the border, we’re just going to let them starve to death and stay on the other side — no previous administration did that either, except Trump.

Kessler – Biden claimed, without apparent evidence, that children “starved to death” in Mexico under President Donald Trump’s 2019 policy allowing border officers to return non-Mexican asylum seekers to locations in Mexico as their claims are adjudicated in immigration courts. Asked for evidence of such deaths, a White House official referred to reports of “widely reported treacherous conditions at camps along the border on the Mexican side that formed as a result of the Trump Administration’s use of the Migrant Protection Protocol, more commonly known as ‘Remain in Mexico.’”. . . .

[B]ut none documented the deaths of children by starvation.

Biden – If you take a look at the number of people are coming, the vast majority, the overwhelming majority of people coming to the border crossing are being sent back, are being sent back, thousands, tens of thousands of people, who are over 18 years of age and single people, one at a time coming, have been sent back, sent home. We’re sending back the vast majority of the families that are coming.

Kessler – Almost all single adults are turned away, so Biden started off in accurate territory when he spoke about “the overwhelming majority of people” and those “who are over 18 years of age and single.” Then he flubbed [note: or lied] when he added “the vast majority of families.” Only 41 percent were turned away last month.

Biden – Nothing has changed. As many people came — 28 percent increase in children to the border in my administration; 31 percent in the last year, in 2019, before the pandemic, in the Trump administration. It happens every single, solitary year. There is a significant increase in the number of people coming to the border in the winter months of January, February, March. It happens every year.

Kessler – . . .But the numbers do not spike in the winter “every single, solitary year,” as he said. In 2017, for instance, apprehensions and encounters with “inadmissible” migrants declined through the winter.

And, as The Washington Post reported Monday, the number of unaccompanied minors arriving at the border could reach a monthly record when March ends. Biden’s comparison covers the January-to-February period, but the tables could turn on him by the end of the week.

“Never before have so many minors arrived so fast,” The Washington Post reported. “Over the last three weeks, the average number of teenagers and children crossing into the United States without their parents has topped 550 per day, according to the latest government data reviewed by The Washington Post. Border officials are on pace to take in more than 17,000 minors this month, which would be an all-time high.”

(Emphasis added)

The Post’s Nick Miroff also took issue with some of Biden’s false statements. The headline in the paper edition of the Post says that Biden was “in error on some facts.” The internet version of the article softens it even more, saying that Biden showed “imprecision on some facts.”

This is Washington Post fact checking in a nutshell. The Post will, on occasion, point to errors by politicians it favors. But when it does , the Post will almost always pull its punches.

UPDATE: Glenn Kessler tells me that the Post tends to award Pinocchios only for full-fledged fact checks, not for round-ups of quick fact checks made in a speech or a news conference (which is what his fact check of Biden’s presser was). Kessler’s statement accurately reflects the Post’s practice, I believe.

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