Tom Cotton corrects WaPo fact check

The fact-check genre of mainstream (left-wing) journalism has become something of a self-parodying joke. It is yet another branch of Democratic Party politics

Glenn Kessler provided a case study in how it’s done in the March 2021 Washington Post fact-check “Murderers, undocumented immigrants: Hyped-up claims about who’s getting stimulus checks.” Kessler awarded Senator Tom Cotton two Pinocchios for his prescient criticism of the Democrats’ CARES Covid/stimulus bill, or whatever it was. Senator Cotton declared: “Dylann Roof murdered nine people. He’s on federal death row. He’ll be getting a $1,400 stimulus check as part of the Democrats’ ‘COVID relief’ bill.” The fact-check also quoted a Cotton tweet:

These quotes are an example of this process in action, with Cotton tweeting a talking point just hours after the coronavirus stimulus bill was approved. Cotton isn’t shy about his intentions either. On March 8, he tweeted that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the Boston bomber, would also get benefits and declared, “Get ready for campaign ads.”

Senator Cotton had it right. Witness the $1,400 check paid out to Boston Marathon terrorist/murderer Dzhokhar Tsarnaev under the bill.

As a reward for Cotton’s accuracy and prescience, yesterday Kessler adjusted the Two Pinocchios to One Pinocchio. This is the update appended to his column yesterday in its entirety — really:

We received an email from Cotton’s press secretary, James Arnold, who noted that Tsarnaev did indeed receive a stimulus check. This news emerged in a filing made by the Justice Department seeking to seize the money for criminal restitution he still owes.

“You portrayed Senator Cotton’s amendment as pure political theater—’not serious legislation’—warning of an outcome that, according to your article, was very unlikely to happen,” Arnold wrote. “Now that it has in fact happened, we’re asking that you update your story to include that Senator Cotton’s concerns did come true and that his amendment would have prevented it.” He added that “we also disagree with your claims that Senator Cotton’s efforts were solely political, designed only for campaign ads etc., instead of based on legitimate policy disagreements.” He noted, for instance, the use of the phrase “scaremongering.”

We take such requests seriously and are always willing to review a fact check in light of new information.

Cotton primarily received the Two-Pinocchio rating because his comments lacked context. He suggested this problem was the result of something Democrats did, when he had previously voted for legislation with the same language that allowed for checks to be issued to prisoners. He also made it clear that he intended weaponize this debate for campaign ads.

Still, Cotton’s predictive powers should be acknowledged. He said the Boston bomber would get a stimulus check — and Tsarnaev did. Now, if the government is successful, this money will go to victims. So Tsarnaev still will not keep it. But in retrospect, the use of the phrase of “scaremongering” was inappropriate. Cotton had raised a legitimate issue of concern, even if he framed it in a political way. The term “hyped up” in the headline went too far as well.

Thus, we will reduce the rating on this claim to One Pinocchio — our version of “mostly true.” His statement still lacks some context but he was certainly correct that Tsarnaev would receive a stimulus check.

Is this a joke? Only in the metaphorical sense.

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