The Biden-Ryan vice-presidential debate Thursday night brought out the media's "fact check" squads, including the New York Times, which had a squad of reporters evaluating the statements of Joe Biden and Paul Ryan online during the debate. Still, with perhaps 15 reporters on the job Thursday night, the paper still had to out-source a crucial Biden misstatement on Libya to the one-man fact-check machine at the Washington Post, Glenn Kessler, the next morning.
The Times boiled down a few of its findings for Friday's print edition under "Check Point" on topics including Medicare, the stimulus, and the deadly assault on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi.
James Taranto has written at Opinion Journal that this new-style media "fact checking" is "overwhelmingly biased toward the left" and "gives journalists much freer rein to express their opinions by allowing them to pretend to be rendering authoritative judgments about the facts."
The Times' debate product doesn't refute Taranto's argument. Reporter Michael Cooper had the top "Check Point" item and per usual found the Republican at fault:
As Representative Paul D. Ryan debated Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. on Thursday night, he sometimes seemed to be defending his own past budget and Medicare proposals as much as his running mate’s plans -- sometimes in misleading ways.
When Mr. Ryan was defending his plan to reshape Medicare so future beneficiaries would receive fixed amounts of money to purchase private insurance or buy into the existing government program -- a model for Mitt Romney’s proposal -- he described his plan as “bipartisan,” and called it “a plan I put together with a prominent Democrat senator from Oregon.” But he failed to note that he later lost that Democrat’s support.
And here's Cooper defending Obama's stimulus.
There is plenty of debate over how effective Mr. Obama’s economic policies have been, especially given the painfully slow recovery. But even critics who believe that the president’s stimulus law was a missed opportunity -- from liberals who say it was too small to conservatives who say it was wasteful and poorly targeted -- tend to acknowledge what the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has found: that it did save or create jobs, lower the unemployment rate and help the economy grow in the short term.
By contrast, the paper ignored a key point about Libya. Reporter Eric Schmitt's contribution to the fact-check criticized the administration but didn't weigh in on Biden's false claim "We weren’t told they wanted more security. We did not know they wanted more security there," although the paper's own Mark Landler wrote in a separate story Friday that "Biden appeared to contradict other American officials when he declared that the administration did not know about requests for more security in Libya."
Indeed, the White House had to clarify Friday morning that Biden was speaking for himself, not the administration. It was up to the paper's left-wing editorial blog to clarify. Juliet Lapidos wrote early Friday afternoon:
Mr. Biden fumbled somewhat when discussing Libya, and may have added to the impression that the administration has been less than transparent about what happened.
Mr. Biden said of the consulate in Benghazi, “We weren’t told they wanted more security. We did not know they wanted more security there.”
Oddly, Lapidos cited as refutation a fact-check from...Glenn Kessler of the rival Washington Post.
More examples of anti-Ryan slant appeared during Thursday night's debate. White House reporter Jackie Calmes blasted Ryan on Medicare.
Mr. Ryan made a claim that journalists and independent fact-checkers have repeatedly debunked: that President Obama and Congressional Democrats raided Medicare benefits of $716 billion. But for Mr. Ryan, the claim has drawn countercharges of hypocrisy on his part....What was even more remarkable was that Mr. Ryan began echoing the charge against Democrats within days of joining the Romney ticket....Now, as in 2010, the Republican charge has several problems.
Also during the debate, Richard Oppel Jr. defended the president against Ryan's claim that he has apologized for America values overseas.
The claim of Mr. Obama apologizing for American values has been repeatedly found to be inaccurate: While Mr. Obama has acknowledged American failings at times -- and, like his predecessor, George W. Bush, has on at least one occasion apologized for a specific act of American wrongdoing abroad -- he has never explicitly apologized for American values or diplomacy.
Incidentally, Kessler's Washington Post fact check, cited by Lapidos, was more succint and direct than the Times' mass effort, with Biden coming out rather worse than Ryan.
-- Clay Waters is Editor of the MRC's TimesWatch site.