Washington Post fact-checker Glenn Kessler responded Tuesday to criticism of his intended coverage of the Biden administration after his paper intensely monitored President Trump’s claims.
“We welcome all suggestions for fact checks. Some of our fans on the right (we see you @redsteeze @FDRLST), have been urging fact checks of ‘Biden lies’ and so we thought we’d take an opportunity to explains [sic] what we think makes for a good fact check,” Kessler began a Twitter thread on Tuesday, alluding to criticism he had received from conservative commentator Stephen Miller and The Federalist.
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Kessler explained that the “best fact checks are pinned on a number” that is given by a politician, and used by Kessler and his colleagues to delve into various policies. However, he noted that Biden’s predecessor was “rather loquacious, speaking or tweeting without any prior fact checking, and much of it was not worth detailed fact checking.”
“We rarely fact check statements by PR people like Press Secretaries… We have a high bar for such statements because we prefer to pin the Pinocchios on a policy-maker and hold her or her accountable for their words,” Kessler tweeted. “We also keep an eye on possible policy flip-flops and inconsistencies. Whether Biden succeeds in getting stimulus checks that amount to $2,000 is too soon to assess.”
He then addressed the infamous tracker he conducted for former President Trump, which counted “30,573 false or misleading claims” during the Republican’s four years in office, and whether or not he would treat President Biden the same.
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“We have no plans to start a Biden false or misleading claims tracker, just as we had no plans at this point to start a Trump tracker. The constant tweeting of falsehoods forced our hand,” Kessler wrote about the tracker, which he launched months into the Trump presidency.
He added, “But we have an open mind and if the need arises we will consider one.”
One of Kessler’s critics, Stephen Miller, immediately challenged the fact-checker by pointing to a repeated campaign promise by the Biden-Harris ticket that their administration would “not ban fracking,” a campaign promise Miller insists was “reneged” by Biden’s recent executive order combatting climate change.
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“For 8 years we were told by fact checkers that the reason they don’t focus on claims by say governors and Senators is because they aren’t the president. Now that it’s a Democrat president, they are fact checking Senators and saying they have no plans to fact check a President,” Miller accused the Post.
“In the campaign, Biden said he would not approve new fracking permits on federal lands. But he would allow existing fracking to continue on federal property and existing and new fracking to continue on private land,” Kessler pushed back. “So we are obviously keeping an eye on whether this changes. But at this point I have not seen evidence he has changed his campaign position. We base fact checks on actual policy statements, not headlines.”
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Miller fired back, sharing a screenshot of a Harris tweet from October that read, “@JoeBiden will not ban fracking. That is a fact.”
“Weird. I don’t see a stipulation about new permits on federal lands here,” Miller wrote.
He also shared a Washington Post headline that quoted Biden saying, “I will not ban fracking. Period.”
“Glenn, you might want to take that up with your employer then. Unless you think “period” has a different meaning than say, everyone else,” Miller tweeted.
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Kessler responded, “I repeat: headlines do not equal policies. But play your games if you want! Always amusing.”
“‘I will not ban fracking, period'” is not a headline. It’s an exact quote from Joe Biden, or do Joe Biden’s words not constitute Joe Biden’s administration now? What are the rules here? Help,” Miller shot back.