Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO), speaks to the media after the International Health Regulations Emergency Committee on Ebola in Congo, in Geneva, Switzerland, Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2018. (Salvatore Di Nolfi/Keystone via AP)
If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times: Media fact checkers need full time fact checkers to fact check their fact checks.
Or something like that.
The Washington Post’s Glenn Kessler is a shining example of a professional fact checker who needs one if not more than one person proofreading his work and analyzing it for mistakes. He’s been caught in so many self-owns and erroneous fact checks that I’ve simply lost count.
The latest example from Kessler happend earlier today, when he posted a tweet that included a link to his latest fact check. It just so happens that he was fact checking comments President Trump made during the Tuesday White House Coronavirus Task Force press briefing where he was laying out his case for withholding funding for the World Health Organization. Here’s what Trump said at the time:
Instead, the WHO willingly took China’s assurances to face value, and they took it just at face value and defended the actions of the Chinese government, even praising China for its so-called transparency. I don’t think so. The WHO pushed China’s misinformation about the virus, saying it was not communicable and there was no need for travel bans. They told us, when we put on our travel ban — a very strong travel ban — there was no need to do it. “Don’t do it.” They actually fought us.
It was Trump saying the WHO said the virus was “not communicable” that Kessler took issue with. Of course he did, because that point is central to the administration’s case against funding the organization. Here’s what Kessler tweeted:
UPDATED with White House comment: Trump’s false claim that the WHO said the coronavirus was ‘not communicable’ https://t.co/JShHr47eRG
— Glenn Kessler (@GlennKesslerWP) April 17, 2020
From the piece itself:
But Trump really gets over his skis when he claims that the WHO “publicly endorsed the idea that there was not human-to-human transmission happening” and that the WHO said it was “not communicable.” The WHO said initially that there was “no clear evidence.” But by Jan. 14, a senior official said they could not rule out human-to-human transmission given the experience with SARS. That statement was made only two weeks after the WHO first learned of the new virus.
It’s almost a Four-Pinocchio claim but not quite. The WHO could have highlighted the human-to-human transmission sooner than it did and pressed China for more information. Trump, of course, could have done the same — and failed to do so, for weeks longer. Trump earns Three Pinocchios.
Got that? Because the Trump administration relied on the WHO’s reporting on China’s preliminary investigations, it’s the Trump administration’s fault for not pressing China for more information – even though China was being deliberately deceptive about the disease from the start, which most media outlets are now reluctantly admitting. Furthermore, the “no clear evidence” qualifier was the WHO’s out, according to Kessler.
This is most misleading, ridiculously parsing fact-check I've ever read. They literally said there is no evidence of person to person transmission.
— Bonchie (@bonchieredstate) April 17, 2020
— The Partyman (@PartymanRandy) April 17, 2020
This is what's know as trying to twist the words to fit your forgone conclusion Orange Man wrong.
— Nickarama (@nickaramaOG) April 17, 2020
Ah yes, false because they said “there is no evidence it is communicable”. Paraphrasing in the most common way makes it false. What is it that Journalism does in darkness again?
— Sherry W (@tobellewiththis) April 17, 2020
It “dies in darkness”, like it does every day at the Washington Post.
(Hat tip: Twitchy)