“Fact checkers” aren’t always reliable

Last week, Patterico comprehensively smacked down FactCheck.org for a piece they put out claiming that the NRA ad run against Obama was “false.” They were also wrong about the McCain ad targeting Obama for supporting sex education for children. The Washington Post fact check team were wrong as well about the NRA ad, and if I’m not mistaken got it wrong on the sex ed, too.

Today, CNN (surprise) can be added once again to the list of “fact checkers” who have grossly misled their readers while trying to set the record straight. Their “fact check” team today reported the following about McCain’s stance on deregulation and Wall Street:

The Statement: At a campaign rally Monday, September 29, in Denver, Colorado, Democratic presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama once again charged his Republican opponent, Sen. John McCain, with being a supporter of deregulating financial markets that have since collapsed. “He’s fought against common-sense regulations for decades … and he said in a recent interview that he thought deregulation has actually helped grow our economy. Senator, what economy are you talking about?” Obama said.


The Facts: During his time in the senate, McCain has been a champion of government deregulation — some of which is being blamed for the Wall Street meltdown. Since the recent crisis, though, he has supported a plan for the government to take on the debt of failing financial institutions.

During a September 21 interview on CBS’s “60 Minutes,” McCain was asked if he regretted a 1999 vote for deregulating Wall Street. “No — I think the deregulation was probably helpful to the growth of our economy,” McCain said.

In footage of a speech aired during that interview, though, McCain voices support for government now stepping in. “I’m not saying this isn’t going to be messy and I’m not saying it isn’t going to be expensive,” he said, “but we have to stop the bleeding.”

The Verdict: True — although McCain has supported more government oversight of Wall Street as part of the bailout plan.

What does this piece (conveniently) leave out? The fact that John McCain supported Republican efforts in 2005 to begin a regulatory overhaul and improve oversight on mega-biggies like Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. I noted this previously in a post that took CNN to task for another grossly misleading “fact check” piece on Joe Biden’s claims concerning McCain and deregulation.

I have begun to look at fact check pieces like I do Wikipedia. They are good starting points to do further research into an issue, but they shouldn’t automatically be assumed to be 100% correct. The problem with mainstream media fact check pages is that by the time they get around to correcting what they get wrong – and that assumes that they eventually do get around to doing so – the misinformation is spread, and the damage has been done.

If you’re so inclined, you can contact CNN and alert them as to what was left out of their attempt at fact checking Senator Barack Obama’s claims about McCain and deregulation as it relates to Wall Street. Specifically, they need to look at this link. And while you’re at it, maybe you can encourage them to do some investigative reporting on who was saying what about Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae over the last 7+ years.

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