Don’t believe everything you read. Not even if you read it on a site that most people assume is an authoritative fact-checking site.
In an article that purports to debunk a viral e-mail claiming 50 lies by Obama, Snopes.com asserts:
Senator Obama never stated categorically that he would not run on a national ticket in 2008. He at one time said that he had “no plans” to run for national office in 2008, the standard response virtually all politicians give to press inquiries when they have not yet formulated (or do not wish to reveal) their plans for upcoming elections.
Russert: When we talked back in November of ‘04 after your election, I said, “There’s been enormous speculation about your political future. Will you serve your six-year term as United States senator from Illinois?” Obama: “Absolutely.”
Obama: I will serve out my full six-year term. You know, Tim, if you get asked enough, sooner or later you get weary and you start looking for new ways of saying things. But my thinking has not changed.
Russert: So you will not run for president or vice president in 2008?
Obama: I will not.
Gee. That kinda sounds like Obama “stated categorically that he would not run on a national ticket in 2008.” To put it Snopes-style, regarding Snopes’s claim:
Claim: “Senator Obama never stated categorically that he would not run on a national ticket in 2008.”
When these “fact-checking” sites aren’t botching the facts, they can sometimes be found dressing up opinion as fact. Take this doozy by a site calling itself “PolitiFact” (“PolitiOpinion” is more like it):
Did Obama call Palin a pig? No, and saying so is Pants on Fire wrong.
(“FactCheck.org” did a similar piece.)
Here’s part of what I wrote to the Politi”Fact” author:
How is that “fact”? It’s your opinion.
I happen to think Obama *may* not have meant it as a reference to Palin. However, his audience certainly seemed to take it as a reference to Palin, judging from their reaction. How could they, when as a “factual” matter it wasn’t?
Other data point: I run a conservative blog, and I wouldn’t look to my conservative commenters for evidence on this — but I have more than one liberal commenter who said (paraphrasing) darn right that’s how he meant it, and he’s right! How could they be so wrong on the “facts”?
The “fact” of the matter is that the interpretation of Obama’s remark is open to, well, interpretation. It’s opinion. If you can’t tell the difference between opinion and fact, you ought not be writing for a site that purports to deal only in facts. Feel free to write op-eds, but please, don’t give us opinions dressed up as irrefutable facts.
My kingdom for a “fact checking” site that a) gets the facts right and b) doesn’t pretend opinions are facts. Does such a thing exist?