Today I am introducing the RedState Fact Checker™:* a recurring feature in which I fact-check claims that have been dealt with poorly by Big Media Fact Checkers. Today we analyze a claim by Vice President Mike Pence on job numbers.
“There are more Americans working today than ever before in American history.” — Vice President Pence, remarks during a speech at the Tax Foundation, Nov. 16, 2017
Indeed, there are more Americans working today than ever before in American history. Therefore, the claim is:
**END FACT CHECK**
Nice job, everyone! Go grab yourselves a well-earned beer.
Today, the Washington Post Fact Checker analyzes the same claim, states that it is literally true — saying (and I quote): “Of course there are more Americans working” — and then proceeds to give the claim three Pinocchios.
Why? Because, they say, it is misleading.
This is the problem with fact checkers who dive into the realm of opinion. Is the statement misleading? Yeah, probably. As the article argues, the fact cited by Pence is a reflection of the growing population. The number of Americans working tends to go up because the population rises. That doesn’t automatically make the employment picture a pretty one. Obama could have made the same claim, they say, but didn’t. And, now that Obama is safely out of office, Big Media all of a sudden has discovered the labor force participation rate — something many of us cited, and continue to cite, when Big Media cites the largely meaningless “unemployment” number that ignores people who have given up looking for work. And that rate is still pretty poor. Just like it was under Obama.
But you don’t give “Pinocchios” to a fact that is true because you believe it is misleading. That is a political judgment. And (someone should try explaining this to the fact checkers sometime) checking facts is not about exercising political judgment about whether a political argument is sound. It is about fact checking. That’s why the WaPo’s feature is called the “Fact Checker” and not the “Analyzer of Whether We Agree With Certain Political Claims.”
And frankly, whether a political claim is misleading is sometimes less clear than others. Let’s illustrate this by looking at some examples from the past.
Carly Fiorina said she went from “secretary to CEO.” The Washington Post fact checkers noted she had “worked briefly as a secretary” and was later a CEO. Meaning she said she had been a secretary and a CEO, and she had been a secretary and a CEO. What did they give her for her statement? Three Pinocchios.
Ted Cruz once made this claim: “On tax reform, we, right now, have more words in the IRS code than there are in the Bible — not a one of them as good.” The Washington Post Fact Checker determined that the literally translated King James Version of the Bible contains just over 800,000 words, while there were as many as 3.7 million individual words in the IRS tax code at the time. In other words, Cruz’s claim was true. Did they declare Cruz’s fact to be true, dust off their hands, and go celebrate their fact-checking job with high-fives and a cocktail? No. They refused to declare the fact true, instead launching into a long (and misplaced) argument that the true fact was somehow meaningless.
In their political judgment.
“Fact” checkers do this all the time, and the WaPo version is one of the worst. But never fear: as long as I live and breathe, there will always be the RedState Fact Checker™, to make the obvious calls that Big Media is too partisan to make.
*Previously the Patterico Fact Checker™.