Glenn Kessler

Tags ››› Glenn Kessler
  • Wash. Post Fact Check: Trump’s Claim That He Has “Nothing To Do With Russia” Earns “Four Pinocchios”

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Washington Post fact-checker Glenn Kessler gave Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s claim that he has “nothing to do with Russia” the paper’s most severe falsehood rating: “four pinocchios.”

    Media figures questioned Trump’s relationship with Russia after he stood by “frightening” statements that he would defend NATO allies only if they “fulfill their obligations to us” and repeatedly expressed his admiration “for all things Putin-esque.” During a July 27 news conference, Trump denied that he had any financial ties to Russian government officials or investors.

    In a July 27 fact check, Kessler wrote that Trump has previously expressed “continuing interest in doing deals” with Russia but was “finding it difficult.” Kessler wrote that although “it may be possible that he has no current investments in Russia,” it is “not for lack of trying.” Kessler called Trump’s remarks “artfully deceiving” and rated Trump’s claim “four pinocchios.” Kessler wrote:

    In a news conference responding to evidence suggesting Russian agencies hacked the email accounts of the Democratic National Committee, the GOP presidential nominee insisted that he had no business dealings in Russia — with one single exception.

    As he put it: “What do I have to do with Russia? … I bought [a Palm Beach, FL,] house for $40 million and I sold it to a Russian. … I guess probably I sell condos to Russians, okay?” 

    [...]

    But there is other evidence that shows a continuing interest in doing deals not only with Russian real estate buyers, but deals in Russia. “Russia is one of the hottest places in the world for investment,” [Donald] Trump said in a 2007 deposition. “We will be in Moscow at some point,” he said.

    There is some evidence that Trump’s interest in doing business in Russia is unrequited. In 1987, he went to Moscow to find a site for [a] luxury hotel; no deal emerged. In 1996, he sought to build a condominium complex in Russia; that also did not succeed. In 2005, Trump signed a one-year deal with a New York development company to explore a Trump Tower in Moscow, but the effort fizzled.

    In a 2008 speech, Trump’s son, Donald Jr., made it clear that the Trumps want to do business in Russia, but were finding it difficult.

    [...]

    Trump’s remarks are artfully deceiving. He says he had nothing to do with Russia, pointing only to a Florida real estate sale. It may be possible that he has no current investments in Russia, but not for lack of trying.

  • Media Condemn Trump's "Reckless Conspiracy Theory” About Obama’s Body Language

    ››› ››› CYDNEY HARGIS & NINA MAST

    Media figures castigated presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump for claiming that “there’s something going on” with President  Obama’s “body language,” calling the comments “another … reckless conspiracy theory” and noting this shows that Trump is “not ready to let go” of his “tinfoil hat-type” thinking. Trump was also roundly condemned for using the same line to question Obama’s response to the attack at a gay nightclub in Orlando in June.

  • How Conservative Media Enabled Trump’s Outrageous Lies

    ››› ››› CYDNEY HARGIS & JARED HOLT

    Presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump and conservative media figures repeatedly enabled each other to spread baseless smears and outright lies throughout the Republican presidential primary election cycle. Voices in conservative media repeatedly legitimized Trump’s debunked conspiracies, policy proposals, and statistics, some of which echoed longtime narratives from prominent right-wing media figures.

  • An Extensive Guide To The Fact Checks, Debunks, And Criticisms Of Trump’s Various Problematic Policy Proposals

    ››› ››› TYLER CHERRY & JARED HOLT

    Over the course of the 2016 presidential primary, presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has laid forth a series of problematic policy proposals and statements -- ranging from his plan to ban Muslims from entering the United States to his suggestion that the United States default on debt -- that media have warned to be “dangerous,” “fact-free,” “unconstitutional,” “contradictory,” “racist,” and “xenophobic.” Media Matters compiled an extensive list of Trump’s widely panned policy plans thus far along with the debunks and criticism from media figures, experts and fact-checkers that go along with them.

  • Wash. Post Fact Checker Slams Media For Their Reluctance To Challenge “Trump’s Repeated Misstatements” 

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Washington Post reporter and fact checker Glenn Kessler slammed media for their reluctance to “challenge Trump when he makes a claim that already has been found to be false” and allowing the presumptive Republican nominee to make “Four-Pinocchio statements over and over again.”

    Trump has repeatedly hyped falsehoods and conspiracy theories, including his claim that he opposed the Iraq War from the start. Though this is demonstrably false, Trump made this claim 16 times without being fact-checked by the media. Trump also edits other parts of his own record, often with no pushback from reporters. Trump’s preference for phone interviews instead of face-to-face interviews allows him to have “an upper hand” and gives him the power to “diminish the interview.”

    In his May 7 article, Kessler writes that the media have “no excuse” for not challenging Trump on his claims. Kessler even suggested that “TV hosts should have a list of Trump’s repeated misstatements so that if he repeats them, as he often does, he can be challenged”:

    Fact checks are intended to inform voters and explain complicated issues.

    Still, most politicians will drop a talking point if it gets labeled with Four Pinocchios by The Fact Checker or “Pants on Fire” by PolitiFact. No one wants to be tagged as a liar or misinformed, and we have found most politicians are interested in getting the facts straight. So the claim might be uttered once or twice, but then it gets quietly dropped or altered.

    But the news media now faces the challenge of Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee for president. Trump makes Four-Pinocchio statements over and over again, even though fact checkers have demonstrated them to be false. He appears to care little about the facts; his staff does not even bother to respond to fact-checking inquiries.

    But, astonishingly, television hosts rarely challenge Trump when he makes a claim that already has been found to be false. For instance, Trump says he was against the 2003 invasion of Iraq, but research by BuzzFeed found that he did express support for an attack. He said the White House even sent a delegation to tell him to tone down his statements —and we found that also to be false.

    Yet at least a dozen television hosts in the past two months allowed Trump to make this claim and failed to challenge him. There is no excuse for this. TV hosts should have a list of Trump’s repeated misstatements so that if he repeats them, as he often does, he can be challenged on his claims.

    [...]

    The online version of the Fact Checker keeps a running list of Trump’s Four-Pinocchio statements. He now has 26, which accounts for nearly 70 percent of Trump’s statements that have been fact checked.

  • Fact-Checkers Slam Trump's Latest "False" And "Literally Wrong" Claims About Trump U.

    ››› ››› PAM VOGEL

    Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump doubled down on his debunked defenses of his embattled Trump University, a real estate seminar business, during the Fox News March 3 GOP debate. Trump once again claimed that the now-defunct Trump U. "has an 'A' rating from the Better Business Bureau" and misrepresented the status of pending lawsuits against the business. Fact-checkers have weighed in, once again, on Trump's defenses of Trump U., concluding that his claims are "false," "literally wrong," "inaccurate," and "misleading."  

  • Fact-Checkers Flunk Trump's Defenses Of Trump U.

    Trump's Claims Labeled "Literally Wrong," "Misleading," "False"

    ››› ››› PAM VOGEL

    Donald Trump's now-defunct real estate education business, Trump University, served as fodder for attacks from Sens. Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz at the February 25 GOP presidential debate and as the focus of a new series of attack ads from a right-wing political group. Fact-checkers have weighed in on the Trump University controversy, concluding that the attacks in the ads were "truthful," and that Trump's defenses during the debate and in a later interview were "misleading" and "literally wrong."

  • Washington Post Fact Checker Has A Double Standard On Gun Claims

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    Washington Post fact checker Glenn Kessler ruled that a true statement by President Obama on how guns are sold was inaccurate because it was "confusing," just weeks after writing that an unprovable claim about mass shootings made by GOP hopeful Marco Rubio was true.

    Kessler's recent fact check of Obama is his latest botched article on the issue of gun violence.

    On January 5, Obama announced during a speech from the White House that his administration is taking executive action to address gun violence in light of Congress' inaction following several high-profile mass shootings.

    A large share of media coverage on Obama's move focused on the president's plan to expand background checks by clarifying what it means to be "engaged in the business" of selling firearms, although the plan also includes provisions addressing effective enforcement of existing gun laws, funding for mental health treatment, and developing gun safety technology.

    During his remarks, Obama said, "The problem is some gun sellers have been operating under a different set of rules. A violent felon can buy the exact same weapon over the Internet with no background check, no questions asked." Kessler purported to fact check this statement in a January 6 article.

    What Obama said is factually accurate. There are two sets of rules for people who sell guns. People who are "engaged in the business" of selling firearms must obtain a license and perform background checks on customers, while people who claim that they are not "engaged in the business" do not need a license or to run checks. This discrepancy is what is known as the "private sale loophole" or "gun show loophole."

    Obama's "engaged in the business" executive action clarifies the law on what it means to be a gun dealer and requires people who are engaged in high-volume sales or engaging in commercial enterprises to obtain a Federal Firearms License and run background checks on customers.

    Obama's second statement is also true. Due to the existence of the "private sales loophole," a convicted felon could purchase a firearm without a background check through ArmsList.com or several other websites that allow private transactions.

    Taken together, the statement is true as a whole. Gun sellers operate under two sets of rules, and as a consequence someone with a felony conviction can buy a firearm online without a background check from a so-called "private seller" who says he or she is not "engaged in the business" of selling firearms.

    Kessler, however, awarded Obama "two Pinocchios" for his statement, claiming that Obama had used "slippery" or "confusing" language while purporting that "many readers" interpreted Obama's remark to mean that the president claimed that on the Internet "it legally permitted violent felons to obtain guns" -- a bizarre interpretation of the plain meaning of Obama's remark. (According to Kessler's rating scale, a "two Pinnochios" claim involves "Significant omissions and/or exaggerations.")

    Kessler was only able to reach his conclusion by misrepresenting what Obama said, writing, "Obama erred in saying the rules are different for Internet sellers. They face the same rules as other sellers -- rules that the administration now says it will enforce better." Obama actually referred to "some gun sellers," not just "Internet sellers" in his statement, before using a felon buying a gun online without a background check as an example of how the two different sets of rules for "some gun sellers" work in the online context.

    Kessler's purported fact check of Obama stands in stark contrast to a December 10 fact check of GOP presidential contender Rubio's claim that, "None of the major shootings that have occurred in this country over the last few months or years that have outraged us, would gun laws have prevented them."

    In his article, Kessler wrote that he was initially skeptical of Rubio's claim but in the end awarded it "a rare Geppetto Checkmark," concluding that the claim "stands up to scrutiny."

    But there is no way to actually verify whether or not stronger gun laws could have prevented recent public mass shootings unless one possessed the ability to accurately project an alternate history where the stronger gun law was in place at the time of the mass shooting plot. (And how do you count the mass shootings that did not occur because the gunman wasn't able to get a firearm?) Kessler -- along with Rubio and other GOP presidential candidates -- is certainly entitled to the opinion that stronger gun laws do not prevent dangerous people from accessing firearms, but there is no factual basis for this opinion. In fact, the evidence suggests the opposite.

    As a September 2015 article in online magazine The Trace explained while summarizing academic research on the topic: "criminals routinely respond to incentives, and policies such as background checks and permit-to-purchase requirements demonstrably save lives by reducing criminal access to firearms." While comprehensive gun laws would not stop every would-be mass shooter, the evidence suggests that strong gun laws meaningfully raise opportunity costs for dangerous people to obtain firearms.

    In addition to his flawed premise, Kessler's accounts of mass shootings he used as examples to legitimize Rubio's claim do not stand up to scrutiny, most notably his treatment of the June 2015 mass shooting at a historically African-American church in Charleston, South Carolina.

    In purporting to prove that no gun law could have prevented the shooting, Kessler wrote that "some analysts believe [Charleston gunman Dylann] Roof actually would have passed the background check if it had been done correctly." Kessler's sourcing for that claim was highly suspect. Any analyst making that claim would be in disagreement with the FBI, the agency responsible for administering the national background check system, which determines whether or not someone should have passed a check.

    In July 2015, the FBI released a statement revealing that Roof was legally prohibited from purchasing a gun because of a pending drug charge. But due to a loophole in federal law, Roof's sale proceeded because an examiner at the National Instant Criminal Background Check System was unable to locate Roof's prohibiting record within three business days, allowing the gun dealer to go forward with the sale without a completed background check. Democrats in the House and Senate introduced legislation that proposes to give the FBI more time to process background checks to prevent this scenario from occurring in the future.

    Apparently made aware of the FBI's actual view of the sale to Roof, Kessler added the following update to this post (while also failing to delete his baseless suggestion that Roof may have been a legal gun purchaser):

    In a statement after this fact check was first published, the FBI said Roof would have been denied a gun based on an "inference of current use."

    Kessler's suggestion that the FBI said Roof would have been prohibited only after his fact check was published is false; it occurred months earlier in July 2015. And the mere fact that Kessler had to make a significant revision to his analysis -- one that undermined a central piece of evidence cited to defend Rubio's claim -- arguably debunks the entire premise of giving Rubio a "Gepetto checkmark." (Kessler never mentioned the legislation introduced to prevent similar future occurrences.)

    Kessler also failed to mention the 2014 mass shooting in Isla Vista, California, at all in his fact check. Following that tragedy, California signed into law legislation to specifically address the circumstances of the shooting. Before the shooting was carried out, the family of gunman Elliot Rodger expressed concern to law enforcement authorities that Rodger was experiencing a mental health crisis, but no legal mechanism existed to remove his firearms at the time. The responsive law, known as a "gun violence restraining order," allows family members or law enforcement personnel to petition a judge for the temporary removal of firearms from individuals who pose a danger to themselves or others. The "gun violence restraining order" law -- which has now been introduced on the federal level -- has applicability to a number of other recent mass shootings where family members or law enforcement knew that someone posed a danger, but lacked a mechanism to remove firearms from that person's possession.

    Kessler's fact check of Obama's statement about online gun sales is his latest in a series of suspect articles on the issue of gun violence. In October, Kessler awarded Obama "two Pinnochios" because Obama included gun suicides within his use of the term "gun deaths" - echoing a common right-wing talking point that gun suicides should not be included in the "gun death" total.

  • Washington Post Fact Check Gave A Pass To False Rubio Claim That Gun Laws Won't Work

    Blog ››› ››› OLIVER WILLIS

    A Washington Post fact check agreed with Sen. Marco Rubio's claim that reforms to gun laws would not have prevented any of the recent mass shootings in the U.S. But both Rubio and the Post are wrong: the assault weapons ban proposed after the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School would have limited the availability of the guns used in at least two recent high-profile mass shootings. And the Post downplayed or ignored other relevant gun violence prevention legislation that could have prevented -- or at least mitigated -- other recent tragedies.

    During a December 4 interview on CBS, Rubio asserted that "None of the major shootings that have occurred in this country over the last few months or years that have outraged us, would gun laws have prevented them." Washington Post fact checker Glenn Kessler highlighted Rubio's claim in a December 10 piece, noting that a colleague had flagged the comment for a potential fact check under the assumption that "it was almost certainly incorrect." Kessler, however, awarded Rubio's claim "a rare Gepetto Checkmark," arguing that it "stands up to scrutiny."

    In several instances of mass shootings cited as evidence for why gun laws wouldn't work, Kessler gave an incomplete account of the role gun laws could have played in preventing or reducing the amount of deaths.

    For example, Kessler claimed that the sale of a handgun to Dylann Roof, who shot and killed nine people at a church in Charleston, South Carolina, was an "example of an existing law that apparently failed." Roof was allowed to purchase a gun because a clerical error resulted in the examiner not seeing a charge resulting from Roof possessing the drug Suboxone without a prescription, even though the seller knew an arrest record existed.

    But Roof was able to purchase the gun due to a loophole in the gun law. A "default proceed" sale allows the purchase of a firearm at the discretion of the merchant, thanks to an NRA-backed amendment added to the 1993 Brady bill that created the background check system. In October, two Democratic senators introduced a bill to close the default proceed loophole.

    While Kessler originally asserted that "some analysts believe Roof actually would have passed the background check if it had been done correctly" and that the FBI had "incorrectly referred to a felony drug charge" in its statement, he updated to note that the FBI still says Roof "would have been denied a gun based on an 'inference of current use.'" (This update alone arguably debunks the entire premise of giving Rubio a "Gepetto checkmark.")

    Kessler acknowledged that the proposed assault weapons ban of 2013 would have stamped out the availability of the Bushmaster XM-15 rifle that was used by Adam Lanza in the Newtown massacre, but wrote that "gun-control proposals would not have prevented Lanza's theft of his mother's legally obtained firearms."

    While the ban would not have affected the Savage Mark II rifle that Lanza used to kill his mother and the handguns and shotguns that were found in his car, the main weapon he used to kill 26 people would not have been available. The high capacity magazines that Lanza used - capable of holding 30 rounds - would also not have been available thanks to a law passed by Connecticut after the tragedy.

    Kessler also wrote that California's gun laws "did not thwart" Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik when they shot and killed 14 in San Bernardino, California.

    But again, a federal assault weapons ban would have cut off -- or at the very least, limited -- the availability of the AR-15 rifles and high capacity magazines used in the crime.

    While he claimed "the Fact Checker obviously takes no position on proposed gun-control laws," Kessler nonetheless cited discredited gun advocate John Lott Jr. to bolster his conclusion that an assault weapons ban would not have had an impact the gun crimes in question. Lott, author of the book More Guns Less Crime, has often been the go-to source for downplaying the problems caused by gun violence. He has repeatedly produced unscientific research and made factual distortions in order to make his case, and has even been accused of completely fabricating evidence.

    Kessler also cited Gary Kleck, who has repeatedly been cited in the right-wing media based on his research that increased availability of firearms makes people safer. But Kleck's most-cited study -- which asserts that guns are used defensively roughly 2.5 million times per year -- has been criticized for having "serious methodological difficulties." In a 1997 paper, Harvard Injury Control Research Center Director David Hemenway explained how Kleck's data is implausible:

    [I]n 34% of the times a gun was used for self-defense, the offender was allegedly committing a burglary. In other words, guns were reportedly used by defenders for self-defense in approximately 845,000 burglaries. From sophisticated victimization surveys, however, we know that there were fewer than 6 million burglaries in the year of the survey and in only 22% of those cases was someone certainly at home (1.3 million burglaries). Since only 42% of U.S. households own firearms, and since victims in two thirds of the occupied dwellings were asleep, the 2.5 million figure requires us to believe that burglary victims use their guns in self-defense more than 100% of the time. [emphasis added]

    In several of the other mass shootings cited by Kessler, he acknowledged the use of assault weapons in the commission of the crime but dismissed the idea that a proposed federal ban would have prevented the mass killings, or at least reduced the amount of deaths.

    Kessler also claimed that the evidence that a ban on high capacity magazines would reduce the amount of dead in shootings is "heavily disputed," but studies have shown that weapons utilizing high capacity magazines are involved in a disproportionate amount of mass shooting incidents. In the Sandy Hook shooting, for example, several children were reportedly able to escape while Lanza paused to reload. Nicole Hockley, whose son was killed at the school, has argued, "We ask ourselves every day -- every minute -- if those magazines had held 10 rounds, forcing the shooter to reload at least six more times, would our children be alive today?" (The 2011 mass shooting in Tucson, which falls outside the time period assessed by Kessler, was stopped when shooter Jared Loughner paused to reload his gun.)

    Kessler nods to, but dismisses, the idea that banning high-capacity magazines might reduce gun deaths in mass shootings, claiming, "It is possible that some gun-control proposals, such as a ban on large-capacity magazines, would reduce the number of dead in a future shooting, though the evidence for that is heavily disputed."

    In his fact check, Kessler fails to mention the Isla Vista attack, where Elliot Rodger killed six people before killing himself. Following Rodger's rampage, California passed legislation "allowing the temporary seizure of guns from people determined by the courts to be a threat to themselves or others." The legislation could have stopped Rodger from carrying out his plan - as the LA Times notes, the massacre took place "even though the family of Elliot Rodger had sought help because of concerns about his strange behavior before the shootings."

    Similar legislation has been introduced in Congress. Laws like this could feasibly help prevent shootings where the gunman's family or associates knew they were disturbed but were powerless to prevent them from accessing guns.

    Again and again throughout his piece, Kessler chose to play up the gun advocate position in each case without acknowledging the practical effect of gun laws and remedies that have been opposed by groups like the NRA and elected officials like Senator Rubio.

  • Washington Post's Glenn Kessler Debunks Marco Rubio's False Claim About Hillary Clinton And Benghazi

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN

    Washington Post fact checker Glenn Kessler debunked Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio's false claim during the CNBC presidential debate that Hillary Clinton "got exposed as a liar" during her testimony before the House Select Committee On Benghazi for supposedly misleading the public about the cause of the Benghazi attacks. Kessler asserted that Rubio "does not have enough evidence to label Clinton a liar," explaining that changing "reports from the intelligence community 'caused confusion and influenced the public statements' of policymakers" in the immediate aftermath of the attacks.

    During the October 28 CNBC Republican presidential debate, candidate Rubio claimed that Hillary Clinton "got exposed as a liar" about the cause of the Benghazi attacks by admitting "she had sent emails to her family" attributing the attack to "Al Qaeda-like elements" while "telling the families of those victims and the American people that it was because of a video." Rubio's allegation originated with Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) in Clinton's October 22 appearance in front of the House Special Committee on Benghazi, and has been repeatedly hailed by Fox News as a "smoking gun" despite having been debunked by numerous media outlets for disregarding how intelligence evolved in the immediate aftermath of the attacks.

    Kessler wrote October 30 that "one find[s] little support for Rubio's claim," asserting that Rubio "does not have enough evidence to label Clinton a liar." Kessler explained that contrary to Rubio's suggestion that Clinton made "a deliberate effort to deceive...evidence suggests there were few hard answers available then to policymakers" which "'caused confusion and influenced the public statements.'" Kessler also noted "that a Senate report [Rubio] signed documented that the CIA assessment changed several times and was not set in stone until more than ten days after the attacks":

    These were pretty strong words uttered by Rubio at the third GOP debate, and they give us an opportunity to explore what was said by then-Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in the week after the 2012 attacks in Benghazi that left four Americans dead, including the U.S. ambassador.

    [...]

    The House Intelligence Committee, in its 2014 report on the incident, said "there was a stream of contradictory and conflicting intelligence that came in after the attacks."

    The CIA's deputy director, Michael Morell, testified that the first time he learned there had not been a protest at the diplomatic facility was after receiving an e-mail from the Libya station chief on Sept. 15, three days after the attack.

    [...]

    (Morell's testimony contradicts Rubio's claim on CNN on Oct. 29, the morning after the debate, that "there was never a shred of evidence presented to anyone that this was spontaneous. And the CIA understood that." On CBS, Rubio also claimed that it was "not accurate" that the CIA changed its assessment, which is also wrong.)

    [...]

    A similar conclusion was reached by the Senate Intelligence Committee (of which Rubio is a member) in its report on Benghazi: "Intelligence analysts inaccurately referred to the presence of a protest at the Mission facility before the attack based on open source information and limited intelligence, without sufficient intelligence or eyewitness statements to corroborate that assertion. The IC took too long to correct these erroneous reports, which caused confusion and influenced the public statements."

    [...]

    Looking at Clinton's public statements, it is clear she was very careful to keep the attacks separate from the video; the two incidents do not appear in the same sentence (unlike the controversial televised remarks by then-U.N. ambassador Susan Rice).

    [...]

    Focusing just on the public statements made by Clinton -- as opposed to the rest of the administration --one find little support for Rubio's claim that Clinton told the American people that the attacks were because of a video. She certainly spoke about the video, but always in the context of the protests that were occurring across the Middle East.

    [....]

    Rubio is wrong when he says the CIA assessment did not change, given that a Senate report he signed documented that the CIA assessment changed several times and was not set in stone until more than ten days after the attacks.

    [...]

    Can Rubio really attribute this to a "lie" rather than the fog of war? A "lie" suggests a deliberate effort to deceive, while the documentary evidence suggests there were few hard answers available then to policymakers. Even the Senate report signed by Rubio says the reports from the intelligence community "caused confusion and influenced the public statements" of policymakers.

    Rubio is certainly within his rights to point out Clinton's contradictory statements -- and the remarks of the family members give us pause -- but he does not have enough evidence to label Clinton a liar.

    Two Pinocchios

  • Media Debunk Carly Fiorina's "Utterly Wrong" Debate Claim That 92 Percent Of Job Losses Under Obama Were Women

    ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN

    Media outlets called out Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina's "utterly wrong," "wildly misleading," and long discredited claim at the October 28 CNBC presidential debate that women held 92 percent of the jobs lost during President Obama's first term, pointing out that that statistic is recycled from Mitt Romney's presidential campaign and newer data completely contradicts Fiorina's claim: women actually gained jobs by the end of Obama's first term.

  • Washington Post Fact Checker Moves The Goalposts To Claim Obama "Exaggerated" U.S. Gun Deaths By Including Suicides

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    Washington Post fact checker Glenn Kessler relied on a strained justification to award President Obama "two Pinocchios" for stating the truth: "We know that states with the most gun laws tend to have the fewest gun deaths."

    Kessler criticized Obama for including gun suicides in the number of "gun deaths" in America during recent public comments about the easy availability of guns. He justified his criticism of the president by underplaying studies that have found a link between gun availability and suicide.

    On October 1, Obama delivered a statement from the White House after a gunman killed nine people and wounded nine others at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon. In his remarks, Obama said:

    There is a gun for roughly every man, woman, and child in America. So how can you, with a straight face, make the argument that more guns will make us safer? We know that states with the most gun laws tend to have the fewest gun deaths. So the notion that gun laws don't work, or just will make it harder for law-abiding citizens and criminals will still get their guns is not borne out by the evidence.

    In an October 5 Washington Post article, Kessler wrote that many readers asked him to fact check Obama's statement that "states with the most gun laws tend to have the fewest gun deaths." Kessler awarded Obama "two Pinocchios," which according to his rating scale means he believes Obama created "a false, misleading impression."

    Obama administration officials told Kessler that the president's statement was in reference to research findings that were reported in an August 28 National Journal article, which concluded, "The states that impose the most restrictions on gun users also have the lowest rates of gun-related deaths, while states with fewer regulations typically have a much higher death rate from guns." Gun homicides, suicides, accidents, and legal interventions were all included in National Journal's dataset.

    Kessler wrote that Obama's mention of that fact was "a classic situation in which a politician bases a statement on a study, but then exaggerated the conclusions to justify a policy. It also lacks context because the results change, sometimes dramatically, when suicides are removed from the gun deaths."

    But Kessler's criticism of Obama for including suicides by gun as among U.S. "gun deaths" is very questionable, because it ignores the vast body of research done by experts who count such suicides as gun deaths. Instead of debunking Obama's actual statement -- which Kessler cannot do because the statement is true -- he instead has to move the goalposts in order to criticize Obama.

    In fact, a statement similar to Obama's has previously appeared in The Washington Post. In a December 2012 entry in the Post's Wonkblog, Ezra Klein wrote, "States with tighter gun control laws appear to have fewer gun-related deaths."

    Kessler cited two academic articles to support giving Obama two Pinocchios:

    Some might argue that it is wrong to exclude suicides from the data, as less access to guns might result in fewer suicides. The data on that is mixed. Gun-related suicides might decline, but studies have shown little connection between suicides and access to guns. A 2004 report published by the National Academy of Sciences concluded that "some gun control policies may reduce the number of gun suicides, but they have not yet been shown to reduce the overall risk of suicide in any population."

    Kessler misleads his readers by making the sweeping claim that evidence is "mixed" on whether there is a connection between gun access and suicide, when the majority view among academics is that there is indeed a relationship.

    According to Means Matter, a project of the Harvard School of Public Health, "Twelve or more U.S. case control studies have compared individuals who died by suicide with those who did not and found those dying by suicide were more likely to live in homes with guns."

    The Harvard Injury Control Research Center similarly concluded, "The preponderance of current evidence indicates that gun availability is a risk factor for youth suicide in the United States. The evidence that gun availability increases the suicide rates of adults is credible, but is currently less compelling." The Harvard researchers also concluded, "people in states with many guns have elevated rates of suicide, particularly firearm suicide."

    According to a survey of the authors, out of "1,200 articles on firearms published since 2011 in peer-reviewed journals focused on public health, public policy, sociology, and criminology," 84 percent of respondents agreed that access to guns increases the risk of suicide: