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Thursday, May 10, 2012
NewsBusters Hates It When Conservatives Get Fact-Checked
Topic: NewsBusters

We've documented how the Media Research Center's "Tell the Truth!" campaign really means it doesn't want the truth told about conservatives. We see that again in a May 9 NewsBusters post, in which Matthew Sheffield claims that fact-checking has a liberal bias.

No, really.

Sheffield rails against the Washington Post's fact-check of an Americans for Prosperity attacking the stimulus bill for allegedly giving more than $2 billion to "foreign companies," forwhich the Post gave the ad four Pinnochios. Sheffield claimed the Post fact-check was "a pro-Obama puff piece" with the goal of "protect[ing] the Obama legacy," adding:

The “fact-checking” label they slapped onto their article was itself a lie, but these days the liberal media uses the “fact-check” label as a fig leaf to cover its partisan biases and mislead readers and viewers into thinking they are getting an unbiased, factual investigation of the truthfulness of political ads.

But Sheffield's attack on the fact-check is deceptive. He insists that the claim of $2 billion in stimulus money going to "foreign companies" is a "fact," and that the Post "neither fact-checked the ad nor debunked it." Sheffield never directly quotes from the fact-check, which means he's hiding the fact that it did address the ad's claims, including that one:

First of all, we live in a globalized world. American companies make products overseas; foreign companies make products in the United States. Sometimes parts are made in a variety of places overseas and then assembled in the United States. That’s a fact of life, and these ads frequently confuse the difference, so that any hint of foreign involvement is depicted as a bad thing.

Both ads cite the same source — a Washington Times article from Sept. 9, 2010 — for the claim that “jobs were sent overseas” (American Future Fund, which displays a Chinese flag when those words are said) or that “$2.3 billion of taxpayer credits went overseas while millions of Americans can’t find a job” (Americans for Prosperity).

The article actually said that the tax credits “went to foreign firms that employed workers primarily in countries including China, South Korea and Spain, rather than in the United States.”

That’s different from saying the money went overseas; it is talking about companies based overseas. Indeed, the original source for that information was American University’s Investigative Reporting Workshop, and its reporting was much more nuanced. Its reports noted, for instance, that foreign-owned firms already dominate the market for wind turbines. In some cases, the firms have U.S. facilities or U.S. subsidiaries, which then assemble the turbines with foreign-made parts. So most of the jobs are in the United States, not overseas.

Indeed, the Post went on to specifically address other claims in the ad, contrary to Sheffield's assertion:

Similar faulty reasoning extends to other claims in the ads. Americans for Prosperity says that “$1.2 billion [went] to a solar company building a plant in Mexico.” So what? The stimulus money went to a solar plant in California; the Mexican plant is simply another investment.

Another claim — “half a billion to a car company that created hundreds of jobs in Finland” — cites ABC News. That report focused on the fact that engineering and tooling work for a new electric vehicle — funded through the Energy Department — was being done in the United States, but that the vehicles are being assembled at a plant in Finland because the United States did not have right facilities. But ABC noted that Fisker will “ultimately produce 2,500 more jobs when Fisker builds a lower-priced version of the car in Delaware.”

Americans for Prosperity also asserts that the stimulus bill sent “tens of millions of dollars to build traffic lights in China.” The source is the Pittsburgh Tribune Review, but again, the article was much more nuanced. The traffic lights are for the United States market, but the article noted that there is a shortage of American-made light-emitting diodes, or LEDs, so parts are sourced overseas while the lights were assembled in the United States.

[...]

One can certainly raise questions about how stimulus funding was used and whether it was effective. But there is no excuse for these kinds of ads, which take facts out of context or simply invent them. These groups should be especially ashamed, given that these claims have been previously debunked, or, in the case of the erroneous ABC report, withdrawn.

Sheffield is simply lying about the Post fact-check. Yet he asserts that "the verdicts of the 'fact-checkers' must be fact-checked, too."

Presumably, Sheffield thinks he is the exception to that rule.


Posted by Terry K. at 11:04 AM EDT
Updated: Thursday, May 10, 2012 11:16 PM EDT

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