Is there any journalistic institution out there today with as much corruption, partisan hackery, and fake news as the “fact checking” industry? Whether you’re talking about the Washington Post’s Glenn Kessler, PolitiFact, or the numbskulls who conspire to tag every right-of-center opinion piece that gets posted to Facebook, this new wave of Truth Arbiters is perhaps the worst thing to have happened to the news business in a long time. And think about the ground THAT covers!
Examples of fact-checking chicanery are as numerous as the fact checks themselves, but every now and then the shenanigans get too twisted to ignore. This was the case on Tuesday when Snopes labeled as “Mostly False” the claim that Gov. Cuomo said it was “bad news” that Pfizer’s vaccine progress came while Trump was still in the White House.
The claim, pushed by headlines in Breitbart, The Blaze, and elsewhere, came from an ABC News interview that Cuomo gave to George Stephanopoulos. Let’s go to the transcript and see what we can see.
“We were talking yesterday about the importance of vaccine distribution in the next two months. What do you make of this news?” asked Stephanopoulos.
“Well, it’s good news-bad news, George. The good news is the Pfizer tests look good, and we’ll have a vaccine shortly,” Cuomo said. “The bad news is that it’s about two months before Joe Biden takes over, and that means this administration is going to be implementing a vaccine plan. […] We have to do 20 million vaccines, and the Trump administration is rolling out the vaccination plan, and I believe it’s flawed. I believe it learns nothing from the past. They’re basically going to have the private providers do it, and that’s going to leave out all sorts of communities that were left out the first time, when COVID ravaged them.”
Well, call us crazy, but doesn’t this transcript prove that Cuomo said exactly what those headlines said that he said?
Not according to Snopes: “Cuomo did not say Pfizer’s announcement of positive testing data for their COVID-19 vaccine candidate was, itself, bad news, and he explicitly welcomed that development. He also did not say he would prefer distribution of a vaccine be delayed until President-elect Joe Biden was in office; nor did he articulate the position that he was dismayed that Trump would garner credit or plaudits for being in office when Pfizer made its announcement.”
Well, this all sounds like a “Mostly True” rating with the caveat that conservative news sites might have made the quote sound worse than it was. But Cuomo definitely said what he said. That’s what should be fact-checked. And you can bet if Snopes were fact-checking a Mitch McConnell interview, they would hold him to every syllable of his utterances. Changing the standards according to whether the subject is a Democrat or a Republican isn’t fact-checking – it’s partisan punditry of the worst kind.