- Accuracy in Media - https://www.aim.org -

Kessler, Washington Post, shut down presidential fact-check database just in time for Biden

Just 96 days into the Biden presidency, the Washington Post’s fact-checker Glen Kessler has shut down the presidential fact-checking database that claims it tracked 30,573 false statements [1] by President Donald Trump in four years. 

By contrast, thus far, the Biden database is just 67 items long [2] after 100 days, according to the Post. 

“I have learned my lesson,” Kessler said in justifying the end to the database, although it’s still unclear what lesson he learned or why he felt it necessary to shut down the database for Biden. 

“‘Learned my lesson,’” he continued [3], “means that who knows what the next four years will bring. We have fact-checked Biden rigorously and will continue to do so. Trump at 500 claims/100 days was manageable; 8,000+ was not.”

But then, the Trump fact-check database was never very clear about why something was deemed false. 

The database included petty disputes over when it rained (item number 31575); and even charged simple political rhetoric that might have been uttered by former Presidents Barack Obama [5] or Bill Clinton [6] as false or misleading simply because Trump said it. 

“We will get our people off of welfare and back to work, rebuilding our country with American hands and American labor” (item number 8), the database records Trump saying during his Inaugural Address [7].   

And here is the exact justification used to call Trump’s quote mentioning welfare “false” according to the Kessler database: “Welfare is a broad term and can apply to people who are working but receiving government assistance. If someone is receiving means-tested assistance, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are not working,” says the database.  

Clear? Not exactly. 

Suffice to say that Kessler is getting lots of incoming criticism over the decision to end the database, especially given the rather loose way Biden has of talking. 

Biden once claimed when campaigning that he finished in the top half of his law school class, when, in fact, he finished No. 79 out of 87 students [12]. He has also been hit for plagiarism both academically and professionally [13] so forcefully that it forced him out of the 1988 presidential race. 

Biden has, however, embraced his history, calling himself a “gaffe machine,” and showing that “even when he screws up, his supporters often find it charming,” writes The Guardian.   

“I am a gaffe machine,” Biden admitted in December when asked about potential liabilities of his campaign, continues the Guardian [14]. “But my God what a wonderful thing compared to a guy who can’t tell the truth,” he said, referring to Trump.

It’s especially wonderful for Biden when the Washington Post is determined to use an Excel spreadsheet to memorialize and then challenge everything that a garrulous president like Trump might say over four years in the guise of collecting a “presidential fact-check database.”  

Clearly, the database has served its purpose, exactly.