Keeping them Honest?

Friday, October 17, 2008


This election cycle has seen the proliferation of new organizations devoted to fact-checking, as well as new fact-checking desks at established media outlets. But has this increased scrutiny done anything to quell the untruths? The Politico's Daniel Libit says all these truth-squaders might drown each other out and have little effect on keeping the campaigns honest.
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Comments [28]

Chris Gray from New Haven, CT

Oh, it is going to be such a litigious post-election fiasco!

Oct. 24 2008 03:47 PM
David Rowe from Lawrenceville, NJ

I must echo Mr Bendemann. ACORN is an organization OF volunteers, who go out with Acorn labelled materials wearing ACORN T-Shirts. But they are somehow not responsible? ACORN is as responsible for their organization's volunteers as a company is for their employees - the only difference, Bob, is volunteers are not paid!

As someone who runs an organization with volunteers, my roganization can be sued for things our volunteers do in our name and we certainly feel responsible. And we do background checks on our volunteers - you would thinkk a simple check like that would have turned up the accuesed forger and two convicted felons in Ohio just this week. By the way, it is a violation of Ohio law to use felons to register voters, so you'd have thought an organization in the business of registering voters would BE responsible for this.

If ACORN were not responsible and clearly blowing it, why would Senator Obama distance himself from the group this week saying that "we don't need ACORN's help?"

Saying that these folks are volunteers and not employees and that therefore ACORN had nothing to do with this - and saying it with a Garfieldian, sarcastic sneer - does not make it true or even truthy.

Oct. 24 2008 02:36 PM
George Bendemann from NYC

********* Get Real *********
It has now been widely reported that Acorn registered many, many false voters. You claim the fraud was perpretated on Acorn by it's employees therefore Acorn did not engage in fraud. Shades of George Orwell!

Fact: Acorn engaged in phony business. Please reconsider your "fact checking" on this one.


Oct. 24 2008 12:56 PM
Matt from Arlington, Virginia

Senator Obama was the chair of the board of CAC. Its mission was his mission and vice versa. That makes it relevant.

Oct. 24 2008 10:54 AM
blackbelt_jones from ubuntu

Really Matt, I couldn't care less about CAC's mission. That's CAC's responsibility. The question is whether teaching history, civics or citizenship education is a radical agenda. No, that's not even a question; it's an absurdity. And it's irrelevant anyway.

You got nothing and you never had anything. If you want to keep pretending a little longer, I'm willing to humor you. Actually, I'm not willing to commit to that. Let's just drop it.

Oct. 23 2008 10:58 PM
Matt from Arlington, Virginia

CAC's mission was to improve the educational achievement of Chicago's schools, not civics or citizenship education. Lets deal with some facts and return to a discussion On The MediA.

Oct. 23 2008 10:46 AM
blackbelt_jones from ubuntu

Matt is a stubborn thing. But I'm not complaining.

Soooo, once again, this is your radical agenda? history (which implies, reading, writing, and usually public speaking) over math and science? I mean you can second-guess the CAC all you want, but it's their money, which is why its misleading at best to use the expression "at the expensive of"... as if school resources were being diverted away from the school budget, and not the CAC's budget, for them to use at their discretion. You may think they could have made a better choice, but does that make it a radical agenda?

For African Americans' Juneteenth is the equivalent of the 4th of July. They became Americans, and a proper educational observance would include a discussion of freedom, responsibility, and citizenship. This is valuble work, and Obama's only choice was whether to serve the children of Chicago or not to serve the children of Chicago.

Again, one fact you have stubbornly ignored is that McCain contributors were involved in all of this at every level.

Oct. 23 2008 12:26 AM
Matt from Arlington, Virginia

CAC funded a juneteenth educational celebration at the expense of a program designed to get black and hispanic kids not at grade level to be on grade level when they get into high school. Facts are stubborn things.

I think history especially events and topics such as juneteenth are great, but not at the expense of math and science programs that make sure that kids are not left behind before high school level math and science classes even begin.

The only association I can see between Bill Ayers and 9/11 is that the Pentagon was attacked in both cases. Very different events, same location. Geography is just as stubborn as facts.

Oct. 22 2008 10:37 PM
blackbelt_jones from ubuntu

What? Radical policy objectives? Juenteenth? So you don't think schools have any business teaching history to children? I think that makes YOU the radical, Matt!

It was teaching history to children. That was the objective. If Obama had refused to serve on the board along with a former nixon official, would some principle have been advanced? Would Bill Ayres feeling have been hurt? What difference would it have made?

All I see here is Obama choosing teaching history to children over avoiding political embarrasment. He put the children first, Matt.

Again... lots of Mc Cain supporters affiliated with the CAC, and don't we usually speak of "policy" in relation to government? I mean, it's stunningly inaccurate to speak of Juneteenth celebrations as being "at the expense of math and science when funding math and science" programs isn't the responsibility of the CAC. Actually, it seems to me that history and the social sciences may be the specific mission of the CAC, and that would make your criticism the equivalent of condemining the American Cancer Society for ignoring heart disease.

I just looked up Ayres "9/11 quote" It's interesting that it keeps being associated with 9/11 when 9/11 was the date that it appeared in the New York Times, HOURS BEFORE THE ATTACK.

"Scurrilous" is the only word.

Oct. 22 2008 07:17 PM
Matt from Arlington, Virginia

It is important that Senator Obama's associations with unrepentant terrorists were in pursuit of radical policy objectives.

The pursuit of a radical agenda, not the first time a donation from a republican, conservative, or moderate was hijacked for a radical purpose, shows that they didn't just share the same geography or boardroom. They agreed on policy. Education policy to be specific.
That doesn't mean he agrees with Bill Ayres's position that there were not enough bombing of American Government targets in the 1960's. It does mean that Senator Obama thinks that addressing Math and Science educational problems through racial pride events is more important than distancing himself from unrepentant bombers of the Pentagon and other American targets.

Oct. 22 2008 05:20 PM
blackbelt_jones from ubuntu

Matt, what the hell? So we were talking about Obama "palling around with terrorists." Seems like we've shifted gears, big time. Now we're talking about a charitable foundation spending its grant money unwisely. In your mind, is there really a connection?

Oct. 21 2008 08:29 PM
Matt from Arlington, Virginia

I see the issue over the Gravina Access Project as a total non-starter and a real example of a spurious allegation. (Mr. Garfield should take note.) Name one Governor, serving the same time as Governor Palin, in the United States of America that can get a clean funding bill out of Congress.
Senator John McCain seems to me to be the only politician that has the leadership qualities to be able to do that. That narrative doesn't help Obama so I guess we have to wait to see it in a history book or an enlightened work of political science and not a newspaper.

Oct. 21 2008 04:59 PM
Matt from Arlington, Virginia

Blackbelt Jones. Fact Check Dot Org was wrong about the CAC's funding policies. Take a look in their funding policies and you will see the difference. They funded juneteenth programs over solid math and science programs. Nothing wrong with discussions of juneteenth in classrooms (it celebrates a great day!), but it should not be funded at the expense of helping students who are doing math and science education at grade level to be able to get on level before they step into a high school classroom.
I don't see juneteenth celebrations as decreasing the drop out rate, but I do see math and science programs aimed at helping students get on grade level as one of the best ways to stem the tide of high school drop outs.
It should also be noted that Ayres was the driving force after the establishment of The CAC. He even created a parallel organization to better control the funding.

Oct. 21 2008 04:53 PM
blackbelt_jones from ubuntu

Here's a link to's page on the "Bridge to Nowhere" because, God bless him, D. Mundy's summing up the facts is little too doggone incoherent for me.

Oct. 21 2008 01:32 PM
blackbelt_jones from ubuntu

Incidentally, here are some of the facts about Obama's association with Bill Ayres. This is from

McCain says in an Internet ad that the two "ran a radical 'education' foundation" in Chicago. But the supposedly "radical" group was supported by a Republican governor and included on its board prominent local civic leaders, including one former Nixon administration official who has given $1,500 to McCain's campaign this year. Education Week says the group's work "reflected mainstream thinking" among school reformers. The group was the Chicago Annenberg Challenge, started by a $49 million grant from the Annenberg Foundation, which was established by the publisher Walter Annenberg, a prominent Republican whose widow, Leonore, is a contributor to the McCain campaign.

Oct. 21 2008 08:33 AM
blackbelt_jones from ubuntu

It's not hard to see just from this forum why David Letterman can ask tougher questions than Katie Couric. Any close scrutiny is criticized as "bias". Letterman, Jon Stewart, and the ladies on the View can get away with digging deeper because they have the audience clout, and they aren't held to a standard of objectivity that can be exaggerated to mean toothlessness. Six years after the media pretty much rolled over for Bush's Iraq War PR offensive, it's surprising that John McCain is still trying to push the liberal media myth. It's less surprising that no one beyond "the Base" is buying it this time out, and that's not going to get anyone elected.

But it does give The Base something to do. Every forum for every media is replete with angry missives from the usual cranks (Hi, Matt!). You can understand their problem. Like Stephen Colbert said, "reality has a well-known liberal bias."

Oct. 21 2008 08:20 AM
Chris Gray from New Haven, CT

Truth in election campaigning in the United States, as so correctly pointed out by John Hodgman on the Rachel Maddow Show this evening, fell victim from even its first campaign to the cherry tree lie. Bob’s cute idea of a pledge of truth-telling seems to be what the relatively new injection of the phrase, “I’m so and so and I approved this message” in the candidates’ own voices, was meant to imply. It has not worked, nor will a pledge. As SNL observed in its first McCain skit this year, the candidates will rationalize their lies out of existence.

The only mechanism I can imagine working is for the voting public to consistently elect the candidate honing closer to the objective truth in each race and, since the majority of Americans cannot even accept the scientific fact of the age of the planet due to their religious faiths, I do not see this as happening any time soon.

By the way, I once lived with a very tall CO at the nearby Whalley Ave. Correctional Facility but had to ask him to leave after he went on his two-week National Guard commitment leaving an uncooked steak on top of our kitchen cupboards (where I couldn’t see or reach it but sure could smell it) having meant to cook and eat it before departing. He was a nice enough fellow but HOW RIDICULOUS!

Oct. 21 2008 01:23 AM
Dan from Chicago

Yeah... what D. Mundy and Matt above said!!
I used to like this program because it seemed non-biased to me. No more... it is now just good old left-biased mainstream media.

Where do I turn in my Bob Garfield Fan Club button?

Oct. 20 2008 08:29 PM
jason zenith from NYC

What kind of class snob is Brooke Gladstone anyway? Her reaction to Ted Conover saying he toyed with the idea of taking the Corrections Officer Sergeant's exam- that he must have been nuts, what an absurdity! - reeked of contempt for blue collar work. It wasn't an attitude of "Gee, what a waste of your talents that would be" or "you're more suited to a more cerebral career," it was an attitude of HOW RIDICULOUS!

Oct. 20 2008 05:37 PM
Matt from Arlington, Virginia

Surprise, Surprise. OTM's segment on fact checks needs a fact check.

It is NOT scurrilous to call attention to Senator Obama's relationship with the domestic terrorist Bill Ayres.

Neither is it spurious. Senator Obama's relatively thin record in politics and his claims of his community organizer experience as relevant to his approach to governing makes this very much appropriate to report on.

The lack of reporting on this subject in conjunction with your lie about the McCain Campaign's assertions about the Senator Obama and Professor/Terrorist Bill Ayers shows a startling abuse of the facts, abuse of NPR's objectivity, and the failure of OTM's purported mission to tackle sticky issues with frankness and transparency. Obama did in fact have a "connection with respect to this guy Bill Ayres". The records of the Chicago Annenburg Challenge clearly show this connection.

Bob Garrfield owes Senator John McCain an apology.

Oct. 20 2008 04:57 PM
D. Mundy from Dallas TX

to continue

2) You tried to imply that the media has debunked Sarah Palin's claims about the bridge to no where. The media has been as dishonest in their debunking as they are lax in their coverage of her real accomplishments. Sarah Palin did indeed early on seem to support the bridge. Though her actual words in the course of her campaigning for governor were she supports the islands having access to each other with no actual talking about the huge bridge. It is also true that she struck it down after it was clear congress was not giving the money but she made clear that the costs of this bridge had gotten way out of hand and she would never support such a thing at that inflated cost. What you neglect to mention every time you bring this up is that there was a backlash against her in Alaska when she killed the project. So in your mind she can take the blame for killing it (and from some quarters praise) but in your elite opinion she cannot get credit for it? Nonsense -what you may say is, she killed it after Congress said no (though Congress did not actually take away the money) and so it is not entirely true to say she said no thanks but in the same breath you must say she did officially kill it , she had the power to continue it and chose not to and that she took the heat in Alaska for killng it. That would be an honest forthright debunking.

And how is it that I, as a just a citizen, know all this and you with all your all resources do not?

Oct. 19 2008 09:37 PM
D. Mundy from Dallas TX

You seem to be joining all the other media outlets in implying McCain is more dishonest than Obama in his ads. Several things about your coverage

1) Worse that McCain said Obama knows terrorists? Except it is true. Obama said Bill Ayers was just a man who lived in his neighborhood implying he barely knew him. Since he served on 2 boards with him this is hardly just a man in his neighborhood. On one of those boards Ayers was the head of it and even if he didn't actually choose Obama he certainly had the final say on the appointment. Also the media tries to muddy the waters by saying Obama did not "launch" his campaign from Ayers house because he may have had a party somewhere else first though no specifics are given. But it is true it was a big fundraiser for Obama. The NYT notwithstanding and whether or not other Republicans also served on boards, when Obama says his judgment is better than McCains and when Obama blatantly "uses" Ayers family connections and money to further his career it goes to his character. Because Bill Ayers and his wife are unrepentant terrorists who celebrated 9/11, so it is not something that happened 40 years ago it is now. This may be acceptable as Chicago politics as usual but it is not the norm in the country and is a valid point to make. Most importantly and not given enough play is the fact that the $120 million from the Annenberg Chicago challenge was a complete waste of time and does not bode well for Obama capabilities as a leader.

Oct. 19 2008 09:32 PM
Jason Walker from Portland, Oregon

Typically competent OTM piece; but what I was hoping that OTM would address is David Letterman's interview with McCain.

No American journalist seems capable of taking a candidate to task, but Letterman can, challenging the campaign's Ayers/Obama allegations, and bringing up McCain's association with G. Gordon Liddy.

The questions journalists should be asking, but with a response that journalists wouldn't get. It is the Letterman show, after all.

Oct. 19 2008 03:27 PM
Kate Thompson

I didn't hear the whole show today, but it sounded as if the guys on it were unaware of a great website that does exactly what they said no one was doing: focussing on the 2008 presidential election, factfinding on every assertion, and summarizing its findings: Highly recommended!


Oct. 19 2008 11:26 AM
John from Providence, RI

After opening your fact-checker segment with dueling falsehood soundbytes from McCain and Obama at the last debate, you launched into a discussion of the 'false equivalency' problem.
Implicitly comparing Obama's failure to qualify his "100% negative" accusation (he left out "over the last week", I guess) to McCain's deliberate falsehood about ACORN, which fits into the larger picture of concerted Republican voter suppression nationwide, seems like a pretty egregious example of a false equivalency to me.
But the segment was well-done otherwise; thanks!

Oct. 19 2008 11:02 AM
Mary from Page, Arizona

I cannot agree with the comment that most people would not go to actual fact checker websites, and would instead take McCains' (or Obama's) word for accusations. High-speed internet service makes this easy to do, and anyone who gets at least part of their news on the internet could check facts out in a matter of seconds. I think this has added greatly to voter knowledge, and has contributed to this being a much cleaner campaign than in 2000 or 2004.

Oct. 18 2008 07:22 PM

Please don't put your personal information on public forums (for your own protection).


Oct. 18 2008 10:44 AM
Ken Wolfe from Stow OH WKSU Kent State NPR

Brook (and ALL the company!), Look up Arthur Godfrey's "Talent Scouts" TV show in the 50's. They used a VU meter the same way as the squiggly lines. This week was a riveting program. I'm trying to get a transcript. I'll probably have to get our 11 year old daughter to download it for me. Ken Wolfe 4659Friar Road Stow OH 44224

Oct. 18 2008 07:47 AM

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