A version of this article first appeared in the “Reliable Sources” newsletter. You can sign up for free right here.
CNN reporter and resident fact-checker Daniel Dale has noticed something very interesting about President Biden’s relationship with fact checks.
When proven wrong, Biden actually course-corrects.
At least in some cases, the Biden White House has been responsive to fact-checking. “There are some false or misleading that claims that Biden has repeated without correction,” Dale said, “but I’ve counted at least two cases in which he or his team said something wrong; I’ve fact-checked it as false, others fact-checked it as false; and they never said it again. They significantly amended their language.”
This is a concrete example of a post-Trump return to normality.
“One hallmark of Trump’s dishonesty is that if he thinks a false or incorrect claim is a winner, he will repeat it constantly, no matter how often it has been proven wrong,” The Washington Post’s fact-checking staff, led by Glenn Kessler, wrote in the 2020 book “Donald Trump and His Assault on Truth.”
“Many politicians are embarrassed to receive a Four-Pinocchio rating; often, they will drop or refine the offending talking point,” the authors wrote. “Some even apologize for their departure from the truth. Trump digs in and doubles down.”
Biden does the opposite, at least in a couple of highly publicized cases. Here’s what Dale said on Sunday’s “Reliable Sources” telecast: “One notable example is, they rolled out their infrastructure plan by saying ‘This will create 19 million jobs.’ Biden himself used a slightly more correct formulation but it was still pretty misleading. And then when I said ‘look, this is false, this is misleading,’ they never used that 19 million figure again. In fact, it’s closer to 2.7 million jobs.”
“I’m not saying let’s all congratulate them for fixing their false claim,” Dale added, “but it’s much better and it’s much different than what we saw in the Trump era, when you might see the president repeat the same false claim literally 100 times.”
It “warms our hearts” when…
Fact-checkers typically say they’re working for the public, not politicians. “Regular readers know we don’t write fact checks to change the behavior of politicians,” Kessler wrote last month. “Still, we’ll admit it always warms our hearts when a politician drops a talking point or admits error in response to a fact check.” He has called out some Biden claims “that appear impervious to fact-checking,” but like Dale, he has noticed Biden course-correct in other cases. After Kessler pointed out a “messed-up calculation of war deaths,” Biden no longer made the comparison…
FOR THE RECORD
— Where we are: Weaponized lies echo through right-wing media and end up as policy… (Twitter)
— Jake Tapper on “SOTU:” “It’s my opinion that the United States needs a healthy, thriving, fact-based Republican Party. It is difficult to look at these events, all of them just from the last week, and conclude that we have one…” (CNN)
— Sad but true: “For Republicans, fealty to Trump’s election falsehood becomes defining loyalty test,” Ashley Parker and Marianna Sotomayor report… (WaPo)
— Nicole Hemmer on “Reliable,” talking about adding key context to fact-checks: “Rather than just saying ‘No, Joe Biden isn’t coming for your hamburgers,’ we can talk about the role that lies play as a rhetorical and a political strategy for trying to discredit the Biden admin…” (CNN)
— Quick plug: Later this month, I’ll be speaking at PolitiFact’s “festival of fact-checking…” (PolitiFact)