Fact Checking the Sunday Talkers

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A few weeks ago, Jake Tapper of ABC’s This Week asked PolitiFact to fact check his show. None of the other Sunday shows have followed suit, and Jay Rosen wonders why. In particular, he wonders why David Gregory, the host of NBC’s Meet the Press won’t do it:

I see two other possibilities for his refusal to adopt the fact check: one banal, the other more troubling. The banal: He’s too proud to adopt something that a competitor picked up on first; it would look like a “me too” response and he is the market leader, first in the ratings and heir to the chair that Tim Russert held. The more disturbing possibility is that he thinks Tapper’s policy may give Meet the Press a competitive edge in booking guests who won’t want to be checked so vigorously. (As opposed to competing with an even better fact check, which would probably cause Bob Schieffer at Face the Nation to adopt the same policy, forcing the guests to accept the new rules or flee to cable, which has a fraction of the viewers.)

Look at it this way: the Washington politician who’s been on Meet the Press more than any other is John McCain. On April 6, Politifact’s truth-o-meter rated McCain a pants-on-fire liar for claiming that he never called himself a maverick. See what I mean?

This whole thing has always struck me as just a little odd. Does fact checking guests motivate them to stay away from your show? If the fact checking were aired on the following week’s show it might have an impact, but all Tapper is doing is posting the PolitiFact writeups on the show’s website later in the week. Are there really any politicians who are afraid of this?

The whole fact checking idea seems like it has possibilities, but unless it’s done on the air by a group with editorial independence, it’s hard to see it having much impact. A web-based fact check just doesn’t draw much of an audience. (Via Steve Benen.)

UPDATE: Tapper responds via Twitter: “Rome wasn’t built in a day. The original @jayrosen_nyu proposal was for a web-based fact check, we’re trying it out.”

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This is no time to come up short. It's time to fight like hell, as our namesake would tell us to do, for a democracy where minority rule cannot impose an extreme agenda, where facts matter, and where accountability has a chance at the polls and in the press. If you value our reporting and you can right now, please help us dig out of the $100,000 hole we're starting our new budgeting cycle in with an always-needed and always-appreciated donation today.

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