Posted by AzBlueMeanie:
I have previously posted about how the corporate media villager "fact checkers" like Glenn Kessler of the Washington Post, PolitiFact of the Tampa Bay Times, and even FactCheck.org have "jumped the shark" in political fact checking, substituting their subjective opinions and political bias for, you know, actual facts. The Romney 'Fact-Checking' Scandal | Consortiumnews.
The latest shark jump by the corporate media villager "fact checkers" is Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's allegation that he'd heard from a Bain Capital investor that Mitt Romney hadn't paid income taxes for 10 years.
It is fair to characterize Harry Reid's statement as careless, reckless, irresponsible, or unfair -- it is an unsubstantiated claim from an undisclosed source of unknown credibility -- but to say that Reid's statement is a "lie" is to assume facts that are not in evidence: Willard "Mittens" Romney's tax returns.
Yet this is exactly what the corporate media villager "fact checkers" have done. On Monday, PolitiFact gave Reid's claim its "Pants on Fire" designation. Based upon what evidence?
Reid has produced no evidence to back up his claim other than attribution to a shadowy anonymous source. Romney has denied the claim, and tax experts back him up, saying that the nature of Romney's investments in Bain make it highly unlikely he would have been able to avoid paying taxes altogether -- especially for 10 years.
Reid has made an extreme claim with nothing solid to back it up. Pants on Fire!
There is only one definitive source of evidence: Romney's tax returns.
But PolitiFact substitutes the subjective opinion of undisclosed "tax experts" to declare Reid's statement is a "Pants on Fire!" lie. Unless PolitiFact has actually reviewed Romney's tax returns, its so-called "fact check" is itself just wild speculation and conjecture based upon hearsay evidence from undisclosed "expert" witnesses. PolitiFact is equally guilty of that which they condemn Harry Reid. It's assessment is not based upon the evidence but on subjective opinion.
On Tuesday, Glenn Kessler of the Washington Post commits the same sin, giving Reid's claim his Four Pinocchios designation. Based upon what evidence?
This whole exchange poses a fact-checking conundrum. Generally, we maintain that the person or the campaign making the charge must back it up. Reid has refused to provide any evidence, except for the (unproven) fact that someone called him up and told him something that may be true — or simply a rumor.
* * *
In other words, [Romney's 2010] tax return shows a portfolio that is not structured to yield zero taxes. We spoke to a number of tax experts, all of whom said that, given Romney’s current portfolio, it was highly improbable for Romney to have had 10 years with tax-free returns — though there could have been one or two years with little or no taxes.
Wow, these guys must write each others material. Kessler does concede, however, that "Without seeing Romney’s taxes, we cannot definitively prove Reid incorrect. But tax experts say his claim is highly improbable. Reid also has made no effort to explain why his unnamed source would be credible. So, in the absence of more information, it appears he has no basis to make his incendiary claim."
Again, this so-called "fact check" is itself just wild speculation and conjecture based upon hearsay evidence from undisclosed "expert" witnesses. Kessler is equally guilty of that which he condemns Harry Reid. His assessment is not based upon the evidence but on subjective opinion.
Harry Reid has offered no proof to back up his statement, but there's very little evidence that he's actually lying -- the only definitive source of evidence for this is Romney's tax returns, which Romney refuses to disclose to the American people. Unproven allegations are not by definition equivalent to untrue allegations.
What really irritates me is how the corporate media villagers are clutching their pearls over Harry Reid's suggestion that Romney did not pay taxes. How dare he question one of the ruling class of plutocrats! Hunter at Daily Kos summed up this elitist attitude well:
This really has gone entirely too far. It was fine when we were all deciding whether or not President Clinton was a drug trafficker, or whether or not Hillary Clinton had some guy killed because of something-something-travel-receipts, or which war heros were or were not really war heroes based on this guy who said that one thing one time, or which Supreme Courts justices were probably gay based on careful examination of their softball abilities, or a bit more recently when we were determining whether the first non-white president was really even an American, given that he seems so suspiciously, you know, non-white, or which members of the House of Representatives were secretly in league with terrorists. Talking about a rich person's taxes, though—that's just too damn much.
As I have said before, all Romney has to do to shut up Harry Reid -- and to forever discredit him -- is to release his tax returns. If Reid's assertion is false, there is only one person who can disprove it, and that is Romney himself. If Harry Reid is wrong, then Romney can turn the Bain/tax issue to his advantage and go on the offensive. So why doesn't he?
UPDATE: Great point from Ed Kilgore. The Truth About Fact-Checking:
“Fact-checking” has emerged as a major part of American politics because of the polarization of “news” sources and (in my opinion) the self-liberating decision of conservative media to create their own “facts.” But when the fact-checkers start playing fast and loose with terms like “lie” and “pants-on-fire lie” and the various highly subjective “Pinnochio” ratings, fact-checking itself undermines its credibility, perhaps fatally.