Monday, August 01, 2005

Checking Fact Check's Editorials

I previously posted about an otherwise fine summary, published on July 22 by, of the Karl Rove-Joe Wilson-Valerie Plame hysteria. The feature contained what I felt were factual ommissions.

  1. Scott McClellan stated in a September 29, 2003, press conference that the administration was concerned about leaking classified information and that anyone in the administration who did that would be fired. The article omits reference to classified information.
  2. President Bush said on July 18, 2005, that "if someone committed a crime, they will no longer work in my administration." The factcheck article characterized that as "easing off his prior statements."

I sent them an email (two, actually), suggesting that they replace "[the leak]" with "[leaking classified information]" and striking the editorial phrase "– easing off his earlier statements that he would fire anyone who leaked –" in its entirety.

Apparently I was not the only one to contact them, and they modififed the article on July 26. I reproduce the relevant sections below.

September 29, 2003 – McClellan says he has spoken to Rove, denies that Rove was involved in the leak, and says, “If anyone in this administration was involved in it [the leak], they would no longer be in this administration.” ( White House Press Briefing, Sept. 29, 2003) . In a letter sent to Representative John Conyers on January 30, 2004 , the CIA will confirm that its Counterespionage Section has asked the FBI to initiate an investigation. ( Letter to Rep. John Conyers from the CIA) .

September 30, 2003 – The Justice Department publicly announces an official criminal investigation. Commenting, Bush says, “And if there is a leak out of my administration, I want to know who it is. And if the person has violated law, the person will be taken care of.” (" President discusses job creation, U. of Chicago, Sept. 30, 2003 ).


July 18, 2005 – Bush – easing off earlier White House statements that he would fire anyone who leaked – says “if someone committed a crime, they will no longer work in my administration.” ( Bush Press Conference with Prime Minister of India, July 18, 2005) . His press secretary Scott McClellan declines to say whether a firing would be triggered by an indictment or would require a conviction. ( White House Press Briefing, July 18, 2005 ).

Note: We originally said Bush had eased off "his" statements. Many of our subscribers objected, saying that they read Bush's earlier promises to fire any leaker as being in the context of a criminal investigation. We agree that reasonable people have read Bush's words differently. However, the statement of Bush's official spokesman McClellan on Sept. 29, 2003 was unambiguous: "“If anyone in this administration was involved in it, they would no longer be in this administration.” Bush's July 18 statement stands in clear contrast to that earlier White House position.

--by Kevin Collins with Jordan Grossman, Jennifer L. Ernst, Matthew Barge, and Brooks Jackson

Notice that they did not correct the "classified" about the September 29, 2003 press conference and they dug their heels in on the "earlier statements", choosing to contrast what Scott McClellan said on September 29, 2003 and what President Bush said on July 18, 2005. That completely ignores the President's statement on September 30, 2003. I see little difference between "violated law" and "committed a crime". But I do detect a failure to recognize that any "easing off" occured one day after McClellan's statement, not ten months later.

I contacted them about this and have had no response as yet.

1 comment:

camojack said...

You're factchecking