Fact checking seems to be all the rage these days. Ever since former President Trump took office, fact checking seems to have grown exponentially into its own cottage industry. Ostensibly, this is a good thing that provides truth to the American public and dispels misinformation. However, what if the fact checks themselves are actually inaccurate? What if the fact checks are simply propaganda and misinformation? What happens then? What fair, impartial, objective observer can we find to fact check the fact checks? Oh wait, duh, that’s us here at The Objective Observer!
Well, let’s pilot this out. We will take CNN’s recent “fact check” of Trump’s defense lawyers.
Defense team misleadingly omits Trump remarks defending violence
We rate the fact check on this: Reaching. False. Misleading. Cherry Picking.
First, this is fact check is reaching a bit. CNN had to reach far, far back into the way back machine before President Trump was even President in order to find a few times where former President Trump appeared to approve of or endorse violence. But there can be little question that Trump’s consistent and repeated calls for “law and order” far outweigh statements contrary to this message. The CNN fact check cherry picks a few times, many taken out of context, where Trump said something “aggressive”. The fact that CNN willfully misleads in a number of cases demonstrates just how few times Trump has ever wavered from his “law and order” message. And, in the few cases where he does say something that “advocates violence” it is actually in the name of preserving “law and order”.
CNN rules that the following were omitted examples of Trump endorsing violence:
- praised a Republican congressman for assaulting a journalist; Misleading. The linked story clearly says that Trump’s comment was a “joke”.
- urged police officers not to worry about injuring the heads of suspects they are arresting; Misleading. Again, it is clear from Trump’s actual words that he made an off color joke punning how criminals are treated by police versus those criminals’ actions. “Like, don’t hit their head, and they just killed somebody — don’t hit their head,” Trump continued. “I said, you can take the hand away, okay?”
- said he would like to punch a protester in the face; Somewhat true. Trump said “I’d like to punch him in the face,” about a man attempting to disrupt his rally. However, also false and misleading as Trump was not “defending violence”, he was clearly simply expressing his current feelings at the time.
- urged supporters to “knock the crap out of” any protester they saw holding a tomato; Mostly true. Then candidate Trump said “If you see somebody getting ready to throw a tomato, knock the crap out of them, would you?”. It should be noted that throwing a tomato with the intent to hit someone is assault, a violent act. Many states have self defense laws.
- said a kidnapping plot against Michigan Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer might not be an actual “problem”; Lacks context, willfully misleading. Trumps words were “I’m the one, it was our people that helped her out with her problem. I mean, we’ll have to see if it’s a problem. Right? People are entitled to say maybe it was a problem, maybe it wasn’t,” he added. “It was our people — my people, our people that helped her out. And then she blamed me for it. She blamed me and it was our people that helped her.” The matter was still under investigation, no one had been convicted and therefore, yes, people are still entitled to due process and the assumption of innocent until proven guilty. They are entitled to say that they were not doing what they were accused of doing.
- approvingly told a fake story about an early 20th century US general who massacred Muslim terrorists with bullets dipped in the blood of pigs; Mostly true. Then candidate Trump did tell such a story. Technically, the story has never been proven to be false. The “proof” is simply that the story did not appear in the general’s memoirs. However, we doubt he would include such a thing even if it were true. One might reasonably interpret Trump’s remarks as an parable or allegory such as “Chicken Little”. There is little question that the story of “Chicken Little” is fake but people generally are not accused of telling a “fake story” for referencing it.
- said it was a “beautiful sight” when the authorities tossed a journalist to the ground during unrest in Minneapolis; Questionable. It is unclear to what exactly Trump is referring to, his exact words being. “They were touching arms and they had big strong arms like these guys right over here. They were big, strong guys, that’s all right, and they were like together. And then you saw the first line, then you saw the second line, then you saw a third line, then you saw the fourth line and then they said march. They never halted. Just walked right through, cleaned everything out, and Minneapolis was cured. They were cured. They grab them, they grab them, they grab them. They were grabbing them left and right. Sometimes they grab, they grab one guy, I’m a reporter, I’m a reporter. Get out of here. They threw him aside like he was a little a bag of popcorn. But no — but I mean, honestly, when you watch the crap that we’ve all had to take so long. When you see that, it’s actually — you don’t want to do that, but when you see it, it’s actually a beautiful sight, it’s a beautiful sight. And they had the same thing on some other streets and the whole thing was gone and I haven’t heard of any real problem in Minneapolis, since that happened.” It is much more likely that Trump was referring to the police action to retake the streets as the “beautiful site” as can be read when he talks about “the same thing on some other streets”
- mocked a reporter who got shot with a rubber bullet; True. But, come on, honestly, that was kind of funny…
- and applauded the Trump supporters who surrounded a Joe Biden campaign bus on the highway, an incident that prompted an FBI investigation. Lacks context willfully misleading. Trump tweeted out “I LOVE TEXAS” to a video that only showed trucks with Trump flags following the bus. The trucks were following the Biden bus and the FBI investigated at the prompting of Democrats and nothing ever came of it. Even the USA Today‘s fact-checker said that claim was “missing context” because the Trump Train people were just having fun escorting the bus, not threatening it.
Trump’s lawyer falsely claims Trump’s first two tweets during the Capitol attack urged calm
The fact check is rated: Questionable.
The fact check states:
“Trump’s “stay peaceful” tweet at 2:38 p.m. and “no violence” tweet at 3:13 p.m. were his second and third tweeted messages after the Capitol was breached, not his first. Trump’s first tweet was at 2:24 p.m.”
The accuracy of the fact check versus Trump’s lawyers claims rests on the exact timing and definition of the words “incursion of the Capitol”. If by “incursion of the Capitol”, Trump’s lawyers meant when rioters crossed Statutory Hall, then Trump’s lawyers are correct and truthful as this occurred at 2:33 PM.
No, the media wasn’t lying that there was hacking during the 2016 election
We rate this fact check: False, intentionally being obtuse.
The fact is regarding Trump’s defense lawyers stating:
“The entire Democratic Party and national news media spent the last four years repeating without any evidence that the 2016 election had been hacked.”
The fact check then goes into a diatribe about Hillary Clinton and the Democratic National Committee being “hacked”. The fact check is being intentionally obtuse about Trump’s defense lawyer using the worked “hacked” when in it is clear in the full context that the lawyer is referring to the broad Russia collusion hoax which was in fact repeated without evidence by the national news media. The Mueller report found “no evidence”.
Castor falsely claims rioters didn’t attend Trump’s DC speech
We rate this fact check: False.
Mr. Castor’s attributed statements in the fact check were:
“Given the timeline of events, the criminals at the Capitol weren’t there at the Ellipse to even hear the President’s words,” Castor said. “They were more than a mile away, engaged in their pre-planned assault on this very building.” “This was a pre-planned assault,” Castor said, “make no mistake.” He also claimed this assertion was “confirmed by the FBI, Department of Justice and even the House managers.”
The fact check then says:
“It’s false that none of the accused Capitol rioters attended Trump’s speech beforehand. And Castor is exaggerating the known facts about whether the assault was pre-planned.”
We rate the first part of this fact check as false because Mr. Castor never stated that “none” of the rioters attended Trump’s speech beforehand. It is not correct put words into people’s mouths. We rate the second part of this fact check as false because by the fact check’s own statement:
“The Justice Department and FBI have accused some rioters of planning the attacks before coming to Washington, and top prosecutors have said more charges along those lines are expected.”
Thus, Mr. Castor’s plain words, free of subjective interpretation, are all entirely true.
No, Georgia did not see a ‘dramatic drop’ in ballot rejection rates
We rate this fact check: Irrelevant, misleading
The fact check states:
“Castor argued Trump’s use of the word ‘find’ was ‘solely related to his concerns with the inexplicable dramatic drop in Georgia’s ballot rejection rates.'”
The intent of Trump’s use of the word “find” aside, Georgia did not experience a “dramatic drop” in ballot rejection rates, according to data from the Georgia Secretary of State’s office.
We rate this fact check irrelevant because Mr. Castor was not arguing about whether the rejection rates claim was true or false but only arguing about the context of the word “find” in relation to former President Trump’s opinion that there was an “inexplicable dramatic drop in Georgia’s ballot rejection rates.“. The truth or falsehood of rejection rates in Georgia is irrelevant to the argument being made. We further rate this fact check misleading because, the fact check glosses over the fact that, in context, Trump was obviously not trying to illegally “steal” the election via this phone call, as has been widely reported in the media. In context, it is clear that the use of “find” is related to Trump’s belief that if a full and accurate accounting of the votes that Georgia would “find” that many legitimate votes were actually illegitimate. Again, this makes no claims whether Trump’s beliefs were true or even reasonable, this simply explains the true context of the word “find” within the conversation.
Trump lawyers misleadingly use Biden comment on peaceful protest
We rate this fact check as: Questionable. Cherry picking.
The fact states:
“But the Trump defense team itself clearly did selectively edit its video presentations. For example, moments before this Castor complaint, he had played a video that showed then-candidate Joe Biden saying, of last year’s racial justice protests, “The vast majority of — of the protests have been peaceful.” The video then cut immediately to footage of rioting, suggesting that Biden’s claim was wrong.
This video cut was misleading. Biden was correct when he said that the vast majority of racial justice protests in 2020 were peaceful; he was not describing riots as peaceful. Biden has repeatedly condemned rioting.“
We rate this fact check as questionable because exactly what protests in what cities are being referred to is unknown. Furthermore, the definition of the word “vast” is subjective. In addition, there is no clear factual information to support the claim that “the vast majority of racial justice protests in 2020 were peaceful”. There is no database that catalogs all such protests and whether or not those protests were peaceful or not peaceful. Thus, the claim that the vast majority of protests were peaceful is subject to debate. Finally, we rate this fact check as “cherry picking” because no similar analysis was performed on the House managers’ use of selectively editing video.
Trump lawyers falsely claim trial violated due process
We rate this fact check as: Mostly true.
The fact check states:
“The due process clause applies to this impeachment hearing and it’s been severely and extremely violated,” he said.
This is false. An impeachment inquiry is a political process, not a criminal case, therefore the constitutional rights of criminal defendants, such as due process, do not apply.
We rate this fact check as mostly true as it is true that impeachment is a political process and thus due process technically does not apply. However, we also stipulate that most Americans agree in basic fairness and that in an undertaking so historically significant as the impeachment of a President or former President that Americans would generally expect there to at least be a semblance of due process, a full discovery of the facts involved in the case. This basic fairness has, in fact, been severely and extremely violated.
OK, so what is the point of all this? Well, the point is that “fact checks” are really nothing more than opinion. Far from being objective “facts about facts”, they are really not free from bias and thus nothing more than opinions about facts. We have clearly demonstrated that CNN’s “fact check” of the Trump defense team is mostly false or at the very least misleading. CNN’s “fact check” is clearly full of bias. As further evidence of this bias it is telling that CNN chose to “fact check” Trump’s defense team and yet no similar CNN “fact check” exists of the House managers’ obvious misstatements and misleading “facts”. This “bias by omission” is actually perhaps even more concerning. True journalism would require equal treatment of both sides and yet CNN only chose to “fact check” one side. This does not survive scrutiny as being objective and unbiased and further does not rise to the level of journalistic integrity that news organizations ought to strive for.
At the end of the day, an objective observer might very well also question the objectivity of the analysis performed here about CNN’s analysis of facts stated by Trump’s defense team. Who fact checks the fact checkers of the fact checkers? And hence, where does it all end? At the end of the day, it boils down to who each individual trusts to deliver fair, unbiased, objective analysis or opinion. People are going to gravitate to whoever delivers opinions that fit their predetermined positions and thus, the entire “fact check” industry is actually rather pointless because nobody just states the facts any longer.