BECAUSE IT IS FALSE…. The AP had an item yesterday on Sarah Palin’s insane accusation that health care reform is “downright evil” because it would create an imaginary “death panel” that could deny care to her infant son. In the fourth paragraph, the AP report noted the integrity of the former governor’s attack. (thanks to reader K.R.)
The claim that the Democratic health care bills would encourage euthanasia has been circulating on the Internet for weeks and has been echoed by some Republican leaders. Democrats from Obama on down have dismissed it as a distortion. The nonpartisan group FactCheck.org, a project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania says the claim is false.
I see. Republicans and their allied activists have made the claim; Democrats and experts have disputed the claim. The AP piece went on to quote President Obama telling the AARP that the attack isn’t based on fact.
But the AP can’t quite bring itself to say who’s right and who’s wrong. There’s an objective truth here — Palin’s vile nonsense is an obvious, slanderous lie — and the AP seems to want to nudge the reader towards that conclusion. But the AP, like most major media outlets, stops well short of telling the public four simple words: “Palin’s attack isn’t true.”
Instead, it reports that Republicans believe the claim, and Democrats and the Annenberg Center reject it. The AP reporter, Mark Thiessen, no doubt realizes one side is lying, but doesn’t say so — because to call out a demonstrable falsehood as a demonstrable falsehood would prompt allegations of “bias.”
It’s understandable that reporters steer clear of the “l” word (“lie”), because it’s been deemed intemperate. But there are still ways of informing the reader about reality. ABC’s Jake Tapper noted yesterday that Palin’s attacks “are not part of any reasonable debate on the facts of the matter.”
Exactly. There’s a debate, there are reasonable claims within the debate, and Palin’s claims fall outside of this framework because they’re not true.
The more news outlets call out politicians for bogus claims, the stronger the incentive for politicians to make fewer bogus claims.