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The following is a fact-check from the July 11, 2010 episode of Meet the Press:

DAVID GREGORY | The stimulus has produced less jobs than were promised, with unemployment at 9.5% instead of 8% as promised – TRUE

MR. GREGORY: And we know that there’s a sense that even the stimulus is not producing the jobs that it was promised to; 9.5 percent unemployment now. The original reporting was we’d keep unemployment with the stimulus at 8 percent.

Both Christina Romer, Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers for the Obama administration, and Jared Bernstein, Chief Economist and Economic Policy Adviser to the Vice President, co-authored the report, The Job Impact Impact of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The report details that without the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the unemployment rate would reach 9% and with the recovery plan, the unemployment rate would stay under 8%. Accordingly, 19 months later and with the Obama administration’s enacted Recovery plan, the unemployment rate currently sits at 9.5%. Thus, because the unemployment rate is 1.5% higher than stated in the report, we rate David Gregory’s statement TRUE.

This fact-check took 1 hour.

The following is a fact-check for the 5/9/2010 episode of Meet the Press: (transcript)

DAVID GREGORY | Eric Holder said “failure was not an option” regarding the trial of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed | TRUE

MR. HOLDER: Well, there are other charges that are–that could be brought against him in addition to those he would stand accused of with regard to the 9/11 plot. There are a variety of other things that he could be tried for. And I think we can provide him with fairness and with justice in the systems that we now have in place.

MR. GREGORY: But you said, with regard to any KSM trial, failure is not an option

This is a quick easy one. The danger with using an expression like “failure is not an option” is that it is often an example of hyperbole by either a reporter, pundit, or politician. In this case it is an exact quote from Mr. Holder to the Senate Judiciary Committee in November of 2009. TRUE.

Christian Science Monitor
NY Times

(Ed. Note: This post was backdated by one day, to keep the preview post for the following week’s show as the top post on the site)

FACT-CHECK: David Gregory on Bennett Ousting

We’ll start this week with a minor fact-check pointed out by one of our Twitter followers:

DAVID GREGORY | Utah ousting of Sen. Bennett was by primary | FALSE

MR. GREGORY: The, the politics also interesting not just in terms of the Supreme Court but because of the midterm race as well. And we had a development yesterday that really makes you stand up and take notice. Senator Bennett, Bob Bennett of Utah, a well-known conservative, been in the Senate for a number of years, is out in a primary in Utah. He spoke to reporters afterward and was, was obviously emotional about it.

Panelist E.J. Dionne corrected this himself a minute later on the program, but it is worth pointing out that Senator Bennett was ousted at the state convention, not via a primary. So it was not by a larger pool of Republican voters but the Utah state GOP apparatus that replaced him on the ballot.

Bennett out; GOP delegates reject 18-year Senate veteran (Salt Lake City Tribune)

UPDATE: We acknowledge this is not a crucial fact, nor does it dramatically change what Gregory was trying to say. Just a quick easy fact to check to start this weeks results. And the difference between being voted out and delegate voted out is not insignificant when it comes to calculating the impact of the Tea Party movement

Fact-check: Name of UK Political Party

David Gregory (NBC) | Name of UK Political Party | FALSE

Let’s start the week with this quick and minor fact-check (more of a correction really):

MR. GREGORY: Madam Secretary, I’d like to spend a couple minutes on some other global hot spots that you’re dealing with. The first one is actually with America’s strong ally in the U.K., in Great Britain. Very interesting election going on. You’ve got three candidates, a resurgent third party in the Social Democrats, televised debates. You know something about those.

Mr. Gregory is incorrect here, the name of the political party of which he speaks is the Liberal Democrats. The Social Democratic Party in the UK with which we assume he is confused existed from 1981-1988, when it merged with the Liberal Democratic Party, which retained that name. The only party by the name of Social Democrats now in the UK is a variation of the original SDP formed by some who eventually left the Liberal Democrats after the merger. The current Liberal Democratic Party, led by Nick Clegg, about which Mr. Gregory was obviously referring has no current relationship with the present day SDP.

Source: The History of the SDP

Fact-check of Meet The Press – 4/25/2010

As an experiment we decided to try to take David Gregory’s advice and fact-check Meet The Press on our “own terms” – not just to look for examples of statements that might not be factual, but to see how difficult it would be for a team of three people, amateurs really, to try to do the job of professional journalists – the job Meet The Press is so far unwilling to do.

We did not fact-check every possible statement, but rather looked at ones we thought important to confirm in the sense that, if false, they would dramatically change the core point the speaker was trying to make.

These statements were chosen and researched non-ideologically. If there was another fact-check organization that covered a same or similar statement we decided to use it as a source, provided that organization showed their work and our analysis of their research reached the same conclusion.

We do not dismiss the possibility of being wrong and encourage others to challenge our conclusions in the comments below. We also welcome additional help to confirm the statements on future shows as we continue our experiment. Please remember we have done this when we were not writing papers, reading assignments, or going to work. Fact-checking is an interesting process, but not an easy one.

Fact Check of Meet The Press – 4/25/2010
(listed in chronological order as they happened on air)

Fact-check 01
GM Government Payback
Senator Richard Shelby (R – AL)

MR. GREGORY: If the complaint is government’s not up to it, we had regulators before, can they do it this time, and we’re so worried about bailouts, look at the track record of bailouts so far.  The president was boasting yesterday that GM and Chrysler have paid off their debts, not completely, but, but, but way ahead of schedule.  TARP is now $186 billion back.  The overall payment is supposed to be around $87 billion.  The record’s been pretty good that the government’s and the taxpayer have done OK so far in bailouts, have they not?

SEN. SHELBY:  First of all, the payback by General Motors and Chrysler will never happen, not all of it.  That’s misleading, even what the president said there.  And they paid back some money that they were already given by the TARP money.  They haven’t paid back the other, and they won’t.

Continue reading…

Radio Discussion on Fact Checking

Yesterday NYU Professor Jay Rosen, PolitiFact Editor Bill Adair, and Director Brooks Jackson were all interviewed on California radio station KPFA’s Letters to Washington. Host Mitch Jesserich led a interesting discussion between the three, starting with Professor Rosen and his explanation of how his idea came about and his analysis of the current state of the Sunday shows:

An argument about common facts in which the parties and their representatives can take divergent views on those facts is one thing, but an argument where people don’t even agree on facts and what is true in the first place is a completely different thing.

Professor Rosen said he believed the goal of the Sunday shows was to both “take the temperature of Washington” and attempt to start the week by making news with statements made by guests, but that the format of the shows has not adjusted to an increasingly hyper-partisan Washington and that the hosts “tend to show a chronic lack of imagination in responding to shifts in the political game itself.”

Regarding Meet The Press host David Gregory’s statement that there was no need to have a “formal arrangement” for fact checking the show’s guests, Rosen said:

My sense is that David Gregory believes that he himself is a fact checker and if somebody tries to pull anything shady on his show he lets us know right away because he’s an expert interviewer.

Rosen believes Mr. Gregory seems to expect that viewers and pundits from the left and right will later argue publicly about the statements made on air and that kind of post-broadcast attention will work fine by itself.

What he’s really saying is “There aren’t any facts to check after I’ve done my job and all there really is is the clash of opinion” and that’s a very bizarre position for a journalist to take.

Continue reading…

We Know Who’s With Coco, but Who’s With Facts?

Who's With Facts

Special thanks to Chris Baily for making the illustration!

Yes, David Gregory Reads Your Tweets

Just in case you were worried firing off a tweet to David Gregory would end up being unnoticed… Found on Mr. Gregory’s personal blog, a photo of what his desk looks like while he is preparing to host Meet The Press (notice what’s on the screen of his laptop):

David Gregory's desk while preparing for Meet The Press
Yes, that’s him reading Twitter as he prepares to host Meet The Press.

And don’t forget that part of this story has been driven by a response to a tweet that Mr. Gregory made. Taking action and tweeting him and Executive Producer Betsy Fischer will be noticed. Search @davidgregory or @meetthepress for the past 48 hours and see how filled the feeds are with actions on behalf of this campaign. (Great work if one of them is already yours!)

Behind the Scenes at Meet The Press: David’s Desk (The View From Here – David Gregory’s Blog)

“The Gregory Era”

From the Howard Kurtz piece that contains the David Gregory quote that pretty much launched this campaign (“People can fact-check ‘Meet the Press’ every week on their own terms.” ) – the preceding bit from Mr. Gregory is about the new Meet The Press set:

The look is ultramodern: floor-to-ceiling bookcases, a pair of huge video screens with a White House backdrop, a small, circular glass table as well as a larger, rectangular one.

David Gregory is excited about the “striking” new set for “Meet the Press,” which debuts May 2. “This is part of the evolution of the program,” he says. “For the Gregory era of the program, there’s a visual piece of that. It doesn’t limit me to one position. It allows me to use technology in various ways. I can even stand.”

Mr. Gregory’s statements show that he is obviously concerned with the “evolution” of the show and that he thinks of his time at the helm as “the Gregory era” – but what will define this era? Will it be a cosmetic era? What substance “pieces” are forthcoming?

Doesn’t it seem ironic to host a show surrounded by bookcases but not be committed to confirming that the information presented on that show is factual? It is just as inappropriate to allow unconfirmed on-air statements to stand as it would be to fill those bookcases with political autobiographies.

Is Mr. Gregory and NBC’s reluctance to implement fact checking because of production cost concerns? And if so how much has this new set cost?

Financial investment in the relevance and journalistic integrity of Meet The Press should not be limited to visual appeal. 5/2 will also mark the debut of the show in HD – something long overdue – but the audience should be able to see more than the pores of unverified statements.