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The following is a fact-check from the 5/23 episode of Meet the Press.

REP. JOE SESTAK (D-PA) | Oil companies are currently having record profits. – HALF TRUE

MR. GREGORY:  …which is what specific, painful choice would you advocate as United States senator to deal with the debt?

REP. SESTAK:  Close those tax loopholes.  All right?  Carried interest for Wall Street upwards of $80 billion to $100 billion a year, they get taxed at 15 percent.  Eighty billion dollars for tax loopholes for oil companies that literally have record profits, $352 billion a year that’s not collected in taxes from small businesses and individuals…(unintelligible)…corporations.

So thanks to for looking into this one:

It’s true that ExxonMobil, Chevron, BP, ConocoPhillips and Shell all saw big jumps in net income in 2010 compared with 2009 – but they’re still not earning what they did back in 2008. And for nearly all of those companies, 2007 first quarter earnings were higher than the most recent profits posted as well. Here’s our chart on oil companies’ profits, drawn from their filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission and company reports:

The chart created:

We agree with their analysis and rate Rep. Sestak’s misleading statement as HALF TRUE. Yes the oil companies are going through a several year period during which they have had record profits, but not specifically last or this year.

This fact-check took a combined 15 minutes.

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.

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