Leukemia patient Julie Boonstra is the latest American to get caught up in the media fact-checking frenzy. Her offense: Appearing in an anti-Obamacare ad for Americans for Prosperity, in which she said her out-of-pocket costs had become "unaffordable" since her insurance was canceled because of President Obama's health care law. She also said Rep. Gary Peters, D-Mich., who is running for Senate, "jeopardized my health" by voting for it.
Within hours of the AFP ad's initial broadcast, media fact-checkers pored over alleged inconsistencies between her comments in the ad and statements she'd made in interviews, then said her numbers didn't add up. Liberal pundits suggested they knew what was good for her better than she did. Peters sent a letter to television stations running the ad threatening their licenses if the "questionable claims" in the ad were not proven.
No one is arguing in favor of misleading political ads. But what's important here are the facts no one disputes: Boonstra's health insurance was canceled due to federal regulations, she was forced to restructure her care while suffering from a deadly disease and Peters did vote for Obamacare. This came after Obama repeatedly and explicitly promised Americans when Obamacare was being debated that they could keep their health insurance coverage, doctors and other medical care providers if they liked them.
Obama's promises were false from the start — the millions of health insurance policies that have been canceled to date were terminated under Obamacare provisions that are features of the law, not unintended bugs. The policies were deemed not good enough for people to keep by the government experts who presume to know what Americans need better than they do.
Some of the same news organizations that couldn't wait to fact-check Boonstra's claims in the AFP ad took years to tell Americans that Obama had lied to them about one of the most basic aspects of his signature law. So where were all the fact-checkers? Asleep at the switch until it was far too late.
The Washington Post's "Fact Checker" blog, for example, didn't award four Pinocchios to Obama's claim until Oct. 30 -- more than three years after the law was signed, and only after people were getting cancellation letters. By contrast, the Fact Checker gave AFP two Pinocchios for the Boonstra ad within a few days of its appearance. Similarly, PolitiFact rated Obama's claim as "true" in 2008, then "half true" for several more years until branding it at the end of 2013 as the "Lie of the Year."
Regardless of the details of her case, Boonstra is a victim of Obamacare falsehoods and of credulous journalists who let the president get away with it until it was too late. It's time for journalists -- especially those in Washington and New York -- to remember that they are supposed to be serving the public interest, not the partisan preferences of a president most admit they admire. Their first priority should be fact-checking politicians, not private citizens exercising their First Amendment rights.