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Washington Post Fact Checker: I Don’t Fact Check Our Own Writers

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Politics,Beltway Confidential,Sean Higgins

In your meta moment of the day, Glenn Kessler, the Washington Post’s Fact Checker, announced today that he will not grade comments made by political candidates about stories reported in the Washington Post, largely because he refuses to fact check stories published in his newspaper.

Kessler has announced he is not going to issue any Pinocchios based on claims that President Obama’s campaign has made based on a disputed Washington Post story — although he says the Obama campaign misquotes the WaPo story.

Why? Because “The Fact Checker does not check the facts in the reporting of Washington Post writers or columnists.” He does this in a column that defends the Post’s reporting.

Here’s the basics. The Post ran a story on June 21 about Bain Capital, Mitt Romney’s old firm, claiming it invested in companies that were “pioneers” in the practice of shipping jobs overseas.

The Romney campaign has disputed the particulars of the report and demanded the Post retract it. The Post has stood by its reporting. Meanwhile the Obama campaign has leaped on the story and is already running ads based on it. Kessler claims both campaigns are distorting the report.

This puts the Fact Checker in “a bit of a strange position,” Kessler says, since the column only checks “the rhetoric used by politicians and interest groups” – not other reporters or columnists.

The column then goes on to say that the Obama campaign has made false claims regarding the story – which, remember, the Romney campaign still claims was inaccurate to begin with.

“[T]here is little in the Post article that backs up the Obama campaign’s spin,”  Kessler says.

Nevertheless, he refuses to scold the Obama campaign for this. “Given that this debate involves an interpretation of a Post article, we are not going to award any Pinocchios.”

To recap: The Post’s story is accurate, says the Post’s Fact Checker, but the claims the Obama campaign is making about the report are inaccurate; that’s OK, because it — the story — is open to debate.

At least, I think that is what Kessler says.

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