The Washington Post’s Integrity And Trustworthiness Test Results: Mixed; Naturally, PolitiFact Flunks

D. And that's with grade inflation.

D. And that’s with grade inflation.

The results of the integrity and trustworthiness test created by the revelation that President Obama and his Administration lied—knowingly, repeatedly, and intentionally—so that the American public would believe that the sweeping Affordable Care Act would not affect their healthcare insurance unless they wanted it to is returning information both invaluable and disconcerting.

An astounding percentage (yes, I guess I am that naive) of Democrats, progressives, pundits and journalists (there is a lot of redundancy there, I know) are mouthing transparently dishonest rationalizations, misrepresentations, deceits and talking points to avoid the simple act of admitting what  occurred and assigning just accountability for it. Either they are in the throes of desperate denial, or they really believe that the American public is so dumb that it can be spun indefinitely. In either case, we now know they can’t be trusted.

The Washington Post has completed its test, and its results are conflicted. Pointing toward an “A ” is the column by Post Factchecker Glenn Kessler, who pulls no punches: he rates Obama’s pledge that “nobody will take away” your health care plan if you like it as a four Pinocchio whopper, without qualification:

“The administration is defending this pledge with a rather slim reed — that there is nothing in the law that makes insurance companies force people out of plans they were enrolled in before the law passed. That explanation conveniently ignores the regulations written by the administration to implement the law. Moreover, it also ignores the fact that the purpose of the law was to bolster coverage and mandate a robust set of benefits, whether someone wanted to pay for it or not.

“The president’s statements were sweeping and unequivocal — and made both before and after the bill became law. The White House now cites technicalities to avoid admitting that he went too far in his repeated pledge, which, after all, is one of the most famous statements of his presidency. The president’s promise apparently came with a very large caveat: ‘If you like your health care plan, you’ll be able to keep your health care plan — if we deem it to be adequate.’”


I have been critical of Kessler in the past—he has a tendency to give Republicans an extra Pinocchio over Democrats achieving exactly the same level of dishonesty, but he has obviously lost patience with President Obama, as well he should. Kessler’s honest assessment against personal partisan preference stands in stark contrast to how the reliably biased PolitiFact handled the same Presidential promise. PolitiFact, as I have noted here before, is an unethical fact-checking site that often doesn’t even try to cover its tracks as a partisan resource. It dishonestly uses the “fact check” format to challenge conservative positions and bolster Democrats. As I would have expected, PolitiFact employs euphemisms and convoluted descriptions to describe Obama’s flat out falsehood, like “overly optimistic” (you aren’t being overly optimistic when you know the sunny results you are promising won’t happen—you are lying), “less accurate” (a Clintonism), and “a different impression than what Obama is suggesting” (He wasn’t “suggesting” that nobody would be forced off their health plan; he was asserting it with no qualifiers at all, “period.”) PolitiFact worked hard to find one time where Obama actually did limit his promise to those “who already have health insurance through your job, or Medicare, or Medicaid, or the VA,” but stating the truth once does not mitigate future and past lies, especially those that the truthful statement does not specifically contradict. Both the limited pledge and the broader one could have been true, and since they were both made in public by the President of the United States, citizens should have been able to rely on them.

True to its corrupt soul, PolitFact ignores the obvious problem that the President’s misrepresentation was intentional, and rates Obama’s promise as “half-true.” First of all, half-true is untrue: either you are guaranteed to keep your health care without Obamacare causing you to lose it, or you are not. Second, the column also adopts the administration’s disgraceful spin: people had their insurance changed on them or cancelled frequently before Obamacare. This is irrelevant. As Obama knew and we have found out, millions will lose the plans they liked and wanted because of Obamacare. This means the pledge was 100% deception, not half-true.

If this disgraceful performance doesn’t convince you that PolitiFact is incapable of objectivity, you are beyond help.

But back to the Washington Post’s fact-checker, Kessler: if only his own paper’s staff read his column. Apparently they don’t; apparently they read PolitiFact instead.

In the Post’s news story about the controversy, for example,  by Lena H. Sun and Sandhya Somashekhar, the story was framed, in the words of the headline, as Obama being “accused of breaking promise to consumers as health plans cancel policies.” No, he broke the promise. The story says that the wave of plan cancelleations prompted by the ACA’s requirements “appear” to contradict what Obama had said. No, they do contradict it. “Republicans have seized on the cancellations as evidence that the law is flawed and the president has been less than forthright in describing its impact,” the story says. Only Republicans have said that the cancellations show that the President’s promise was fraudulent? False: this is partisan reporters framing the story as just political gamesmanship to avoid the real issues. Nor were the statements “less than forthright”—they were intentionally misleading and untrue.

There is more. “Administration officials say the canceled insurance will be replaced by better policies. But the new line of attack comes as the administration continues to grapple with its problem-plagued Web site,,” the reporters write. But this implicitly argues that if the new policies are “better,” the President didn’t lie. That is wrong and wrong headed, as well as ethically corrupt. If I tell my child that he can keep his favorite toy as long as he wants, knowing that I will soon take it from him, give it away, and replace it with a newer, more expensive toy that I deem superior (but he may not), that doesn’t change the fact that I lied, nor does it mitigate the lie itself. It was just as dishonest no matter how superior the new toy is. The Post passage also pigeonholes a legitimate criticism of unethical conduct as an “attack,” reducing a valid and necessary complaint, again, to mere political warfare. This is an effort to deflect the real story and its significance: the President’s signature assurance about Obamacare was a lie, and the American public was deceived. An honest and objective newspaper would say so directly—this is called “reporting”—not frame the story as “the President’s foes are criticizing him again.”

Hardly better was the Post’s editorial on Tuesday, essentially aping the White House spin that the public shouldn’t mind being lied to because the new health care plans being rammed down their throats are so hunky-dory. Key passage:

“But, despite what the president may have said, this news should not have come as a shock, and it is not evidence that the law is a failure.”


  • “What the President MAY have said?” The issue is what the President in fact said, and what he said was a lie.
  • This news [that the plans people liked were being cancelled due to the ACA] should not have come as a shock” is the classic, disreputable excuse of the shameless liar: “it’s your fault for believing me.”
  •  “…It is not evidence that the law is a failure.” No, it’s evidence that the law was passed under false representations and that the President lied repeatedly to the public he is pledged to serve, not deceive.

The Post editors then go on to argue that losing one’s health care plan and being forced to pay for a different one is a good thing, which it might be, if only the people this was happening to had been properly informed, as is their right, and knowingly agreed in advance of the law’s passage that this was something they were willing to accept. As it is, the Post editors’ position is an unethical ratioanalization, standing for the wrongful proposition that it is acceptable for citizens to be deceived into supporting major legislation, and the highly dubious one that the government should be able to dictate what health care plans you are permitted to “like.”

Perhaps too generously, I’ll give the Post credit for Glenn Kessler’s objectivity and good ethical analysis, so its grade is a barely passing D. Judging from the words of its reporters and editors, however, the more accurate integrity and trustworthiness grade for the Washington Post would be the same as PolitiFact’s:



Sources: Washington Post 1,2, 3; PolitiFact

5 thoughts on “The Washington Post’s Integrity And Trustworthiness Test Results: Mixed; Naturally, PolitiFact Flunks

  1. “I tell my child that he can keep his favorite toy as long as he wants, knowing that I will soon take it from him, give it away, and replace it with a newer, more expensive toy that I deem superior (but he may not), that doesn’t change the fact that I lied…”

    Although it doesn’t substantially change the point of the parable, it’s a bit flawed. If your child spent a fifth of his allowance on a favorite on-line gaming site, and you, by decree, required him to sign up for a different pay site, more expensive, loaded with crap games he’ll never pay, and a new per-minute charge on top of the subscription fee for the one game he likes, after telling him you wouldn’t, that would be a real pisser.

    Especially if he has trouble logging on to the game site.

  2. “Will you walk into my parlour?” said the Spider to the Fly,
    ‘Tis the prettiest little parlour that ever you did spy;
    The way into my parlour is up a winding stair,
    And I’ve a many curious things to shew when you are there.”
    Mary Howitt, 1829

  3. Even Bill Clinton would have been clever enough to give himself a little “wiggle room” when promoting Obamacare. Obama, however, made definite statements (period!) with no way to dissemble in any acceptible form. His media apologists are beating their heads against a brick wall of their own making in attempting to defend him.

  4. “Even Bill Clinton would have been clever enough …”

    Clinton was a notably clever liar. Obama’s not in his class.

    Enjoyed the post and the comments.
    (1/2 of the PolitiFact Bias guys)

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