Bothsidesism comes to fact-checking: CNN's “fact-check” calling Biden ad 'misleading' proves the opposite



The mainstream media, by and large, is conservative, but that’s not its biggest fault. Its biggest fault is bothsidesism, a core, almost-religious commitment to framing disputes - especially on issues that hurt the right - as being the fault of ‘both parties.’ If Republicans are holding pandemic relief hostage, for example, the media will put equal blame on Democrats for not discovering the magic formula to Mitch McConnell’s legislative G-spot. The media will also invent narratives to ensure a horserace, and usually the way to it is bothsidesism.

So it was hardly a surprise when, after in the past week Trump bombed a town hall and Biden aced his, CNN published a “fact-check” of a Biden ad, calling it misleading. At issue is a Biden campaign ad that calls out Donald Trump for calling the coronavirus and the COVID crisis a hoax, and CNN says the Biden ad is misleading by saying that Trump called the virus a hoax, which CNN says he did not.

Here’s the ad.

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

Let’s go to the record. Actually, let’s go to CNN’s record. This is CNN’s explanation for calling the ad misleading, in a nutshell:

Taken in totality, Trump's comments at the February 28 rally indicate that he is deriding Democrats for attacking his performance on the coronavirus. A full 56 seconds pass between the two clips the campaign ad edited together.

But this is not true, shall we say, ‘taken in totality’. Trump said, “coronavirus”, followed by some words about Democrats politicizing it, followed by some words about how Russiagate and impeachment - both actual facts - were hoaxes, followed by the sentence clipped in the ad, “This is their new hoax.”

There is actually no logical conclusion to be reached that in that last sentence, Trump was talking about the Democratic criticism rather than the coronavirus itself. Certainly, when Trump lies about Russiagate being a ‘hoax’, he’s not saying the Democratic response to Russia’s attack on our election is made up, but that the entire premise that Russia attacked our elections to help Trump is. When Trump talks about impeachment being a ‘hoax’, he’s not saying Democrats reacted to impeachment wrong, rather his claim is that the basis of impeachment itself - Trump’s on-tape blackmailing of Ukraine for political benefit - was a fabrication.

In both Russiagate and impeachment cases, then, Trump’s use of the word ‘hoax’ applies to the underlying facts, not the reaction to those facts by Democrats. Why does CNN think it’s different for the coronavirus?

Secondly, if CNN insists on taking Trump’s comments “in totality”, then its fact-checkers have a responsibility to take the Biden ad in totality as well. The totality of Biden ad delivers a coherent - and true - message: Donald Trump sought to publicly downplay the seriousness of how deadly the virus is and hundreds of thousands of people are dead as a result even as he knew the truth in private.

The part of the ad that comes after the line disputed by CNN shows Trump comparing the coronavirus to the flu, and then it cuts to tape released by Bob Woodward in which Trump calls it “the plague.” The following screen shows an increasing count of coronavirus deaths in the United States with the message, “He knew. He lied.”

That, I may suggest to CNN’s “fact-checkers” is the totality of Biden’s ad, and zero lies are detected in it.