"Watching the Fact Checkers"
Rudy Giuliani runs an ad in which he explains “I know that reducing taxes produces more revenues,” which is an impossible thing for Giuliani to “know” since it’s false:
Fortunately, The Washington Post and The New York Times both have ad fact check features designed to set the record straight. But the Times doesn’t notice what Rudy said, and the Post further misleads, saying “a matter of fierce dispute among economists.” Brendan Nyhan asks “What’s the point of fact-checking if you’re not going to call Rudy on that claim?”
I think you’d have to say that the point is pretty clear. If a candidate puts out an ad that says things that aren’t true and newspapers ignore it, then maybe the claim is true and maybe it’s false. By contrast, if the papers “fact check” the ad and don’t call the claim false, then you, the reader, can be confident that the claim isn’t false! Why would a newspaper do that? Well, Bob Somerby could probably give you a theory or two. At the end of the day, there’s no denying that Giuliani is (a) “tough” and (b) a Republican, both things beloved by the national political press. More broadly, to an almost unique extent the entire Giuliani campaign is a pure creature of positive press coverage — I liked his speeches on 9/11 and the days immediately following, too, but nothing about them suggested to me “this is a man with a sound understanding of the national security challenges facing America.” It was just an awestruck press corps that started in with the “America’s Mayor” business, giving him the “Man of the Year” award, suggesting he should be taken seriously as a thinker on topics way outside his area of expertise, etc., etc., ec.