How The Media Soft-Plays Paul Ryan’s Lies: ‘Factual Shortcuts,’ ‘Perceived Inaccuracies,’ ‘Questionable Claims’

Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) speech to the Republican National Convention last night was chock-full of bald-faced lies. For example, Ryan blamed the Obama for S&P;’s downgrade of our credit rating (despite the fact that S&P; blamed GOP policies) and blasted Obama for failing to heed the Bowles-Simpson debt commission (which Ryan torpedoed). Yet political reporters covering the speech have, in many cases, been curiously reticent to call Ryan’s lies what they are. Here’s a list, in no particular order, of the euphemisms used in place of “lie” to describe Ryan’s falsehoods:

1. “Factual shortcuts.” — Jack Gillum and Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar, Associated Press. Even in some pieces ostensibly devoted to fact-checking Ryan’s speech, like this Associated Press item, reporters shy away from the term “lie.”

2. “Factually challenged” — John Berman, CNN. The word lie was later used on air to describe Ryan’s speech, but by The Daily Caller’s Will Cain, who was defending Ryan against the charge.

3. “Inaccuracies” — Donovan Slack, Politico. In what’s essentially a he-said-she-said post about the Obama campaign’s reactions to Ryan’s lies, Slack refers to the speech as “otherwise well-reviewed” despite the avalanche of criticism Ryan received for the speech’s tenuous relationship with the truth.


4. “Mr. Ryan ran headlong into the fire” — Jim Rutenberg, The New York Times. The Times’ write-up of the speech fails to call out any of the lies in Ryan’s speech, focusing instead on how the speech would play politically — an issue which is in part determined by how the press chooses to cover the speech.

5. “He is viewed as a truth teller.” — Howard Kurtz, Newsweek/The Daily Beast. Kurtz chooses to repeat this supposed perception of Ryan without addressing the question of whether the content of the speech is, in fact, truthful.

6. “ Paul Ryan stretched some truths Wednesday night…according to the fact checkers” — Mark Memmott NPR. In an otherwise admirable piece critiquing Ryan’s speech, Memmott uses both a the “stretched the truth” euphemism and frames the issue as a debate between fact-checkers and Ryan. The Romney campaign dismisses factcheckers, having said “We’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers.”

7. “Questionable claims.” — Carol Costello, CNN. Costello goes on to say that Ryan’s claims about a GM plant in his hometown were rated by CNN factcheckers as “true but incomplete.”

8. “It’s keeping fact-checkers busy…[the Obama campaign] is trying to call attention to perceived inaccuracies in Ryan’s speech” — Chuck Todd, MSNBC. Indeed.