The Associated Press fact-checked President Trump’s State of the Union speech the day before he gave it. The newsgathering organization, of which EO Media Group is a member, didn’t have an advance copy of the president’s address.
Rather, the AP was addressing topics Trump was likely to talk about when he went before Congress.
This is reasonable enough on its face — State of the Union speeches are nothing if not predictable.
And certainly Trump is the ripest of targets for fact checking. In common with most politicians, the president is prone to making statements that put his accomplishments in the best possible light. But Trump’s blustering style, and his preference for simple adjectives such as “best” and “greatest,” lead him to make claims that are easily disproved.
But the AP doesn’t limit itself to that worthwhile endeavor.
Instead, the organization, under the guise of fact checking, seeks to diminish the president’s record by nit-picking claims that are the predictable fodder of political speeches but are too general to be demonstrably false.
For instance, in the pre-speech fact check the AP notes that Trump has “held out his tax cut as a boon to the economy.”
Indeed he has.
The AP’s dispute with this claim begins with a curious passage: “While most economists credit (the tax cuts) with putting extra money in people’s pockets and fueling more consumer spending.” As if only economists — or at least “most economists” — understand that if the government takes less of workers’ earnings they’ll have more to spend, and likely will do just that.
The AP also contends, again referring to the tax cut law, that “its impact may already be fading.”
The AP offers no facts, or indeed anything, in support of what isn’t even a definitive claim — notice the hedging word “may.”
Even when the AP acknowledges a boast Trump was apt to make in his speech is factual, the organization, rather than simply acknowledge its accuracy — presumably the purpose of a fact check — or better still leave it out, instead tries to downplay its significance.
The AP writes: “Trump plays a rather ordinary fact for cheers at his rallies — more Americans are working than ever before. That’s mainly because there are ever more Americans. Call it people inflation.”
A clever line for an editorial, perhaps.
But it’s grossly misplaced in something labeled as a fact check — a piece of journalism that ought to be scrupulously objective.
And even as commentary fodder, it’s flaccid.
The AP proffers nothing to back its claim that the workforce growth is “mainly” due to a growing population. The implication that the number of people with jobs inevitably follows population growth is not valid — the AP need only
consult employment statistics from the 2007 to 2009 recession.
The AP continued its tactics with its follow-up fact check covering Trump’s actual State of the Union speech.
In referencing the president’s boast about the U.S. becoming the world’s largest producer of oil and natural gas, the AP chastises Trump for “taking credit for a U.S. oil and gas production boom that started under Obama.”
Yet the AP acknowledges the U.S. has been the top producer of crude oil only since 2018. And according to federal records, America’s crude oil production actually dropped in 2016, the last year of the Obama administration, but rose in 2017, 2018 and 2019.
The AP’s fact-checking efforts are valid and, during the Trump administration, more necessary than ever. But there’s no reason for the organization to clog its fact-checking articles with obviously political commentary.