The media fact-checkers finally come for Joe Biden
“Get your facts first, then you can distort them as you please,” author Mark Twain once said.
Distorting facts has been all the rage for a Biden administration that was billed from the beginning as the most honest team assembled since the days of George Washington. The falsifications came to a loud head during the president’s scripted address to the nation on Thursday night, which the Washington Post described as “heavy on emotion and hope, but light on facts.” The New York Times said Biden “exaggerated elements of the coronavirus pandemic,” among other things.
“President Biden’s objective, and his commitment, is to bring transparency and truth back to government to share the truth, even when it’s hard to hear,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki promised America on Day 1. But, instead, transparency has consisted of the Leader of the Free World being whisked away from event after event, away from reporters shouting questions over staffers shouting at reporters to leave. It also means Biden now owning the dubious distinction of not holding a formal press conference after taking office longer than his 15 predecessors dating back more than 100 years, before television was invented.
— Averi Harper (@AveriHarper) March 11, 2021
Team Biden is likely holding the president back from doing such an event because it might consist of answering questions around a border policy that has led to a full-blown crisis which includes kids back in cages amid a pandemic and COVID-positive migrants being released into the U.S. population. Such a press conference might also include questions around a COVID-19 relief package that only dedicates 9 percent of its $1.9 trillion to actually fighting the virus while pushing off billions allocated to help reopen schools until 2022, well after the pandemic is likely to be over.
The president who captured the most votes in U.S. history also is avoiding the relatively simple task of reading a teleprompter of a speech written for him in an address to a joint session of Congress. No president in the modern era has not provided this address later than February. It’s now mid-March and Team Biden hasn’t even announced a general date yet because, we’re told, the president wants to promote the aforementioned COVID-19 relief package that already has been signed into law.
Just spitballing here, but it would seem that the best way to promote the package is by addressing Congress and the televised stage it provides. More than 48 million tuned into President Trump’s first address in 2017, which is 15 million more than the audience for Biden’s inauguration speech. But Biden’s handlers are punting anyway with no clear reason as to why. (The president can promote the package and deliver one primetime speech at the same time, one would think).
As for the commitment-to-truth thing, that too has been fleeting.
“Next month, in my first appearance before a joint session of Congress, I will lay out my ‘Build Back Better’ recovery plan,” Biden announced in late January. That never happened.
“I have this strange notion, we are a democracy … if you can’t get the votes … you can’t [legislate] by executive order unless you’re a dictator. We’re a democracy. We need consensus,” Candidate Biden said last October, before the election. Yet, as of March 8, Biden had signed a very dictator-ish 37 executive orders, 13 presidential memoranda, 16 proclamations and seven notices, according to Ballotpedia — far outpacing his predecessors to this point.
“It’s one thing about the vaccine — which we didn’t have when we came into office — but a vaccinator, you need the needle, you need the mechanisms to be able to get it in,” the president said.
Uh, no. Biden had two vaccines available upon taking office (Pfizer, Moderna) and a third that became available shortly after (Johnson & Johnson). Not only were nearly 1 million people already getting vaccinated per day when Biden took office, but he had received two doses himself in December and January. And this isn’t a one-time gaffe, but a mistruth the president has pushed repeatedly in an attempt to take credit for something he had zero to do with. (See: “Operation Warp Speed under the previous administration.”)
JUST IN |√ President-elect Joe #Biden on Monday received his second Covid-19 shot, and said that getting #vaccines into people’s arms would be a “number one priority” for his incoming administration. pic.twitter.com/F6KzlQssvP
— JUST IN | World (@justinbroadcast) January 11, 2021
“I set a goal that many of you said was kind of way over the top. I said I intended to get 100 million shots in people’s arms in my first hundred days in office,” Biden’s speechwriter claimed during the Thursday night address watched by 18 million people. Note: Not a person on the planet said the 100 million goal in Biden’s first 100 days was “way over the top” at the time, because we basically already were headed there in terms of doses per day under the previous administration.
Biden snaps at AP’s Zeke Miller when he asks about the number of vaccine doses he wants to dole out in his first 100 days.
“When I announced it you all said it’s not possible. Come on, give me a break, man.” pic.twitter.com/YnP1gyjnVX
— Curtis Houck (@CurtisHouck) January 21, 2021
“Two months ago this country didn’t have nearly enough vaccine supply to vaccinate all or anywhere near all of the American public. But soon we will,” Biden claimed.
Another invalid truth. Per the New York Times fact-check: “This is misleading. By the end of last year, the Trump administration had ordered at least 800 million vaccine doses that were expected for delivery by July 31, 2021, the Government Accountability Office reported.”
“A year ago we were hit with a virus that was met with silence and spread unchecked, denials for days, weeks, then months.” Again, Biden’s team is throwing kerosene into the gaslighting machine. A year ago, plus six weeks, President Trump halted flights from mainland China. That’s not silence. Nor was the Europe travel ban announced by Trump on March 11, 2020, in an address to the nation.
The USS Comfort didn’t just sail itself to New York Harbor to assist Gov. Andrew Cuomo in March 2020, nor did the Javits Center in New York just decide to morph into a huge field hospital. Cuomo barely utilized either, instead opting to send many COVID-positive elderly patients back into nursing homes, leading to more than 15,000 deaths — higher than the death toll as a whole in 37 U.S. states and 175 countries. The Times generously calls Biden’s “silence” claim “exaggerated.”
“That’s more deaths than in World War I, World War II, Vietnam War and 9/11 combined,” Biden’s speechwriter said of the total death toll from COVID-19. The Times simply calls the math “wrong,” which therefore has no ambiguity or gray area.
And here’s Biden on March 6: The American Rescue Plan will create “over 6 million new jobs by itself.” Yet, per Politifact, that claim is “misleading” because “it includes job growth projected to happen even without the plan.”
It is painfully apparent that Biden and his team are getting their facts first, as Twain said, and then distorting them.
Nothing new from those who have occupied “The Swamp” for decades.
But some of the media fact-checkers apparently are finally waking up to a simple fact: This administration, hyped as a return to truthfulness and transparency — as if that ever existed in any meaningful capacity in the White House with either Democratic or Republican occupants — is anything but.
Fortunately, some — although certainly not all — of those tasked with holding the powerful accountable seem to have finally gotten the memo.
Joe Concha is a media and politics columnist for The Hill.