Friday, May 25, 2018
Politics

PunditFact: Fact-checking the May 4 news shows

You couldn't accuse the mainstream media on Sunday of ignoring the investigation into the response to the attack on a U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya.

Pundits across the major networks debated the significance of a newly released email suggesting the White House attempted to shape public statements of Susan Rice, then-ambassador to the United Nations, in the days following the September 2012 violence.

In a series of interviews on the Sunday news shows in 2012, Rice stressed that the violence was a reaction to an anti-Muslim Internet video and not part of an organized terrorist assault. The Obama administration acknowledged a terrorist connection a few days later.

"Where did Susan Rice get the idea on the Sunday shows and blame the whole thing on a video?" asked Fox News' Brit Hume. "There are things still to investigate."

Amid the questions, much of the debate dwelled on just what Rice said back in 2012.

"In those interviews, Rice blamed reaction to a video and ruled out a pre-planned act of terror," Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace told his viewers.

On This Week, ABC political commentator Cokie Roberts suggested the opposite. "When you read the transcript of those Sunday shows, actually Ms. Rice did say 'a terrorist attack,' " Roberts said. "It's not that she put the whole thing on the video."

Neither claim is totally accurate, but Roberts' take is further off the mark when you dig into Rice's appearances.

Rice referred to the video as the source of the conflict in five different Sunday interviews, transcripts show. On Fox and ABC, she said the attacks were not pre-planned but rather were related to the video protest.

She never used the word "terror" or any variation. She mentioned "extremists" on CBS, CNN, NBC and ABC, but connected them to the protest of the video and implied the uprisings were not planned as an act of terrorism. She mentioned al-Qaida only on CBS and cautioned that she wasn't sure they were involved.

Rice's appearances were consistent in that she repeatedly said that the federal government was investigating what happened and that "we'll wait to see exactly what the investigation finally confirms." But when asked to offer her assessment of what happened, Rice stressed protests related to the anti-Muslim video and downplayed suggestions that the attacks were planned.

PunditFact rates Roberts' claim Mostly False.

Benghazi wasn't the only thing pundits talked about. Shows also focused on the story surrounding Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling, who was banned for life from the NBA for making racists comments.

This Week guest and NBA legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar said racism remains part of American culture.

"This is a problem. I did a little bit of research. More whites believe in ghosts than believe in racism," he said. "That's why we have shows like Ghostbusters and don't have shows like 'Racistbusters.' "

Abdul-Jabbar's polling claim is flimsy largely because pollsters don't ask if whites "believe in racism," and the percentage of people who say they believe in ghosts depends on the poll.

According to the 2010 Baylor Religion Survey, a national random sample of U.S. households completed every three years with Gallup, about 56 percent of whites said ghosts either absolutely or probably exist.

That's a bit higher than other surveys we found.

A Harris Poll of 2,250 people surveyed online in November 2013 found that 42 percent of whites said they believe in ghosts. A 2011 poll by The Economist/YouGov.com found that 36 percent of white Americans say they generally believe in ghosts.

Measuring whether someone believes in racism is even more difficult, experts told us.

"People are obviously unlikely to tell pollsters they are racists," said Karlyn Bowman, a polling expert at the conservative American Enterprise Institute.

One Gallup poll from 2009 asked this question: "Do you think racism against blacks is or isn't widespread in the U.S.?" Forty-nine percent of whites said it is widespread, while 48 percent said it was not widespread.

A 2013 poll for the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press found 57 percent of whites said there was some or a lot of discrimination against blacks.

"The problem with the comparison is how do we measure racism? Racism takes a lot of forms. It's much, much harder to say, 'do you believe in racism?' than 'do you believe in ghosts?' " said Kevin Dougherty, Baylor University associate sociology professor.

Abdul-Jabbar fails to acknowledge the wide disparity on polls dealing with ghosts and inaccurately describes the polling on racism.

We rate his claim Mostly False.

Julie Kliegman and Katie Sanders contributed to this report. Aaron Sharockman is the editor of PunditFact.com.

Comments
North Korea demolishes nuclear test site as journalists watch

North Korea demolishes nuclear test site as journalists watch

PUNGGYE-RI, North Korea — North Korean leader Kim Jong Un made good on his promise to demolish his country’s nuclear test site, which was formally closed in a series of huge explosions Thursday as a group of foreign journalists looked on. The explosi...
Published: 05/24/18
Trump violated the Constitution when he blocked his critics on Twitter, a federal judge rules

Trump violated the Constitution when he blocked his critics on Twitter, a federal judge rules

President Donald Trump’s decision to block his Twitter followers for their political views is a violation of the First Amendment, a federal judge ruled Wednesday, saying that Trump’s effort to silence his critics is not permissible under the U.S. Con...
Published: 05/23/18
All those city services that fuel Lightning fever? Team, not taxpayers, foot the bill

All those city services that fuel Lightning fever? Team, not taxpayers, foot the bill

TAMPA — All those public watch parties during the Tampa Bay Lightning’s postseason run? And how about the rally at Joe Chillura Courthouse Square Park with the big white Lightning logo spray-painted on the grass? You need police to prote...
Published: 05/23/18
Romano: A pathetic legacy for Florida’s all-or-nothing Democrats

Romano: A pathetic legacy for Florida’s all-or-nothing Democrats

Explain this to me: In the world of partisan politics, how is being an independent thinker a bad thing? When it comes to general elections, we seem to like rogues and mavericks. We want outsiders and swamp scrubbers. Folks appreciate a good finger-...
Published: 05/22/18
‘World’s most expensive Witch Hunt’: Trump lashes out at New York Times, Democrats

‘World’s most expensive Witch Hunt’: Trump lashes out at New York Times, Democrats

WASHINGTON - President Donald Trump lashed out Sunday at "the World’s most expensive Witch Hunt," trashing a new report in the New York Times that said an emissary representing the governments of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates offered help...
Published: 05/20/18
Obama’s education secretary: Let’s boycott school until gun laws change

Obama’s education secretary: Let’s boycott school until gun laws change

Former Education Secretary Arne Duncan pushed a radical idea on Twitter: Parents should pull their children out of school until elected officials pass stricter gun control laws.His tweet came hours after a shooting rampage at a Houston-area high scho...
Published: 05/20/18
China offers to buy more US products to reduce trade imbalance

China offers to buy more US products to reduce trade imbalance

WASHINGTON - China offered to boost its annual purchases of U.S. products by "at least $200 billion" Friday as two days of talks aimed at averting an open breach between the two countries ended in Washington, a top White House adviser said.Larry Kudl...
Published: 05/19/18
Hillsborough candidate falsified contract for fund-raising gospel concert, lawsuit says

Hillsborough candidate falsified contract for fund-raising gospel concert, lawsuit says

TAMPA — A concert organizer is accusing Hillsborough County Commission candidate Elvis Piggott of falsifying a contract and prompting the headline act to pull out of a gospel show.In a lawsuit filed in Hillsborough Circuit Court, Corey Curry claims h...
Published: 05/18/18
Gina Haspel confirmed as CIA chief despite scrutiny of her role in interrogation program

Gina Haspel confirmed as CIA chief despite scrutiny of her role in interrogation program

WASHINGTON - The Senate voted Thursday to confirm Gina Haspel as the next CIA director after several Democrats were persuaded to support her despite lingering concerns about her role in the brutal interrogation of suspected terrorists captured after ...
Published: 05/17/18
GOP pushes for speedy confirmation vote for CIA nominee

GOP pushes for speedy confirmation vote for CIA nominee

WASHINGTON — Republicans are pushing for a speedy confirmation vote as early as Thursday after the Senate intelligence committee endorsed President Donald Trump’s CIA nominee Gina Haspel to lead the spy agency. But opponents concerned about Haspel’s ...
Published: 05/16/18