WaPo Fact Checker Gives Joe Biden Stern Talking-To, All The Pinocchios

Tuesday was a sad day for anyone who may have thought that Joe Biden was any different from the previous occupant of the Oval Office, particularly when it comes to the basic matter of trustworthiness. Sure, Donald Trump may have told more than 30,000 lies during his four years in office, but now, Joe Biden is up to a total of one glaring "4 Pinocchio" whopper, according to Glenn Kessler, the Washington Post's fact checker. And we suppose it's what a fact checker has to do: Biden did indeed say something that's not true, though we're not sure we'd agree his trousers burst into flame. Let's take a look!

In his big press conference last week, Biden said this inaccurate thing about Georgia's terrible new voter suppression law:

"What I'm worried about is how un-American this whole initiative is. It's sick. It's sick … deciding that you're going to end voting at five o'clock when working people are just getting off work."

Biden also repeated the claim in a White House statement on the "Attack on the Right to Vote in Georgia" issued on Friday, too. There's only one problem with that particular criticism of the Georgia law: Among the many things that are horrible about the law, this one isn't true, at least on Election Day, when polls will remain open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., with no changes at all. That's one of the few things Georgia didn't tinker with. Unlike, say, Iowa, whose recently signed bill not only reduced the number of days of early voting but also closed the polls an hour early on Election Day, for no discernible reason. (Honestly, that's what we thought Biden was talking about, because we weren't really paying a lot of attention.)

So yes, Biden got it wrong, no two ways about it. Unlike some far worse nitpicks, Kessler isn't merely spinning true things into lies here, but whether this is really an egregious "whopper" — the only criterion for a four-Pinocchio claim Kessler has — seems open to debate. Kessler does at least offer some possible reasons for why the untruth arose in the first place. For starters, one of the voting experts he consulted, U of Georgia political science prof Charles Bullock III, "speculated that Biden may have been briefed on an early version of the bill — "there were 25 versions floating around" — and he did not get an update on the final version," which certainly seems possible. Kessler also notes that one provision in the original draft of the bill, which would have eliminated early voting on Sundays, got dropped in response to criticism that it would eliminate Black churches' "Souls to the Polls" events.

Or maybe it was some of the language that actually, for a change, will end up expanding early hours in many counties. The old law used to say that early voting had to be available during elections offices' "normal business hours." But, Kessler explains,

The new law makes it specific — "beginning at 9:00 AM and ending at 5:00 PM." A Georgia election official said the change was made in part because some rural county election offices only worked part time during the week, not a full eight-hour day, so the shift to more specific times makes it clear they must be open every weekday for at least eight hours.

So maybe some aide somewhere took those expanded minimum hours for early voting and garbled them while briefing Biden, which would suck. Kessler makes much of the fact that counties are actually free to hold early voting even longer if they choose to, up to the same 7:00 to 7:00 hours as on Election Day, so that's nice.

Weirdly, while the White House statement does include other outrageous parts of the Georgia law, it doesn't mention the very worst part of it, which would allow the state legislature to overrule county election officials, effectively allowing the legislature to determine the outcomes of elections. For that matter, Kessler only mentions it obliquely, noting the law makes "significant procedural changes that potentially give more power to the GOP-controlled legislature in the election process."

But Kessler seems particularly peeved that Biden's incorrect statement made it into written form:

One could understand a flub in a news conference. But then this same claim popped up in an official presidential statement. Not a single expert we consulted who has studied the law understood why Biden made this claim, as this was the section of law that expanded early voting for many Georgians.

Well then! Four Pinocchios it is, right up there with Donald Trump's insistence that mail-in voting is fraudulent, that the US had its greatest economy ever under him, and that Barack Obama completely blew the Swine Flu response.

Now, we suppose, we'll have to wait and see how many times Biden repeats it. Our guess will be "zero," since he actually listens to staff briefings.

[WaPo / Des Moines Register]

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Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.


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