Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Debate Tactic: Hoping They Don't Check Facts

In last night's debate, Vice-President Vader denied John Edwards' claims that Halliburton was currently under investigation and had in the past, when Cheney was CEO, used end-runs around U.S. sanctions forbidding companies do business in Iran by farming the work out to an off-shore subsidiary.

To make his refutation seem more formidable, Cheney urged viewers to go to "FactCheck.com." Here's what FactCheck.org opens with in today's post-debate, FactCheck email:
Cheney & Edwards Mangle Facts
Getting it wrong about combat pay, Halliburton, and FactCheck.org

10.06.2004

Summary
<>Cheney wrongly implied that FactCheck had defended his tenure as CEO of Halliburton Co., and the vice president even got our name wrong. He overstated matters when he said Edwards voted "for the war" and "to commit the troops, to send them to war." He exaggerated the number of times Kerry has voted to raise taxes, and puffed up the number of small business owners who would see a tax increase under Kerry's proposals.

Edwards falsely claimed the administration "lobbied the Congress" to cut the combat pay of troops in Iraq, something the White House never supported, and he used misleading numbers about jobs.
http://factcheck.org/article.aspx?docID=272

To be fair, I've posted the full summary, which is also critical of some of Edwards' remarks. But it was Cheney who wrongly invoked FactCheck. Of course, he gave the wrong URL too, but let's assume that was an innocent mistake, and that he meant to say FactCheck.org.

Clearly Cheney evoked the WWW site and drew on its nonpartisan reputation to shield himself from Edwards' accurate (on Halliburton) criticisms. Since FactCheck.org does not supply the defense Cheney claims, since they will not be refuting Edwards' claims, Cheney can only be hoping that viewers won't check FactCheck.org, but instead will take his call for viewers to check it as proof enough that Edwards is wrong. He's hoping, cynically, that simply by asserting that the site defends him and telling viewers to check it out, that viewers will assume the site defends him -- why else would he send them there? He's counting on voters to trust him.

Oh, and for kicks, see the automatic redirect that occurs when you go to FactCheck.com. How's that for poetic justice?

Update: 1:54 PM. Kevin Drum at Political Animal snippets a Wall Street Journal storythat says FactCheck.com is owned by a domain-parking group located in the Cayman Islands. They had had info about online degree programs at the URL, but the minute they heard Cheney's gaffe, they redirected the URL. The redirect also saved them some broadband fees because their site traffic jumped: " -- about 50,000 unique visitors in the first hour."

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