In 2004, Arnold Schwarzenegger, then a popular figure in the Republican Party, gave an exciting, upbeat and surprisingly funny speech at the GOP convention. He covered a lot of territory: the story of how he came to America, how he became a Republican after listening to Richard Nixon, and other highlights of his life story.
Afterwards, then-CBS News anchor Dan Rather reported that Schwarzenegger "slapped John Kerry around like a hockey puck."
The only problem: Schwarzenegger never mentioned John Kerry, not even once.
I bring it up because it's hardly news that much of the press likes to report the convention as they want it to be rather than as it is.
It's also somewhat less than a thunderclap revelation that the press and the Democratic Party tend to see things the same way. Which is why it's unremarkable that the "fact-checkers" and Democratic Party press-release writers are on the same page.
Hence the relentless coverage of vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan's "lies" during his convention speech. His story about a Janesville, Wis., GM plant, in particular, has stirred up a journalistic fuss:
"A lot of guys I went to high school with worked at that GM plant. Right there at that plant, candidate Obama said: 'I believe that if our government is there to support you ... this plant will be here for another hundred years.' That's what he said in 2008. Well, as it turned out, that plant didn't last another year."
The Associated Press fact-checkers were among the most restrained in their "correction."
"The plant halted production in December 2008," the AP explained, "weeks before Obama took office and well before he enacted a more robust auto industry bailout that rescued GM and Chrysler and allowed the majority of their plants -- though not the Janesville facility -- to stay in operation."
The first problem is that Ryan wasn't referencing the bailout at all, but the sorry state of the overall economy and President Obama's record of over-promising and under-delivering.
A bigger problem is that the AP didn't even look up its own reporting about the Janesville plant. "Production at the General Motors plant in Janesville is scheduled to end for good this week," the news services reported on April 19, 2009. "GM spokesman Christopher Lee says operations at the southern Wisconsin plant will cease Thursday."
And there's the small matter that everything about Ryan's statement was true if you go by the plain meaning of the words.
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