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Tipsheet

The One Line in WaPo's Fact Check of the 10-Year-Old Rape Victim Story That's Raising Eyebrows

AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta

One line in a Washington Post fact check about the alleged 10-year-old Ohio rape victim seeking an abortion in Indiana is raising eyebrows for appearing to state that facts don’t matter once a story goes viral and the president weighs in on it.

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In remarks on Friday, President Biden mentioned the story about the rape victim and argued the abortion “maybe save[d] her life.”

As Townhall reported, the story, which has circulated far and wide, originated from an Indianapolis Star report about patients coming to Indiana for abortions. The piece refers to a Dr. Caitlin Bernard, an Indianapolis-based OB-GYN who reportedly “took a call from a colleague, a child abuse doctor in Ohio” days after the Supreme Court handed down its Dobbs decision, overturning Roe v. Wade. The child was "soon was on her way to Indiana to Bernard's care,” according to the report.

Journalists have since attempted to verify the story’s authenticity but haven’t gotten far. White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre couldn’t say anything more about it, either. And Ohio’s Attorney General Dave Yost said there’s “not a whisper” among prosecutors, local police and sheriffs about the reported crime. 

A Washington Post fact check about the story, published one day after Biden’s comments, contacted the doctor, the report’s lead author, and paper, and all declined to comment further. 

“This is a very difficult story to check,” fact checker Glenn Kessler acknowledged. “Bernard is on the record, but obtaining documents or other confirmation is all but impossible without details that would identify the locality where the rape occurred.”

If Kessler left it right there, there would be no issues, but his concluding sentences are raising eyebrows for claiming the story has now attained a factual nature simply because it went viral. 

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“With news reports around the globe and now a presidential imprimatur, however, the story has acquired the status of a ‘fact’ no matter its provenance,” he states in conclusion. “If a rapist is ever charged, the fact finally would have more solid grounding.”

[Update: Kessler reached out to clarify that he was "making an ironic comment on how a story with such flimsy support was widely embraced," emphasizing his use of quotation marks around the word "fact."]

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