The Washington Post's fact-checking department admitted a half-hearted mea culpa Wednesday after "The Fact Checker" himself Glenn Kessler mistakenly upheld Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg's claims that America has an issue with racist infrastructure.
Here are Buttigieg's remarks from Monday, as Katie covered:
Reporter @AprilDRyan to @PeteButtigieg: “Can you give us the construct of how you will deconstruct the racism that was built into the roadways? ... Can you talk to us about how that could be deconstructed?” pic.twitter.com/FXXEq5tuQL— Tom Elliott (@tomselliott) November 8, 2021
Secretary-Mayor-Pete's statements rightfully raised eyebrows, and calls were issued for WaPo to review what he'd claimed about America's racist bridges. But instead of checking the factuality of Buttigieg's claims, he jumped to the transportation secretary's defense before talking to experts and based his declaration on one decades-old source.
Kessler tweeted that Buttigieg's claims were "detailed at length" in some award-winning book that claims prolific city builder Robert Moses took action "to limit access by buses" to certain parks and other public spaces by building bridges that were "too low for buses to pass" in order to keep poorer residents who didn't own cars from accessing parks or beaches.
This is detailed at length in Robert Caro's Pulitzer Prize-winning book on Robert Moses, "The Power Broker." See especially pages 318-319: "He began to limit access by buses; he instructed Shapiro to build the bridges across his new parkways low -- too low for buses to pass."... https://t.co/QmgpxU6Lag— Glenn Kessler (@GlennKesslerWP) November 8, 2021
Kessler continued his Twitter thread seeking to defend Buttigieg by quoting more criticism of Moses actions with only one source to confirm the bias that Buttigieg outlined and WaPo's arbiter of truth sought to uphold:
"...found it very difficult to obtain permits, especially to Moses's beloved Jones Beach; most were shunted off to parks many miles further on Long Island." There's much, much more. Easily one of the best nonfiction books ever written. https://t.co/vV0MWKxJRX— Glenn Kessler (@GlennKesslerWP) November 8, 2021
Now days later and after already providing cover for the Biden administration's transportation secretary, The Washington Post and Kessler sheepishly added what he called an "addendum" to his initial Twitter thread but is merely a failed attempt at admitting he was wrong. "Experts increasingly doubt this story," he tweeted.
ADDENDUM: Experts increasingly doubt this story. https://t.co/Q1JtaNSN7F— Glenn Kessler (@GlennKesslerWP) November 10, 2021
Nice try, but the shameless defense of Buttigieg followed by an equally shameless "whoops" is not doing anything to make The Washington Post or the fact-checking cottage industry seem like authorities on anything.
The Washington Post crack fact checkers can go diving into Tim Scott's 23&Me but when it comes to checking Buttigieg's weird racist fable to prove the entire country is racist for bridges m, it's ADDENDUM and call it a day.— Stephen L. Miller (@redsteeze) November 10, 2021
Despite Kessler's admission in his WaPo fact check that his reaction to conservative outcry over Buttigieg's racist bridges claim was "knee jerked," he still acts as though he didn't do anything wrong by jumping to the transportation secretary's defense without more than one source. Kessler continues his post by admitting that the book he cited as a proven source contained anecdotes that have "been increasingly questioned, along with other details" within its pages.
The largely unsatisfactory conclusion Kessler arrived at is that "Buttigieg should tailor his remarks to reflect what is historically unimpeachable — and we should be more careful to double-check on the latest views of historians."