This was news to shake up a sultry summer in Washington.
The Washington Post, a newspaper that has spent President Donald Trump’s entire term vilifying the president, turned some of that fire Tuesday onto the leader of the Democrats in the House of Representatives.
And for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, the results could not have been satisfying.
The Post’s “fact checker,” Glenn Kessler, accorded Pelosi the rare distinction of rating a statement of hers about Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell with four “Pinocchios” — Kessler’s way of accusing a politician of telling outright lies without a shred of truth to them. (In a word, he calls them “whoppers.”)
Kessler, one of Trump’s most consistent critics in the Washington press corps, was taking Pelosi to task for a statement she made on MSNBC’s “AM Joy” on Sunday, when she called McConnell a “racist” for opposing President Barack Obama’s agenda.
In the interview, Pelosi told guest host Jonathan Capehart, a Washington Post columnist:
“Let me remind you that when the Republicans took power when President Obama was president of the United States, what Mitch McConnell said is, ‘The most important thing we can do is to make sure he does not succeed.’ If that wasn’t a racist statement. That is unthinkable,” Pelosi said.
Kessler wasn’t buying it at all.
In a column published Tuesday, Kessler gave Pelosi credit for at least getting the timing of McConnell’s remark somewhat correct (many Democrats claim McConnell was speaking right after Obama’s election).
But Kessler took it apart from there, using his lead sentence to describe it as “a zombie claim emerges from the dead again. But it’s even uglier than usual.”
Kessler noted that “Democrats love to bring up long-ago remarks” from McConnell about the Obama presidency, then provided a transcript of the National Journal interview where the remark was published in October 2010 (just prior to the midterm elections of Obama’s first term).
During the interview, McConnell said: “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.”
And even that statement came in a wider context of how Republicans would behave toward Obama if he executed a “Clintonian backflip” and started to meet them halfway on the vast policy differences that separated the two parties.
“I don’t want the president to fail; I want him to change,” McConnell told the National Journal. “So, we’ll see. The next move is going to be up to him.”
Pelosi’s rendering of McConnel’s remarks was simply wrong, Kessler wrote.
“We obviously don’t fact-check opinion. But clearly Pelosi’s paraphrase bears little relationship to what McConnell actually said in 2010 — he even said he did not want Obama to fail — and we are flummoxed how this anodyne political statement then is twisted into being an allegedly racist statement,” he wrote.
What Kessler did not point out was that McConnell’s statement was about what anyone would expect from a leading opposition figure in a democracy when discussing the leader of the ruling party.
However, he concluded with the statement that made it clear that he didn’t think Pelosi’s statement was an innocent mistake:
“Democrats have sometimes placed McConnell’s ‘one-term’ comment in the wrong year,” he wrote, “but we are unaware of a senior Democrat bungling the actual quote so much in service of an incendiary charge. Pelosi earns Four Pinocchios.”
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