Ted Cruz Fact-Checks the Fact-Checkers on Keystone XL Job Claims


The end of the Trump administration meant a few jobs were going to be eliminated.

We know, for instance, there were plenty of jobs lost when the Keystone XL pipeline was canceled by President Biden, purportedly for environmental impact reasons. Another area where I see an impact coming: The Washington Post’s Fact Checker, which went hyperactive in the era of Donald Trump.

The District of Columbia’s newspaper of record set up a whole database to fact-check President Donald Trump to death, coming up with 30,573 claims the 45th president made they found were either misleading or false.

“Never would have believed this number was possible when we started four years ago,” chief Post fact-checker Glenn Kessler said in an Inauguration Day tweet.

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I could, although probably not for the same reasons Kessler might have. We’ll get to that in a second, but it’s clear The Post doesn’t have any intention to fact-check Biden with the same hyperactive scrutiny it applied to every statistic, verb, noun, adjective and, yes, even conjunction that managed to come out of Trump’s mouth.

The Washington Post’s director of communications, Shani George, told the Daily Caller the newspaper does “not have plans” to start a Biden fact-checking database and Kessler told CNN that he “assume[s] the Biden presidency will be a lot like the Obama presidency, and that they will be responsive, and will be able to quickly back up what they’re saying.” That, assumedly, makes some positions with The Post as redundant as Keystone XL jobs.

Thankfully, they still have some people to fact-check — but not really like Texas GOP Sen. Ted Cruz, who criticized the Biden administration for killing the pipeline.

First, the fact-checked statement: “I will say it was disconcerting to see yesterday, the first day of the Biden administration, straight out of the gate, President Biden announced that he was canceling the Keystone pipeline,” Cruz said during the confirmation hearings for Biden’s transportation secretary pick, Pete Buttigieg.

“That is a project that right now, today, has 1,200 good-paying union jobs. And in 2021, the Keystone pipeline was scheduled to have more than 11,000 jobs, including 8,000 union jobs, for contracts worth $1.6 billion.”

Enter Washington Post reporter Salvador Rizzo, ready to fact-check this one so hard.

“The Fact Checker has a long history of looking into puffed-up job estimates for the Keystone XL pipeline, an international energy project that stalled through the administrations of Barack Obama and Donald Trump and now appears frozen,” Rizzo wrote in a Tuesday article.

“On his first day in office, President Biden revoked a key federal permit Trump had issued. At Buttigieg’s confirmation hearing the next day, Cruz said that ‘in 2021, the Keystone pipeline was scheduled to have more than 11,000 jobs.'”

The problem with this? “Our first fact check of Keystone job numbers appeared almost a decade ago, in 2011, and we have published many more in recent years,” Rizzo wrote. “So regular readers may recall that, barring 50 or so permanent positions, these 11,000 estimated positions are for temporary construction work.”

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Rizzo actually ended up settling on 10,400 Keystone jobs, citing a 2014 State Department report.

Now, there is a question as to what your definition of a “job” is. This is somewhat less jesuitical than Bill Clinton’s questioning what the definition of the word “is” is. Most of the 10,400 workers would only be hired for periods of roughly 20 weeks rather than for a full year.

“Because of the difficulty in determining whether the project would last one or two years, the State Department decided to express all of the jobs as an annual figure,” Riixxo wrote. “All told, 10,400 construction workers, engaged for four- or eight-month periods, are expressed in the State Department report as 3,900 jobs — one position that is filled one full year — even though none of the jobs actually last a full year.

“The figure that really should be used is 3,900 jobs,” he said. “But it is also correct to say that 10,400 construction workers would get jobs, as long as a politician made clear this was mostly part-year employment. (Cruz didn’t.)”

I’m glad Washington Post readers were appraised of this fact. Ted Cruz decided to appraise us of another.

“WaPo confirms that YES, on his 1st day in office, Joe Biden destroyed 11,000 jobs (including 8000 union jobs),” he tweeted later in the day.

“But, it says, they’re construction jobs so are only temporary. ALL construction jobs are temporary. Presidents still shouldn’t destroy them.”

Since the inauguration of Joe Biden, The Washington Post’s Fact Checker hasn’t really been that active — certainly not as prolific as it was during the Trump years.

On Jan. 22, it gave four “Pinocchios” — meaning the worst kind of lie — to those on social media who claimed Biden said “salute the Marines” as opposed to “good-looking Marines” in a much-circulated video clip taken from the inauguration. The comment by the soon-to-be president (which was bizarre either way) was used by many on Twitter to imply he had been wearing an earpiece and was being guided through the day by handlers.

Is media fact-checking biased?

Then came Cruz’s comment about jobs during Buttigieg’s confirmation hearings. That only got two Pinocchios; applaud The Post for its restraint, I suppose. The newspaper also gave four Pinocchios to a claim by Biden that, during the Trump years, “the federal government contracts awarded directly to foreign companies went up 30 percent.”

Strangely, The Post didn’t award any Pinocchios to Biden’s shifting claims regarding whether or not he opposed the Trump administration’s travel ban in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. (He did, but Kessler said the facts on the matter were ambiguous.)

And then on Friday, The Post gave John Kerry two Pinocchios for overstating projections regarding how many jobs that wind and solar power would create.

The newspaper missed the Biden administration’s lies (spread anonymously via CNN) regarding whether they were left any COVID-19 vaccine distribution plans by the Trump administration. It missed Biden’s lie regarding whether the media said he could vaccinate 100 million people in 100 days. It equivocated on the travel ban.

But The Post has gone after two self-evident lies from the Biden administration, participants in strange online debate about whether Biden had an earpiece in during the inauguration and Ted Cruz for not noting Keystone XL jobs were temporary — like almost all contracted construction jobs are. The paper clearly has its priorities.

Media fact-checking is a broken, rigged game. It’s a matter of focusing your attention on what the fact-checker wants it focused on, all while they pretend they’re nothing more than dispassionate observers of the nation’s political life and passionate defenders of the truth.

We award the two Pinocchios The Washington Post gave Ted Cruz three-and-a-half Pinocchios. Hope you guys don’t lose too many jobs.

However, given the fact The Post wasn’t planning on the kind of rigorous, magnifying-glass parsing of every word now that President Trump is former President Trump, perhaps we can just label the positions temporary and call it a day.

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C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014.
C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014. Aside from politics, he enjoys spending time with his wife, literature (especially British comic novels and modern Japanese lit), indie rock, coffee, Formula One and football (of both American and world varieties).
Morristown, New Jersey
Catholic University of America
Languages Spoken
English, Spanish
Topics of Expertise
American Politics, World Politics, Culture