The AP’s puzzling non sequitur

The AP's puzzling non sequitur
The AP's puzzling non sequitur
Associated Press

I enjoy a good fact check as much as the next guy, and I’m glad more news organizations are scrutinizing public claims ahead of the election. But the Associated Press’ fact check of President Clinton’s convention speech is, well, it’s kind of weird.

CLINTON: “Their campaign pollster said, ‘We’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact checkers.’ Now that is true. I couldn’t have said it better myself – I just hope you remember that every time you see the ad.”

THE FACTS: Clinton, who famously finger-wagged a denial on national television about his sexual relationship with intern Monica Lewinsky and was subsequently impeached in the House on a perjury charge, has had his own uncomfortable moments over telling the truth. “I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky,” Clinton told television viewers. Later, after he was forced to testify to a grand jury, Clinton said his statements were “legally accurate” but also allowed that he “misled people, including even my wife.”

I haven’t the foggiest idea what this is even trying to say. What Clinton said is accurate – just last week, the Romney campaign’s pollster, Neil Newhouse, really did say, “[W]e’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact checkers.” Newhouse said this in response to evidence that the Romney campaign has lied repeatedly about welfare policy.

It’s the sort of thing an AP fact-checking piece should approve of – Clinton made a claim, the claim is true.

But for the Associated Press, there’s apparently something wrong with the claim because, 14 years ago, the former president said something untrue about a sex scandal. What does one have to do with the other? I have absolutely no idea, and the AP’s deeply strange piece doesn’t offer any explanation.

The same fact-check item, by the way, tries to argue “both parties” deserve blame for Washington “gridlock.” As proof, the AP points to the Simpson-Bowles report the White House didn’t embrace – after the Simpson-Bowles commission failed because House Republicans weren’t willing to compromise.

There’s nothing wrong with a good fact check. This isn’t a good fact check.

Update: Greg Sargent has a compelling theory to explain what in the world the AP was thinking.