Last Thursday, Rachel Maddow assigned a test for the press corps (it wasn't the first time). And, wouldn't you know, the press corps has passed with flying colors! But before reporters rest on their laurels, there's still more work to be done.
It all started with a claim by Mitt Romney about Solyndra, the failed solar company that the Obama administration supported with federal funds. "An independent inspector general looked at this investment," Romney charged in a campaign speech, "and concluded that this administration had steered money to friends and family, to campaign contributors."
As Rachel made clear last week, that's simply wrong. The IG's report concluded no such thing. So she challenged the press to clearly point out that a presidential candidate had leveled an attack on his opponent that was flatly untrue.
And sure enough, the press corps responded. As Rachel detailed Monday, outlets from ABC News to Factcheck.org, to the AP to Fortune magazine responded to Romney's claim by noting in unequivocal terms that it was untrue.
"The charge is simply false," Jake Tapper of ABC News wrote, in a typically blunt assessment.
The mainstream media's inability to clearly tell Americans when one side or the other is lying, or is making claims that don't hold up, is one of its most persistent failures. But the Solyndra episode shows that when a lie is that bald-faced, even Beltway reporters will call it out.
So, good for the press. But there's more work to be done. As Rachel noted, the Romney campaign is currently running an ad that makes exactly the same false claim about Solyndra. Shouldn't the press be pointing that out, and calling on the campaign to take it down? Or would that be too much to hope for?