It’s become clear that media “fact checkers” have gone far beyond the facts and are often simply flagging ads for using dramatic words, like commercials often do. Writing for the Washington Post’s Fact Checker page, Josh Hicks tried to “correct” a pro-life ad:
“The antiabortion group Susan B. Anthony List released a video with testimony from failed-abortion survivor Melissa Ohden, who criticized the president’s Illinois Senate votes and said: ‘I was aborted and my body discarded like I didn’t exist. But a nurse heard me crying and cared enough to save my life.’” Hicks flunked the ad because he didn’t like the word “discarded”:
We wondered what Ohden meant when she said she was “discarded.” She explained that, according to her adoptive mother, the medical staff “laid her aside” because they didn’t think she would live. This sounds less dramatic than being “discarded,” which could easily give viewers the impression that medical personnel disposed of her body — exactly what the Christian Broadcast Network and Susan B. Anthony List claimed.
Less dramatic? The name of this feature isn’t The Drama Critic, it’s The Fact Checker. One wishes that if this was going to be the game, the Post Fact Checker could assault the Post for dramatically writing of Obama that “The sun glinted off his chiseled pectorals.”
If your mother tried to kill you and left you behind as she went to live her life without you, is it too dramatic to feel “discarded” by your own mother? Clearly Mr. Hicks resents that this ad has any emotional resonance. His critique of this alleged drama queen continued with the notion that Ohden should have kept better records of her own (accidental) birth:
A birth record posted on Ohden’s Web site says nothing about the medical staff laying aside, discarding or leaving the newborn’s body for dead. In fact, it shows that the medical staff took steps to preserve her life after checking her Apgar score — which measures the health of newborn babies — and hearing a weak cry.
Perhaps the doctor left out details about leaving the infant for dead. Ohden said, “Such information is not likely to ever be recorded…. I’m just lucky enough to have the information in my records that I do have.”
But the fact remains that Ohden’s medical records do not prove her case about being discarded. The antiabortion activist also acknowledged that her account of being “laid aside” after birth came from a secondary source — a nurse from the hospital where she was transferred.
Ohden said she was unable to put us in touch with anyone who actually witnessed her birth. In light of the only hard evidence available, she earns two Pinocchios for claiming she was “discarded” at birth.
Two Pinocchios is described by the Post as “Significant omissions and/or exaggerations. Some factual error may be involved but not necessarily.”
This is where a “Pinocchio” measurement should be flagged as misleading. If there’s no factual error involved “necessarily,” why would you give it two signs of a lying wooden boy??
Again, one would love the idea of a “Fact Checker” asking the Post reporter what “hard evidence” he had of the sun glinting off Obama’s “chiseled pectorals”? Did he actually witness Obama topless in the sun? Or was he engaging in a “significant exaggeration”?
If Ohden’s story seems emotionally powerful, the Post seemed clueless about how emotionally insensitive it sounds to tell an abortion survivor to stop the whining and violin-playing about the I-was-almost-a-dead-baby thing.
In a statement sent to NewsBusters, Ohden replied: “As the survivor of an abortion, I’m astonished that a so-called ‘fact-checker’ with a major news outlet would suggest as a person wanted dead by her mother, poisoned by her doctor, left in a room where she was expected to be medical waste in hours, didn’t begin her life totally unwanted and uncared for. If this isn’t being ‘discarded’ I don’t know what could be.”
LifeNews.com Note: Tim Graham is the director of media analysis for the Media Research Center, a media watchdog group. He was a White House correspondent for World magazine in 2001 and 2002. This column originally appeared on the NewsBusters web site.