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When checking fact-checking fails

Radley Balko has this post at the WaPo, titled "When fact-checking fails":

This local TV station's "fact check" of a campaign ad in the South Carolina governor's race shows just how easily the fact-checking concept can fly off the rails. At issue is an ad by the Republican Governors Association accusing Democratic gubernatorial candidate Vincent Sheheen of "protecting criminals" and which then points out that "(Sheheen) got a sex offender out of jail time, defended a child abuser and represented others charged with violent acts."

Greenville, S.C., news station WYFF recently reviewed the ad and proclaimed most of it "true." And indeed, as a one-time criminal defense attorney, Shaheen did all of those things. But this is what criminal defense attorneys do. A zealous defense of people accused of crimes is a critical component of our adversarial criminal justice system.

Balko muddles the important distinction between facts and opinions or inferences based on facts, and as a result he is the one off the rails.

I do not approve of the ad's implication that a criminal defense attorney who does his job defending the client to the best of his ability is unfit for office.  Balko's disdain for that implication has merit.  But that is not fact.  The ad is factually correct, and the TV station's "fact check" is correct for saying so.  Criticism of the argument based on those facts is not the function of fact-checking.

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