In a must-read article this weekend, BuzzFeed's Ben Smith urges reporters to stop parroting the Obama campaign talking points on Governor Romney and Congressman Ryan's supposed "lies." He notes that often what are labeled "lies" are in fact policy disagreements.
The Washington Post awarded a scientifically-determined "four Pinocchios" to a Romney-Ryan campaign ad about welfare; their convention involved skewing and intensifying the meaning of an Obama comment about businesses' dependence on public goods; and the New York Times, in a headline still visible in the URL but subsequently changed, said his speech contained a "litany of falsehoods."
…And indeed, a casual read could mistake this for evidence about Ryan's character. It is, in fact, something approaching the opposite: This is how a bogus political narrative gets built. [Peak emphasis]
…But the attack on [Paul Ryan's] honesty was an Obama Campaign tactic last week, one reporters should be wary of echoing. Let's look at some of the examples. Among the facts being checked are actual policy disagreements, like the welfare ad. That spot may play on voter resentment; it may not appeal to better angels; and it may overhype an actual policy move with the verb "gutted"; but as a Chicago Tribune columnist noted, there is an actual policy disagreement (of long standing) here over the work requirement in welfare, and an actual White House policy move to offer exceptions to it. The Romney ad contains heated rhetoric of the genre of Democratic allegations that Ryan would "end" Medicare — but what's wrong with heated rhetoric? Do the fact checkers now also carry thermometers?
Smith is no right wing reporter. Many conservatives see him as left-leaning, lending his critique significant credibility.
Next time reporters jump to embrace an Obama campaign talking point, it would behoove them to take a step back and determine the validity of the criticism before wholly embracing it as fact.