When Supposed “Fact Checkers” Fail. UPDATE.

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I love it when someone at some blog tries to strip fact-checking sites like Politifact or Snopes of their “fact-checking” status, only to have overlooked things that show them to be in error. This is a tricky post to write, because I would be lying if I declared I hadn’t gotten things wrong from time to time.

But I try my best to be as accurate as possible. And I have changed my mind on things when my research shows I’m wrong.

And then there’s this. A writer by the name of Jack Marshall took on Snopes, declared it to be “unethical” and “biased”, based on their examination of the rape case Hillary took on in 1975. I remember hearing about this on the Rush Limbaugh show way back, how Hillary got a rapist she knew was guilty out of jail, and laughed about it later. Of course, no contest was given. Mr. Marshall seems to be following the same playbook. Here’s what he writes on his blog Ethics Alarm:

Ethics Alarms has been tracking the increasing political bias exhibited by Snopes, once the definitive “Urban Legends” web source to identify false stories on the internet, e-mails hoaxes  and other pollution of public information. The website has made the disastrous decision to wade into political topics and to hire some new social justice warriors and wanna-be Democratic Party operatives to cover them, resulting in the site becoming bad imitation of PolitiFact.

The disturbing trend really established itself this month, but it was in evidence earlier. For example, Snopes rushed to defend Hillary Clinton when the story of her defense of a child rapist was used to smear her. (Ethics Alarms explained, correctly, unlike Snopes, what was unethical about the attacks on Clinton (all defendants deserve a zealous defense, no matter what the charge, and a lawyer isn’t endorsing or supporting a client’s crimes by doing her professional duty).The Snopes defense, in contrast, was dishonest and misleading. Quoth Snopes, via its primary left-biased reporter, Kim LaCapria.

Mr. Marshall then goes on to show how Snopes was wrong:

Claim: Hillary Clinton successfully defended an accused child rapist and later laughed about the case.

MOSTLY FALSE
WHAT’S TRUE: In 1975, young lawyer Hillary Rodham was appointed to represent a defendant charged with raping a 12-year-old girl. Clinton reluctantly took on the case, which ended with a plea bargain for the defendant.

WHAT’S FALSE: Hillary Clinton did not volunteer to be the defendant’s lawyer, she did not laugh about the the case’s outcome, she did not assert that the complainant “made up the rape story,” she did not claim she knew the defendant to be guilty, and she did not “free” the defendant.

Notice that the TRUE and FALSE sections don’t match the claim. That’s because Snopes is playing the logical fallacy games of moving the goalposts and using straw men. The claim, as stated by Snopes, is 100% true.”””

100% true????

Nope. Mr. Marshall is not presenting the whole case as laid out by Snopes. He is lying by omission. This “takedown” of Snopes, by the writers own standards, is “unethical”. The blogger fails to account for the meme displayed at the top of the Snopes article. Here is the meme that the Snopes article is addressing:

 

So, you can see that the meme specifically DOES state in no uncertain terms that Hillary “volunteered” for the case. In fact, she tried to get out of it. So, right there, the meme that Snopes is debugging already fails Mr. Marshalls 100% claim. Hillary did NOT volunteer for the case. From another, better researched article on this matter:

“””[Mahlon] Gibson, the Washington County prosecutor and one of the only people still alive with knowledge of the case, has said emphatically over the years that she did.

In 2008, Gibson told Newsday that “Hillary told me she didn’t want to take that case. She made that very clear.”

Recently, Gibson made similar comments to CNN. He said the judge, Maupin Cummings (now deceased), found Clinton on a list of lawyers who would represent low-income clients.

According to Gibson, Clinton called him and said, “I don’t want to represent this guy. I just can’t stand this. I don’t want to get involved. Can you get me off?”

“I told her, ‘Well, contact the judge and see what he says about it,’ but I also said, ‘Don’t jump on him and make him mad,’ ” Gibson said. “She contacted the judge, and the judge didn’t remove her, and she stayed on the case.””””

The writer at Ethics Alarms says this:

“”””That is certainly laughing about the case. Then Snopes tries equivocation, saying that Clinton didn’t laugh about the outcome of the case. I see: she laughed (three times!) while talking about the case, but wasn’t laughing about the case’s outcome, just…the case. Ridiculous.””””

And yet, he includes the transcript of exactly where Clinton laughs when telling the account of the trial:

“””In 2014, the Washington Free Beacon published the audio of an interview that Arkansas reporter Roy Reed conducted with Clinton in the 1980s. In the interview, Clinton recalls some unusual details of the rape case, and she can be heard laughing in three instances, beginning with a joke she makes about the accuracy of polygraphs.

Clinton: Of course he claimed he didn’t. All this stuff. He took a lie detector test. I had him take a polygraph, which he passed, which forever destroyed my faith in polygraphs. [laughs]

At another point, Clinton said the prosecutor balked at turning over evidence, forcing her to go to the judge to obtain it.

Clinton: So I got an order to see the evidence and the prosecutor didn’t want me to see the evidence. I had to go to Maupin Cummings and convince Maupin that yes indeed I had a right to see the evidence [laughs] before it was presented.

Clinton then said that the evidence she obtained was a pair of the accused’s underwear with a hole in it. Clinton told Reed that investigators had cut out a piece of the underwear and sent the sample to a crime lab to be tested, and the only evidence that remained was the underwear with a hole in it.

Clinton took the remaining evidence to a forensic expert in Brooklyn, New York, and the expert told her that the material on the underwear wasn’t enough to test. “He said, you know, ‘You can’t prove anything,’” Clinton recalled the expert telling her.

Clinton:I wrote all that stuff and I handed it to Mahlon Gibson, and I said, “Well this guy’s ready to come up from New York to prevent this miscarriage of justice.” [laughs]””””

Laughing because polygraphs suck. That’s NOT laughing at getting the rapist off the hook.

Then she laughs at the fact that she had to got to such effort to see evidence in the case, something that could get the case thrown out all together if evidence was withheld.

The third laugh? It’s pretty clear she laughs because the crime lab screwed up. She ended up winning a plea deal for her client, which happened because of the screwed up evidence.

Never ONCE did she laugh because the rapist got off free.

Ethics Alarm has much less credibility than Snopes at the moment.

PS. Here are the transcripts from the trial in question, if you want to examine them.

UPDATE: Here is a defense of Hillary and her role in the case. Key quote:

“The prosecutor in the Clinton 1975 rape case obviously came to an early conclusion that there was not enough credible evidence to present to a jury or that the factual circumstances were such that it warranted a settlement. He therefore put a plea deal on the table.

As the defense attorney in the case, Clinton had an ethical responsibility to either open or discuss plea negotiations with the prosecution. But at the end of the day she did not have the authority to craft a plea deal. She could only accept, or reject, any plea deal ultimately proffered by the prosecutor. And this decision could be made only after Clinton discussed all the details of the proposed deal with her client, including any alternative defense strategies. She had no other ethical choice.”