Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014

Colbert: 'Who are these PolitiFact guys?'

PolitiFact editor Bill Adair on "The Colbert Report."

The Colbert Report did a fun segment on fact-checking Wednesday night, focusing on our trial partnership with ABC's This Week. I appeared on the Report with Jake Tapper, interim host of This Week. Colbert didn't seem particularly keen on fact-checking. Some of the highlights:

Colbert said, "It's no secret. I'm a huge fan of the Sunday morning talk shows. They're like a grown-up version of Saturday morning cartoons -- only the cartoons have more productive debates." (He then showed a Looney Tunes clip of an argument between Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck: "Duck season!...Wabbit season!...Duck season!")

Colbert joked about Jay Rosen, the New York University professor who proposed fact-checking the Sunday programs. Colbert said that would "ruin" the Sunday shows and upset the natural order. "Is he really suggesting that David Gregory work two days a week?"

Colbert said watching the Sunday shows is "like being a fly on the wall for the ultimate Washington insiders cocktail party -- only instead of a crab dip canape, they're serving horse---t."

Colbert praised Gregory, who has said he's against a similar fact-checking effort for Meet the Press. "It is not a Sunday host's job to make sure his guests aren't lying any more than it's a party host's job to make sure the food isn't poisoned . . . The host is there to tell his guests when it is their time to talk. That's why NBC is grooming Gregory's replacement: a chess timer." (They cut to a picture of Chuck Todd on the Meet the Press set beside a chess clock.)

Colbert said he was shocked that Tapper wanted to use PolitiFact to check This Week. "What was he thinking?! That's like enjoying a delicious hot dog and and then fact-checking to find out how much of it is horse lung and beef nut."

When Jake noted that fact-checking can be more complicated than a host can do on the spur of the moment, Colbert said, "I don't care about facts. I gut-check my show. I say, 'Gut, does that feel true to you?' and Gut says, 'Yes it does, Stephen! Let's get a grilled-cheese sandwich!' "

After Jake said that the role of the Sunday shows is to "elucidate, to provide information for the viewers so they can determine what's going on in Washington," Colbert said, "Okay, that's the first fact you've gotten wrong, because it's about drama, okay? It's a battle. It's two gladiators in one ring. One can choose the sword of truth. But the other one can choose the AK-47 of bulls---."

Colbert said that guests go on the shows "to drive home their ideas through repetition. The more something is repeated -- you repeat it, it's true. If you repeat it, it's true. Through repetition, something becomes true -- if you repeat it enough -- until it becomes true. Or do I need to repeat that for you?"

As an example of the need for fact-checking, Jake cited the recent comment by John McCain that he has never considered himself a maverick, a claim that PolitiFact rated Pants on Fire.

"Who are these PolitiFact guys?" Colbert asked Jake, and then turned to the other side of the desk to ask the same thing of me. I said that "ultimately, we need to be the referee, American politics needs a referee." When I explained that we were part of the St. Petersburg Times, Colbert said, "So you're a Russian paper."

I replied, "But we write in English."

You can see the show on The Colbert Nation.