Bernie 2020 Demands Retraction of Inaccurate WashPost "Fact Check" On Medical Bankruptcy

A letter to Washington Post editor Marty Baron details the newspaper's repeated inaccurate criticism of the Vermont senator

In the last two months, the Washington Post has repeatedly published factually inaccurate “fact check” articles about Bernie Sanders — and despite being publicly ridiculed for these articles, the newspaper has never issued a correction or retraction. The latest example is the most egregious — in its zealous attempt to criticize Bernie, the newspaper ended up promoting inaccurate information that wrongly defamed the work of a well-respected academic researcher. The Bernie 2020 campaign today sent a letter to Washington Post editor Marty Baron demanding a full retraction of the story. That letter is here:

Mr. Baron,

I am writing in regards to the Washington Post Fact Checker’s Aug. 28 analysis, headlined: “Sanders’s flawed statistic: 500,000 medical bankruptcies a year.” We demand that the Post immediately issue a retraction and inform its readers of this decision.

The overall premise of the piece is absurd. The Post’s Fact Checker issued Senator Sanders “three pinocchios” for accurately citing a peer-reviewed editorial published in the American Journal of Public Health. The Post even notes that the author of the editorial confirmed that Senator Sanders had accurately cited his work.

As Rolling Stone ​pointed out​:​ “To dole out Pinocchios for a good faith effort to translate public health data into a stump speech is journalistically obtuse.”

Furthermore, the Post’s Fact Checker asserted: “The AJPH editorial did not undergo the same peer-reviewed editing process as a research article.” This is also not true. The Fact Checker has been informed of this error and has thus far refused to correct it.

The AJPH told the author of this editorial: "I have confirmed to the WaPo that your editorial had been peer-reviewed. There has been some confusion here because they approached us with a general question about editorials.” It is inaccurate to claim that the AJPH editorial did not undergo a peer-review, based on a general question from the Post’s Fact Checker about the standard editorial process.

Let’s be clear. The American Journal of Public Health is not the National Enquirer. It is not a supermarket tabloid. It is one of the most widely respected and prestigious medical journals in the country. Senator Sanders accurately cited a statistic that was published in this distinguished public health journal. In what world does this merit one so-called “pinocchio” let alone three? Further, this “three pinocchio” rating isn’t just falsely attacking the veracity of Senator Sanders and misleading the public on one of the most serious problems facing the American people. It is also tarnishing the reputation of the author of the editorial who went to great lengths to have it reviewed by his peers, who believes “your false claim” has “besmirched” his “reputation as a scholar,” and who is also demanding a retraction.

Unfortunately, this latest Fact Checker article is part of a much broader pattern of bias against Senator Sanders.

On ​June 27th​, the Washington Post published a “fact check” story by Glenn Kessler about Senator Sanders correctly stating that “millions of Americans are forced to work two or three jobs just to survive.” Kessler asserted that the claim was “misleading” even though he admitted “​Bureau of Labor Statistics data ​shows​ that nearly ​8 million people​ hold more than one job.” To be clear: 8 million Americans are accurately described by Senator Sanders as “millions of Americans” -- and yet Kessler’s false assertion that this statement of fact was “misleading” was never retracted or corrected by the Washington Post.

Similarly, on June 28th, the Washington Post published another “fact check” by Mr. Kessler about Senator Sanders ​correctly​ stating that three people own more wealth than the bottom half of the country. Kessler acknowledged that Senator Sanders’ statement was “based on numbers that add up.” However, he then asserted that because “people in the bottom half have essentially no wealth” the “comparison is not especially meaningful” -- which is not merely subjective and tendentious, but also totally inaccurate. The fact that three people own so much wealth while tens of millions have absolutely no wealth is ​especially​ meaningful to working class Americans who are struggling to make ends meet.

These are just a few of the most recent examples of Mr. Kessler’s blatantly obvious bias against Senator Sanders.

The Washington Post says it adheres to the highest journalistic standards of objectivity, fairness and accuracy. If that is the case, why does the Post’s editorial leadership allow the Fact Checker to regularly, baselessly disparage Senator Sanders with smears that are demonstrably inaccurate? And why has the Post’s editorial leadership not corrected or retracted these smears when they are proven false?

We hope that you will address the Fact Checker’s inappropriate coverage of Senator Sanders -- first by immediately retracting this most recent piece, and then by committing the newspaper to covering Senator Sanders in a fair, professional and ethical manner that finally starts honoring the most basic standards of accuracy.

We look forward to hearing your immediate response to this request.

Sincerely,

Warren Gunnels

Senior Advisor, Bernie 2020