You need to read this piece in full to appreciate how hard it works to imply that Harris and Warren have clean hands here even though (a) they’re *blatantly* wrong and (b) there’s every reason to believe they’re acting in bad faith. The two candidates wanted to signal to left-wing primary voters that their wokeness is so sublime that they’re willing to call the police shooting of Michael Brown five years ago a “murder” even though the cop wasn’t charged by a grand jury for it and was subsequently cleared by the Obama Justice Department. A lie that transparent (and inflammatory), for transparent political ends, told by a Republican politician would have been easy “pants on fire” material for these silly fact-checking sites. Not here.
If this outfit wasn’t so terrified of contradicting left-wing Larger Truth dogma, they could have fact-checked this one in two paragraphs. Paragraph one: The claim.
5 years ago Michael Brown was murdered by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri. Michael was unarmed yet he was shot 6 times. I stand with activists and organizers who continue the fight for justice for Michael. We must confront systemic racism and police violence head on.
— Elizabeth Warren (@ewarren) August 9, 2019
Michael Brown’s murder forever changed Ferguson and America. His tragic death sparked a desperately needed conversation and a nationwide movement. We must fight for stronger accountability and racial equity in our justice system.
— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) August 9, 2019
Paragraph two: The fact check.
That’s from the report prepared by Eric Holder’s team at the DOJ. A Missouri grand jury also declined to indict the officer for the shooting. Normally when you have not one but two investigatory bodies, one of which had political reasons to be skeptical, nonetheless conclude that a homicide was justifiable then by definition it’s not properly described as “murder.” But if PolitiFact took that view, it would risk being seen as insensitive to police shootings by people whose opinion it values. And so we get torturous clean-up efforts on Warren’s and Harris’s behalf like this:
[E]xperts who have studied police-related deaths and race relations said that focusing too much on the linguistics in controversial cases comes with its own set of problems.
“I don’t know if the legalistic distinction intensifies the anger, but it does feel like an attempt to shift the debate from a discussion about the killing of black and brown people by police,” said Jean Brown, who teaches communications at Texas Christian University and specializes in media representations of African Americans. “This is unfortunate, because rather than discussing the need for de-escalation tactics and relations between police and communities of color, this has become a conversation about legal terms. Quite frankly, it’s a distraction that doesn’t help the discussion.”
Because the significance of Harris’ and Warrens’ use of the word is open to some dispute, we won’t be rating their tweets on the Truth-O-Meter.
Calling a lie a lie here would be unhelpful to the National Conversation so PolitiFact politely declines. But what’s the point of engaging in a National Conversation when you know up front that lying outright in the name of raising awareness will be permitted?
This has been going on for years, though, with earlier analyses detecting more interest in Republican lies at PolitiFact than Democratic ones. Rest assured, if Trump starts tweeting that Epstein was “murdered,” no allowance will be made by PF for the fact that many people share his suspicions despite an official finding of suicide by the medical examiner. (If in fact that official finding is made, which seems likely.) Actually, I don’t even need to use a hypothetical: PolitiFact happily declared it a lie in 2016 when Michael Cohen retweeted a meme that accused Hillary Clinton of having essentially murdered the U.S. ambassador to Libya by not providing him with more security before the Benghazi attack. Caveat lector, then — if you’re still reading “fact-check” sites in 2019, you get the quality of information you deserve.