Two Fact-Check Outlets Deliver Falsehoods To Claim Georgia Banned Food and Water at Polling Locations

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When you are specifically charged with finding the facts and find something else entirely it is time to quit your job.

There are those occasional stories which crop up and perfectly encapsulate everything wrong with our media complex these days. When it is a seemingly innocuous news item that draws in multiple outlets and exposes the game plan of favoring the President and the party in power it is all the more to be cherished.

There is much talk currently of Georgia Governor Brian Kemp signing a new voter law that got the Democrats and media bent out of shape. That currently they are trying to cancel the filibuster in order to pass a hyper-aggressive new federal voting law makes it all the more dramatic. Over the weekend a component of that law has been debated and it has brought out the fact-checkers, who have delivered embarrassing returns.

It all begins from a statement released by the White House on Friday, where President Biden gave his official opposition on the new Georgia law. In it the President made this comment about one portion of the new legislation.

And it makes it a crime to provide water to voters while they wait in line – lines Republican officials themselves have created by reducing the number of polling sites across the state, disproportionately in Black neighborhoods.

This statement was a topic of debate on Fox News on Sunday, where Chris Wallace was bantering with former Chief of Staff to Mitch McConnell, Josh Holmes, and as a result, it drew the attention of the gang at Politifact. In a similar fashion, the resident fact-checker at The Washington Post, Glenn Kessler, responded to an interview with a member of the Georgia Secretary of State office, Gabriel Sterling on PBS News Hour

In order to explain how these two fact-checkers worked diligently to misrepresent the facts, we should first look at the portion of the Georgia law that is garnering focus. 

“No person shall solicit votes in any manner or by any means or method, nor shall any person distribute or display any campaign material, nor shall any person give, offer to give, or participate in the giving of any money or gifts, including, but not limited to, food and drink, to an elector, nor shall any person solicit signatures for any petition, nor shall any person, other than election officials discharging their duties, establish or set up any tables or booths on any day in which ballots are being cast: (1) Within 150 feet of the outer edge of any building within which a polling place is established; (2) Within any polling place; or within 25 feet of any voter standing in line to vote at any polling place.” 

This is clearly declaring that the distribution of food or water cannot be made with the intent of delivering influence and/or an attempt to sway voters. The law does have language stating that water stations can certainly be provided on-site from poll officers. This shows Biden’s assessment was in truth inaccurate, but here is the first sign of trouble from the Truth Detectors; neither one bothered to fact-check the President’s statement.

In its piece on the Wallace interview Politifact offers this exchange :

Are you really suggesting that it should be wrong to provide water or drinks to people waiting in line to exercise their democratic franchise?” Wallace asked.

Holmes replied: “No, I’m not. What I’m suggesting is wrong is to suggest that the law does that.”

In measuring the truthfulness of this detail here is the final assessment from Politifact:   

But just because poll workers can make self-service water available, doesn’t mean they are required to come up with a way to make water accessible to voters in every line at every polling site. Also, people could hand out water or food to voters outside the 150-foot and 25-foot boundaries. We rate this statement Mostly False. 

There is the semantics game being played; the fact that the law does not require poll workers to do anything is not the same as saying it bans giving out water. It pertains to the wording ‘’Solicit votes in any manner…’’, which covers all the elements listed in the sentence. Nothing spoken by Holmes was incorrect, and he even provided a thread that lays out how the writers at Politifact were altering their approach when they spoke with him for comment.

The intent was to arrive at the ”False” conclusion, so they changed the semantics in order to frame the fact-check differently. Kessler likewise plays a similar game, allowing him to deliver this very slanted tweet in linking to his fact-check on the matter.

To arrive at that conclusion he elected to address the statement made by Gabriel Sterling, who in his interview said, ‘’this is actually the law in the president’s home state of Delaware right now.’’ Kessler gets pedantic on the issue, noting that the Delaware law does not stipulate food and drink directly where it limits giveaways made at polling locations. Kessler leans on this distinction in order to deliver a ”Two Pinocchios‘’ judgment on the matter. Also, his declaration that Georgia does ”specifically prohibit food or water at polls” is permitted to stand, while being wildly inaccurate.

In these intentionally specific assessments they go to lengths in order to draw up their ‘’False’’ conclusions, but they completely bypass a major falsehood in the process. President Biden, meanwhile, was obviously incorrect in saying the law makes it a crime to provide water. Conveniently both of the fact-checkers choose to ignore this statement. Proving the President wrong, and displaying his delivering a falsehood is not in the operational playbook of these Truth Detectors.

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