Washington Post's Glenn Kessler, Sen. Tom Cotton clash over fact-check on Biden's 'defund the police' stance

Media top headlines June 29

An Intercept reporter suggesting DeSantis is to blame for the condo collapse, an MSNBC anchor trashing Bill Maher as an "angry White man," and a CNN anchor cozying up to Ron Klain round out today’s top media headlines.

Washington Post fact-checker Glenn Kessler took a swipe at Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., who knocked his reporting on President Biden’s stance on the “defund the police” movement. 

On Tuesday, Kessler tackled the “continuing GOP fiction” that Biden supports defending police, fact-checking Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who claimed that “abolish the police” was part of Biden’s “5-point anti-crime plan,” and Indiana Rep. Jim Banks, who tweeted, “The problem isn’t guns and it isn’t COVID either. It’s violent rioting and the Defund the Police movement, both of which were supported, financially and rhetorically, by the Biden admin.”

“During the 2020 election, the Trump campaign desperately tried to claim that Joe Biden was a supporter of the ‘defund the police’ movement advocated by some elements of the Democratic Party… Trump lost the election. But here we are, six months into Biden’s presidency, and Republicans are still making this false claim,” Kessler wrote. “At The Fact Checker, we obviously take no position on the issue. But this is a catchphrase that can be easily twisted to mean something else — leaving the door wide open for political attacks.”

Kessler acknowledged the pro-defund the police rhetoric from two of Biden’s DOJ appointees Kristen Clarke and Vanita Gupta who Republican critics often cite, but stressed that their comments were made “before” they joined the administration. 

“In other words, Cruz and Banks have no basis for claiming that abolishing police or supporting the defund police movement is a Biden administration position. Indeed, the opposite is true,” the Post fact-checker argued. “In his fiscal 2022 budget, Biden kept his campaign promise and proposed to more than double the funding for the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) Hiring Program. Funding is provided to state and local governments to hire law enforcement officers, thus inflating the size of police departments.”

“Moreover, Biden announced on June 23 that he was urging cities experiencing an increase in crime to tap funds in his coronavirus relief bill ‘to hire police officers needed for community policing and to pay their overtime,’” Kessler added. 

While Banks’ office did not respond to the Post’s request for comment, a spokesperson for Cruz accused media outlets like the Post of “carry[ing] water for Democrats under the false pretense of a so-called ‘fact check.’”

“Republicans keep trying to tag Biden with being part of the defund police movement. But that’s simply false. The flimsiness of the charge is demonstrated by the paucity of the evidence that lawmakers muster making their hyperbolic claims,” Kessler wrote. “The reality is this: Biden wants to boost federal funding to allow for the hiring of more police officers. He said that during the campaign and then fulfilled that pledge in his initial budget proposal. The president sets the policies in his administration — and he’s been entirely consistent.”

Kessler gave Cruz and Banks “Four Pinocchios.”

Cotton dismissed the Post’s fact-check by drawing attention to Biden’s appointees. 

“Don’t listen to what Joe Biden says. Look at what he does,” Cotton insisted. “He picked two defund the police activists—Kristen Clarke and Vanita Gupta—to lead the Department of Justice.”

He went on to quote Clarke, who explicitly stated “Defund the Police,” while Gupta said it was “critical” to “decrease police budgets.”

Kessler back.

“This is a really dumb and desperate effort to mitigate a Four-Pinocchio ruling,” Kessler tweeted. “The fact check says what Biden did — he proposed to double COPS hiring. No shame, @TomCottonAR.”

Other critics took to social media to slam the Post’s fact-check.

“This fact check needs a fact check,” Ruthless podcast co-host Michael Duncan reacted, refuting Kessler’s claim that “there is no evidence” that criminals released from the Minnesota Freedom Fund last year following the George Floyd riots “committed additional crimes after being released.”

“Biden nominated two prominent defund the police advocates to top jobs at the Justice Department. Vanita Gupta literally called for defunding the police in SWORN SENATE TESTIMONY. Giving this 4 Pinocchio’s to dismiss outright is nonsensical,” GOP strategist Matt Whitlock tweeted. “Also kind of amazing that they’ll fact-check a Cruz tweet on this but ignore the White House’s strategic decision to lie about Republicans and police funding.”

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