I do not mean this question in a snarky fashion, not least because I don't want to go out for dinner on Christmas Eve. But I am curious and two recent examples have led me to this point.
One is local. Several weeks ago, our local paper ran a syndicated column by Nat Hentoff. He's a so-called civil libertarian, but frankly he's generally not quite all there upstairs, which makes him quite compatible with the News-Gazoo's editorial page. In this instance, he wrote a column on health care that contained demonstrable lies. It was generally a right wing grab bag, but they were not true. There is no provision for death panels or coverage for illegal aliens or abortion coverage. These were untrue assertions. So, I wrote the editor and asked him the paper's policy. And I was nice. Do they fact check syndicated columns? Do they choose not to run them if they are untrue? I never heard back.
One is national. Today, Texas Senator and gubernatorial candidate Kay Bailey Hutchison wrote a column for the Washington Post. She critiqued the Obama Administration's use of "czars" for policy purposes and asserted as two fundamental premises: "A few of them have formal titles, but most are simply known as czars. They hold unknown levels of power over broad swaths of policy." Both claims are untrue.
As Matt Yglesias and Amanda Terkel point out, all of the "czars" have official titles. The "drug czar," for instance, is the Director of National Drug Control Policy. Czar is a term that dates back at least to FDR's administration and Richard Nixon began its contemporary career when William Simon was appointed energy czar. So, in short, all czars have official titles, all have job descriptions that set the range of their responsibilities, and many are confirmed by the Senate. Hutchison is either a complete ignoramus or a complete liar. Heck, she voted to create the position of "intelligence czar," otherwise known as the Director of National Intelligence.
Hutchison is writing this drivel because she wants to be governor of Texas. But why is the paper publishing it? These two claims are not true.
Usually, papers claim that op-eds are not news and that independent columnists are outside their purview. But the News-Gazoo presumably pays for Hentoff and the Gone Postal published Hutchison. Again, do they fact check and if not, why not?
For instance, neither would publish an op-ed that urged an end to government purchases of GPS devices since they are inaccurate because the earth is flat. Neither would publish, I'm betting, an op-ed urging subscribers to join the Ku Klux Klan. So, I'd like to know.
Where's the line?