Fact check?

It’s election season, and I’ve recently been noticing an uptick in the number of mainstream media stories purporting to fact-check candidates’ statements from debates, rallies, advertisements, and so on.

Do you ever wonder who’s fact-checking the fact-checkers?

One of those fact-checkers is Bloomberg, whose website is where I yesterday stumbled across a story about populist parties in Europe. It caught my attention because it made an assertion I was fairly certain wasn’t true.

The first round of presidential voting will pit the primary winners against Marine Le Pen, head of the far-right National Front, and candidates from smaller parties. Polls show Ms Le Pen would win as much as 30 percent of the vote in April, enough to advance to a second round. But surveys show she’d lose a runoff to any mainstream candidate. In parliamentary elections in June, the party that wins the presidency is likely to gain enough seats to form a government. Despite Ms Le Pen’s popularity, the National Front holds no seats in the 577-member National Assembly and failed to gain control of any regional governments in elections last year.

The last sentence is the problem. It’s well known — even by a few of us here in the U.S. — that Marion Maréchal-Le Pen, niece of the same Marine Le Pen mentioned in the article, is a member of the France’s National Front party and is also a member of the National Assembly, representing a constituency in the Vaucluse department in the southeastern part of France. Even Sarah Palin knows who she is! So the assertion that “the National Front holds no seats in the 577-member National Assembly” is, at best, misleading.

It’s true the National Front doesn’t have enough members to form a caucus in the National Assembly. However, if two Green Party members were elected to the U.S. House of Representatives and decided to caucus with the Democrats, would Bloomberg report the Green Party has no members in Congress?

I somewhat doubt it.

Oddly, the same Bloomberg website referred to Marion Maréchal-Le Pen as “a National Front lawmaker” as recently as a few months ago. How does Bloomberg suppose she makes laws without belonging to France’s main lawmaking body?

Perhaps they thought she had a pen and a phone.

For what it’s worth, I e-mailed Bloomberg’s news desk yesterday to alert them to the inaccuracy, but as of today I still haven’t heard back from them, and they still haven’t corrected or clarified the story. As far as I can tell at this point, they’re not interested in doing so.

So why did I single out this story?

First, I suspect the story was misleading by design. If Bloomberg can convince you populist candidates have little traction in Europe, perhaps they can convince you they have no future in the U.S. Flatly stating a party has no members in a national lawmaking body has far more impact than acknowledging it has two. In this case, the facts get in the way of maintaining the narrative.

To be perfectly honest, though, my main interest in this story is of Marion Maréchal-Le Pen herself. As politicians go, she’s rather easy on the eyes. It’s a shame Bloomberg slighted her.

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