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John T. Reed’s pundit intellectual honesty ratings

Posted by John T. Reed on

Fact checkers

I welcome the arrival of public fact checkers on the news-reporting scene. Fact checkers with news organizations have long been around. I have been interviewed by dozens of media outlets over the years. Most of the bigger ones have strong, internal, fact-checking departments. Kiplinger’s Changing Times (now Personal Finance) used to drive me nuts in that regard. If I told them the sun rose in the East they would want a source.

The public fact checkers report mainly on the accuracy of statements by politicians and other advocates, but also, to a lesser extent, they are fact checking the media, who were once thought to do that internally so diligently and well that no external check was required.

Predictably, we now need fact checkers for some of the fact checkers because some of them falsely purport to be fact checkers when they are special interest spin doctors.

Tucker Carlson

Generally honest but almost invariably uses the theatrical, fake laughter tactic (#23) made famous by Hillary. Indeed, Tucker seems to have such a laugh scripted near the end of every debate he has with a hostile pundit.

I have thought about putting a stopwatch on it. Seems like his producer must saying in his earpiece, “Five seconds until theatrical laugh, four, three...” His “I can’t believe you are so stupid” laughs seem to come like clockwork at, what, 17 seconds left in the segment?

Sean Hannity

Hannity admits he is extremely repetitive. He says his reason is he believes the way you win people over to your way of thinking is to keep repeating the accusations he wants you to believe over and over. 

That is an intellectually-dishonest debate tactic—#42. I call it badgering. The Federal Rules of Evidence call it cumulative or repetitive. It is illegal in a trial to repeat the same accusation—for good reason. 

Hannity is essentially saying the more times I say something, the more that proves it’s true. No, it doesn’t. Not on his TV show or in a court. It is illegal in court because of the danger that it might cause jurors or a judge to give a particular fact more weight than it deserves. 

Also, Hannity and most journalists imply that the amount of time they devote to a particular topic is determinative of how important it is. By repeating the same things endlesslly, like “unrepetent terrorist” and “sat in a pew in Reverend Wright’s church for 20 years,” Hannity is, in effect, saying they are endlessly important. No, they are not.

He does the opposite about many other things by ignoring or barely mentioning them. Various media watchdogs now do a good job of monitoring and reporting how much time the various news outlets devote to various stories. So I will not try to cover that aspect here.

Media Buzz

Media Matters

Media Research Center

Hannity has also recited conservative legends as if they were fact. One is that Reagan cut tax rates and it resulted in higher tax collections. That is the Laffer Curve theory, which is valid. But the numbers do not say what Hannity says. Here are the top marginal tax rates for the Reagan era and the tax revenue figures.

year top rate



Tax revenue



1981 69.125% $215,400
1982 50% 19.125% $85,600
1983 50% $109,400
1984 50% $109,400
1985 50% $109,400
1986 50% $109,400
1987 38.5% 11.5% $90,000
1988 28% 10.5% $29,750
1989 28% $29,750 $991B $82B
1991 31% -3% $82,150 $1.03T $39B


As you can see, the revenue actually went down in 1983 after the August 1981 tax cuts. And in the other years, it generally went up about the same each year regardless of any lowering of the top rate the year before.

I just heard Hannity refer to the “corrupt Uranium One deal.” That adjective assumes facts not in evidence (#5). There has not yet been any conviction of anyone in the Uranium One transaction.

Logic fallacy checker

That would be me. There are lots of fact checkers. There are even one or two body-language checkers like Tonya Reimen. But I am the only logic fallacy checker so far. The TV shows who use fact checkers should also use logic fallacy checkers.

Am I looking for that job? Not as a career. I live in a San Francisco suburb. To appear on TV regularly, you need to live in New York City or DC. I am not moving. But I would enjoy critiquing the use of intellectually-dishonest debate tactics once or twice.

In theory, a PhD in philosophy should be expert on this stuff, but the way they talk about it—“syllogisms” and Venn diagrams and all that—makes them worthless for explaining it to laymen.


Politicians rarely let an honest word pass their lips. News media ought to write what the usual suspect politicians are going to say when anything happens before they report what the politicians say. Then they should ignore anything that is what they predicted.

In other words, only report “man bites dog” type statements by politicians, like when one commends his opponent or accepts actual responsibility for a screw up—as opposed to the classic Hillary “I take responsibility, but I did not do anything wrong.”

A politician blaming his opponent for everything bad or taking credit for everything good is not news and should not be reported as such. If that rule were followed, the news would be blessedly devoid of the usual politician suspects reciting the usual politician lies and cliches (“trickle down,” “favoring the rich,” “take away your guns”).

Virtually every comment from a politician blames everything bad that happens on earth on their opponents and takes credit for everything for everything good that happens on earth.

They always want their opponents investigated by a committee or the law enforcement authorities or a special counsel.

They try to make mountains out of their opponents’ molehills and molehills out of the own mountains.

Politicians are very boring and repetitive. Shame on the news media for reporting the obvious, usual nonsense that is about 99% of what politicians say.

Juan Williams 

He is a big user of intellectually-dishonest debate tactic #23, that is, rolling his eyes, tossing his head, and saying things like, “Oh, my goodness!”

These gestures and noises are devoid of facts or logic. They are offered as evidence that what the opponent just said is so ridiculous that no facts or logic need be offered. They are attempts to admit inadmissible evidence under the excited utterances exception in the Federal Rules of Evidence, even if the perpetrator could not articulate it that way. 

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