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'Total Embarrassment': WaPo Rebuked For Failed Fact-Check Of Sanders On Trillion-Dollar Wall Street Bailout

Washington Post fact-checker Glenn Kessler cherry-picked evidence, played semantic games, and obscured the truth on Monday when he said Sen. Bernie Sanders inflated the amount of taxpayer bailout money Wall Street received following the 2008 financial crisis.

Kessler took issue with a line the 2020 presidential contender often includes in his stump speeches: "Not one major Wall Street executive went to jail for destroying our economy in 2008 as a result of their greed, recklessness, and illegal behavior. No. They didn't go to jail. They got a trillion-dollar bailout."

Dismissing the trillion-dollar figure as "a nice round number" that is "not borne out by the facts," Kessler added up the amount of aid major banks received through the 2008 Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP).

Even under an expansive definition of Wall Street, Kessler asserted, the bailout amounted to "just over $500 billion - or half a trillion." Under the Post's vaguely defined scoring system, Kessler rewarded Sanders with two "Pinocchios."

But Sanders' team and other critics were quick to argue that Kessler's focus on TARP funds was overly narrow and neglected emergency loans from the Federal Reserve that amounted to trillions of dollars in bailout money that kept Wall Street afloat.

"If anything, Senator Sanders has underestimated the size of the post-crisis bailouts," Arianna Jones, a spokeswoman for Sanders' 2020 presidential campaign, told the Post. Jones pointed to several studies and news reports, including this one from the New York Times, showing that Fed loans exceeded a trillion dollars and may have been as high as $29 trillion.

"Sorry, Wall Street got a MULTI-trillion bailout," tweeted Warren Gunnels, Sanders' staff director.

A 2011 study from the Government Accountability Office, which Kessler quotes in his piece, concluded that loans from the Fed "peaked at more than $1 trillion in late 2008."

Gunnels highlighted this figure and others in a series of tweets:

Responding to Jones' rebuttal, Kessler - who sparked outrage last year after his error-riddled Medicare for All "fact-check" - argued that "there is a definitional issue about what one considers a bailout" and suggested that loans from the Fed may not fit his definition.

This argument sparked ridicule on social media, with critics accusing Kessler of playing word games to score cheap points at the expense of factual accuracy.

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Posted on March 21, 2019


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