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Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Who Will Watch the Watchers?

Tonight's NewsHour had a segment with Terrence Smith of FactCheck.org in which they discussed several 527 advocacy ads. One claims Bush approved oil drilling off Florida's coast.

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: I put programs in place that help Mother Nature.

AD VOICEOVER: Mr. President, your oil drilling off Florida's coast isn't one of them.

TERENCE SMITH: Accurate?

BROOKS JACKSON: Well, off Florida's coast? The truth is, the Bush administration allowed drilling 100 miles off Florida's coast. I think anybody watching this ad would probably get the wrong idea.

This reminded me of Jim Rutenberg's NYT analysis last month, in which he made the same 100-mile criticism. But the Daily Howler says this is wrong, citing a Tampa Tribune analysis of the ad by Garrett Therolf that says the following:

In the advertisement, the narrator tells viewers, "President Bush opened up Florida' coast to offshore oil drilling." The group is referring to a period early in the Bush administration when he supported drilling in a region known as Area 181, which is within 30 miles of the Florida Panhandle and 300 miles from Tampa.

Of course, that could be wrong, but I'm more inclined to believe the guy who is actually reporting from Florida has got this right. It's rather troubling when self-appointed fact checkers appear to be peddling inaccuracies on TV.