The "independent fact-checkers" might want to dust off their Pinocchios and pull out their "truth-o-meters" in reaction to Mitt Romney's latest calculated lie, applying deceptive editing to President Barack Obama's remarks about how public infrastructure supports private enterprise.
This is a clear case where Romney and the right-wing media know what they're doing. They clipped Obama's remarks in such a way as to make it seem that the President was saying that business owners didn't build their own businesses, when the comment actually refers to the building of roads and other public investments.
In a talk in Roanoke, Virginia, on July 13, Obama was describing the contributions that the public sector has made toward creating conditions that help businesses succeed:
"Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you've got a business - you didn't build that. Somebody else made that happen. The Internet didn't get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet."
Though Obama's syntax is slightly mangled, the context is obvious. Obama is saying that businesses did not build the roads, bridges and the Internet. But the right-wing media quickly lopped off the context. Fox News applied its classic selective editing.
On Tuesday, Romney joined in, telling a rally in Pennsylvania that Obama "said this: ‘If you've got a business, you didn't build that. Somebody else made that happen.'" Romney then extrapolated from this misleading quote that Obama wants Americans to be "ashamed of success" and that Obama is "changing the nature of America."
"I find it extraordinary that a philosophy of that nature would be spoken by a president of the United States," Romney said.
But Obama wasn't saying that someone else built the business; he was saying someone else built "that," i.e. the public infrastructure that businesses use. Given this clear context, Romney and other right-wing figures know exactly what they're doing. They're lying.
Yet, reflecting again how poorly the U.S. news media handles such distortions, the Washington Post reported Romney's rendition of Obama's statement without context or contradiction. The willful distortion by Romney was allowed to flow unchecked into the public discourse.
If there is a purpose for "fact-checkers," it is for situations like this, where one candidate wrenches out of context a comment by another with the intention to mislead voters. It also is the responsibility of reporters and editors to supply context even in spot stories.