Politifact’s Aaron Sharockman joined me this morning:
HH: My first guest today, Aaron Sharockman. Mr. Sharockman, welcome, it’s great to have you.
AS: Good morning, Hugh.
HH: Aaron is the executive director of Politifact. He oversees Politifact operations, development and revenue. He assists in Politifact’s journalistic mission, among his other duties. Aaron has been with Politifact since 2010, and served most recently as the editor of Punditfact, a website dedicated to checking claims by pundits, columnists, bloggers and the hosts and guests of talk shows. Aaron is a 2016-17 Reynolds fellow at the University of Missouri, and he co-teaches a class on political fact-checking at the University of Missouri School of Journalism. Aaron graduated from Indiana University. May I call you Aaron?
AS: You may, of course.
HH: Aaron, it is tradition on this program to begin with two questions for a new guest. Have you read The Looming Tower?
AS: I haven’t, but I’m aware of your question, so I would say I was Bob Baer guy, so I loved his memoir that became Syriana. And I enjoyed very much is work writing about Iran. It made me learn a lot about the Middle East and all the issues that we have there that’s understanding that place in the world.
HH: But you haven’t read The Looming Tower?
AS: Correct. I have not.
HH: Was Alger Hiss a Communist spy?
AS: I think that as a fact-checker, I have to believe, look at the weight of the evidence and I would say the weight of the evidence is that he spied for the Soviet Union, yes.
HH: How about Kim Philby?
AS: Tim Philby?
HH: Kim Philby.
AS: I don’t know. I don’t know.
HH: How about Peter Smollett?
AS: Peter Smollett’s name is not familiar to me.
HH: How about Geoff Dawson?
AS: Georff Dawson? The name’s not familiar to me.
HH: He was the, he was not a communist. The other two were. What year did you graduate from Indiana University?
AS: That would be 2003, sir.
HH: Okay, and how old are you now?
AS: I’m 35.
HH: What did you study at IU?
AS: What did I study at IU? I studies political science and journalism.
HH: And where are you from originally?
AS: Pennsylvania, a town called Pottsville.
HH: Pottsville, Pennsylvania?
AS: Correct, yeah.
HH: Are you a Steelers’ fan?
AS: I’m an Eagles fan, unfortunately, or fortunately.
HH: Served to figure. What jobs have you held since graduating before going to Politifact in 2010?
AS: Sure, I was, I’ve always been a journalist since 2003. In fact, I, love it or hate it, it’s the only job that wasn’t journalism that I’ve ever had was I worked one summer at a golf course getting people their golf carts. But other than that, journalist always.
HH: Which papers or outlets?
AS: Oh, sure. I spent a summer at the Indianapolis Star after, upon graduation. And then since then, I’ve been at the Tampa Bay Times covering government and politics, local government for the first handful of years, then state politics for the second handful. The Tampa Bay Times, as your listeners may or may not know, is the newspaper that created Politifact in 2007. So I then transitioned over to Politifact in 2010.
HH: And who owns the Tampa Bay Times?
AS: The Tampa Bay Times is owned by the Poynter Institute. It’s a school for journalists based in St. Petersburg, Florida.
HH: Is it a not-for-profit institution?
AS: It is, yes.
HH: Does it receive grants?
AS: Yes, it does. Yes, of course.
HH: Do you know who its largest grantors are?
AS: I would, I believe, I don’t know for sure. I believe its largest grantor is probably the Knight Foundation.
HH: Any other ones that might alert anyone on the left or the right as to the bias of the organization?
AS: Sure. I know that Poynter has received funding from the Omidyar Network, and I know it has received funding from, I believe, the McCormack Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation. It may have receive others. I apologize. I worked for, there is a bright line. I work for Politifact, which is part of the Tampa Bay Times, which is for profit. It is owned by a non-profit, the Poynter Institute, so I do now know the inner workings of their finances.
HH: Oh, so you work for a for-profit. I misunderstood that. You work for a for-profit paper?
AS: So it’s super complicated. The owner of the Tampa Bay Times was a guy named Nelson Poynter, and the Tampa Bay Times…
HH: What’s his name? Boyer?
AS: Nelson Poynter. Poynter.
HH: Poynter, okay.
AS: And he, when he died, he decided not to give the paper to his daughters, instead entrusted it to a school that he created. It was not called the Poynter Institute then, but it was eventually called the Poynter Institute. And so the Poynter Institute is a non-profit, but it owns the for-profit Tampa Bay Times. And so it is a hard thing for some people to understand, but it was set up deliberately so that the Tampa Bay Times would have ownership, is owned by a non-profit. Therefore, it doesn’t have the corporate pressures of, say, some of the larger media houses – Gannett, you know, Chicago Tribune, the Tribune Company, papers like that, groups like that.
HH: Do we have a public statement of the amount of revenue that the Tampa Bay Times makes each year? Is it a public company?
AS: It is not public, no.
HH: It is not public. All right. Are you familiar with the acronym FEHB?
AS: FEHB? No, I am not.
HH: F as in Frank, E as in Edward, H as in Hugh, B as in Boy, FEHB.
AS: No, I am not.
HH: Are you familiar with the term adverse selection?
AS: Adverse selection? Sure.
HH: How do you define that?
AS: Well, I mean, to me, adverse selection, in the context of fact checking or the context of, you’ve got to help me out, Hugh.
HH: In the context of health care.
AS: Oh, in the context of health care? I don’t, I don’t necessarily know if the definition is based on, so help enlightenment me, sir.
HH: No, I just was wondering if you had one. You don’t.
AS: I mean, I’m here, I know what I’m here to talk about. I’m curious what you’re here to talk about.
HH: I’m doing the interview. I’m finding out what you know about health care. So adverse selection’s a big term in health care.
AS: Sure. Okay, go ahead.
HH: But you don’t know what it means?
AS: I’m not going to play this game. We can talk about the fact check we wrote about you. We could talk about Politifact.
HH: It’s not a game. It’s just an interview. It’s okay not to know things. I say all the time when I don’t know things. So if you don’t know, it’s not a game, just, it’s okay. Don’t worry.
AS: I’m not.
AS: Continue, yeah.
HH: Your Twitter feed has on it the title ‘The Bad Boy of Political Journalism.” Why?
AS: It’s a joke.
HH: Yeah, why is it a joke?
AS: Why is it a joke? So that’s, for all honesty, that’s the card my wife got me for my first wedding anniversary last, this month, the pictures of me sitting down doing a TV interview with shorts and flip flops, because I’m, I work most of the time in Florida, and that’s the name she put on the card.
HH: So you don’t consider yourself to be the bad boy of political journalism?
AS: (laughing) If you want to help start the movement, Hugh, I guess we could try…
HH: No, I just wanted to know what you think of yourself as.
AS: Yeah, I think of myself as the executive director of Politifact.
HH: All right. Who did you vote for, for president in 2016?
AS: Every person’s vote is their own private decision…
HH: Sure, it is.
AS: So yeah, of course.
HH: I voted for Trump. Who did you vote for?
AS: I’m not going to tell you who I voted for, nor should any journalist.
HH: Oh, that’s a value statement.
AS: Sure. I mean, I think…
HH: Why not?
AS: Journalists, well, because journalists have a right, have the ability to vote just like any other American, but journalists should try to be objective in their complete public face.
HH: And non-transparent to their readers, because what you’re being is non-transparent to your readers there.
AS: Well, I don’t, but what does that matter? What does it matter who I voted for?
HH: It would be, the readers might find it of use in judging your fairness and accuracy, objectivity and willingness to hear the other side.
AS: What if I said I didn’t vote? What would that say about me?
HH: That would tell you different things, that you might be apathetic and indifferent to the results of an election. It would tell you something. It would be a fact. And so you did vote, but you will not tell me who you voted for?
AS: Of course, I won’t, no.
HH: Well, many journalists do.
AS: And if any news journalist…
HH: Many journalists have. Many chose not to. Dana Milbank doesn’t vote. It’s all over the map. It depends on who you talk to. You’re among those who refuse to be transparent.
AS: So…but Hugh, Dana Milbank’s a columnist, in all honesty. He’s not a news journalist. I would, I think that part of anyone…
HH: Dana Milbank’s not a journalist?
AS: He’s not a news journalist. He’s a columnist.
HH: All right. Let me ask you about 2012.
HH: Who did you vote for in 2012? That’s a long time ago.
AS: Hugh, I’m going to tell you, I voted for Republicans for president and Democrats for president in my first election.
HH: That doesn’t tell me anything.
AS: Okay. Then we’ll leave it there.
HH: I’m just asking about 2012.
AS: That doesn’t tell you anything? That’s not a fact?
HH: Did you vote in 2012?
AS: Okay, Hugh, this is enlightening to your viewers, or your listeners, I’m sure. My first presidential election was 2000. So that’s 2002, 2004, 2008, 2012, 2016. I voted for Republicans and Democrats in those years. I will continue to vote for Republicans and Democrats. I don’t necessarily find, to be honest, the political party of a person to be much, to say much about who they are as a candidate.
HH: I know, I’m just rolling through factual-based questions to set up the difference between facts and opinions.
AS: Got it.
HH: And so in 2012, did you vote?
AS: I did vote, yes.
HH: You did? Did you vote for Obama or Romney?
AS: I’m not going to tell you.
HH: Okay, that’s fine. In 2008, did you vote?
HH: Did you vote for Obama or for McCain?
AS: I’m not going to tell you.
HH: Are you a registered Democrat, Republican or an independent?
AS: It’s, in Florida, it’s no party affiliation.
HH: Is that what you are?
AS: Just for the record. Correct, yes.
HH: Okay, and do you favor abortion rights?
AS: Did I say, say that again?
HH: Do you favor abortion rights?
AS: I, honestly, it’s, I’m not going to tell you. I’m not going to describe all my political views. I’ll tell you as a journalist, my job is to cover things independently, objectively, and I think we at Politifact accomplish that.
HH: Just a fact question, not a judgment, just a fact question.
HH: Do you own a gun?
AS: I’m not going to answer these questions.
HH: That’s a fact question again, though, isn’t it?
AS: Of course, it is. Yes.
HH: Okay, do you belong to any religion?
AS: Again, I don’t see the point of any of these questions other that you establishing, you’re asking questions of fact that I’m not going to answer, so…
HH: That’s right. And…
AS: I think we can stipulate….
HH: …that those facts, would you agree with me that those facts would help you be more transparent to your audience if you answered them?
AS: Hugh, my particular views are irrelevant. Every fact check that we publish at Politifact, 14,000 since 2007, includes a list of every source, of people we spoke to. It includes hyperlinks to any primary source. Everything that we do is on the record and transparent. We do not use off the record sources…
HH: Except you. You’re not on the record and transparent. You yourself, your views are not on the record and transparent. Your votes are not on the record and transparent. Your political ideology is not on the record and transparent.
AS: Well, look…that has nothing to do with what we wrote.
HH: We disagree, but let’s move on.
AS: …or what we will write.
HH: Does Politifact have published standards of journalistic conduct and ethics?
HH: Are they posted?
AS: We have an About Us page that describes in methodology, our funding and our process.
HH: In that, and I looked at that page and could not find a code of conduct and ethics.
AS: What’s your specific question? Every, of course, every employee and every journalist has ethics and conduct codes that they must follow.
HH: But are they posted so that people know what they are?
AS: What is your question?
HH: Are there, is there a best practice about contacting the subject of a story that anyone at Politifact is writing?
AS: Thank you, Hugh. Now we’re getting there. Okay. So I assume your…
HH: That’s no, my question is, is there a best practice about conducting the subject of a story that is posted? That’s my question.
AS: Yeah, so at Politifact, we, every fact check, all 14,000 over 7, 9 years now, excuse me, the first thing we do when it’s going, is researching…
HH: That, Aaron, this is an interview. It’s an interview. And so it’s not a trick question. I’m just asking is there a standard about that, about conducting the subject of a story that is posted?
AS: The standard is that we reach out to the speaker of the claim, yes.
HH: And does it have any particulars about reaching out to the speaker of a claim and what that means?
AS: It means many different things to many different people.
HH: Ah, so there is no standard?
AS: The standard is to reach out to the speaker of the claim.
HH: But without any specifics as to what is an adequate amount of time or a number of efforts to contact that individual?
AS: You know, Hugh, I would say this. I think the answer that if I emailed email@example.com, I should have a reasonable expectation that it would be…
HH: You’re trying to skip the discussion of standards and not answering my question. So there are not specifics?
AS: I’m trying to have…
HH: I get to, I’m going to get to all this. I’m just trying to set up the standard, which is useful to the listener. You don’t have a published standard about reaching out. You may think whatever you did with me was adequate, but you have no standard against which to measure it, and for me to say objectively, you did not meet your own standard, since you do not have one posted, correct?
AS: What would your standard be?
HH: It’s not a debate. It’s an interview. I’m just really trying to figure out how Politifact operates. That’s all I’m trying to do here.
AS: We reach out to the speaker of every claim we make, and in 80-85% of those cases, they respond to us. So I think our standard, whatever it is, is met very regularly.
HH: But it may vary from person to person, depending upon your reporter and the story?
AS: Yeah, certainly. I mean, I think we don’t call Donald Trump and ask him for his information behind his facts. We speak to the press office, and they respond to us.
HH: Is it important to you that you talk to the subject of your story?
AS: Of course. We prefer to talk to the subject of every story whenever we publish…
HH: How important is it to the story that you talk to the subject of the story?
AS: It is not critical.
HH: It is not critical?
AS: We evaluate the evidence with or without the cooperation of the subject, with or without the participation of the subject.
HH: Well, that’s, cooperation is different.
HH: But contacting is different from cooperation, is it not?
AS: Of course.
AS: And as I said, it is the standard to contact, to attempt to contact the speaker of every claim. That’s what we do at Politifact.
HH: Okay, now let’s go to that standard. Is it Politifact’s standard to survey a subject’s Twitter feed and reach out to them thereby?
AS: You know what? In some cases, we have done that, and I’ll tell you, what we found is that we actually took a lot of criticism for reaching out to someone via Twitter, because we were told that that is not a reasonable standard. In fact, you can read some long articles in the Daily Caller about how we fail to meet the standard of reaching out to somebody specifically by using Twitter.
HH: Would it not depend upon whether that individual is in fact a prolific user of Twitter and responds to journalists thereby?
AS: I would assume, but that would require us to know the ins and outs of every person in the world, and their use of Twitter and their habits, yes.
HH: And could you quickly establish that within, say, an hour to two hours of deciding you needed to talk to someone?
AS: What I would say is I think what I would understand is that a person who has access to Twitter should have access to an email at the same time.
HH: But if someone was on Twitter, as I was, I was a subject of a Politifact story on Sunday…
HH: …for three hours responding to journalists’ questions. Did your journalist, Allison Graves, check my Twitter feed at all and send me a question on Twitter?
AS: She did not.
HH: Ought she to have done so?
AS: Say that again? I’m sorry.
HH: Ought she to have done so?
AS: She emailed firstname.lastname@example.org.
HH: And she also emailed my booking producer…
HH: …but she did not check my Twitter feed, in which I was engaged in conversations with journalists.
HH: So my question is ought she to have done so?
AS: I don’t think that that has to be the standard to tweet at somebody when there is an email called email@example.com. I think there’s a reasonable expectation that is your email account.
HH: And let me ask you, if you had known, if you had known that I was online talking to three journalists, would you have tweeted at me?
AS: If I knew that that, yeah, of course. If the answer was we knew that that was the best way to reach you, and going forward, of course, that’s how we’ll reach you. It is very much our intent to try to reach the speaker of every claim. That won’t change.
HH: How long has Allison Graves worked for you?
AS: It’s an irrelevant question, but you can find out the answer yourself. You don’t need me to tell you.
HH: Well, you’re the boss.
AS: Yeah, of course.
HH: So it’s just an objective question. I’m trying to figure out if she’s a young reporter.
AS: Yeah, but why, what’s the meaning of that? What’s the relevance to that?
HH: I will let the audience judge that. But to me, a young reporter is apt to overlook obvious ways of reaching a source, and to have a lower standard about the importance of doing so.
AS: No, that’s, in this case, I can guarantee you that that is not what happened, no.
HH: So tell people exactly, then, what did happen? She wrote two emails, correct?
AS: Correct, yes.
HH: She watched me on Meet the Press, correct?
HH: And you have read the original Allison Graves post?
AS: Yeah, of course.
HH: Are you satisfied with her effort to contact me?
AS: I am. I am, Hugh.
HH: Was is accurate for her to write in that post “We have reached out to Hewitt through his radio program, but did not hear back?”
HH: Would you explain what she did?
AS: Sure. She sent an email to, so Hugh, you’ve had Politifact on the show in the past. You had a writer, Jon Greenberg, who fact-checked you as well, and you took issue with that fact check as well, two of the three fact checks. The one you didn’t, by the way, was objectively false, so I find that interesting. But the listeners can decide that for themselves. Now what happened, in this case, is that email account which your staff used to converse with us to book us on the show was the only contact that we had. So we used that contact, because we know you spoke with us through that conduit to email.
HH: Did you read the email that she sent to that email?
AS: I did, yes.
HH: I want to read it now. It was sent to my booker, firstname.lastname@example.org. She wrote, let me find it here. “My name is Allison Graves. I am a reporter with Politifact. I am fact-checking Hugh Hewitt, who said, ‘Obamacare is in a death spiral,’ during a segment on Meet the Press. We are looking for evidence or backup material to help support that claim. During the segment, he reference the New York Times article that quotes the president of Aetna, but am unable to find it. Could you see what story he was referencing?” In fact, was she looking for evidence or backup material to help support my claim?
AS: Yes, of course, she was, yes.
HH: Did she find any evidence or backup material to help support my claim?
AS: Oh, I mean, I think she found cases where people described that Obamacare is in a death spiral. She was unable to find the specific article you were referencing, because you referenced it incorrectly.
HH: No, I didn’t, actually. If you read the transcript, it’s two references that she conflated that are quite easy for most people to see. But, did she Google “Aetna and death spiral?”
AS: You said the president of Aetna. It’s the chairman and CEO, and it was not in the New York Times, as you also know. It was originally probably in the Wall Street Journal.
HH: Yes, I have the, no, it was actually originally in the Washington Post where I found it, but there are a hundred of them. Did she Google “Aetna and death spiral?”
AS: She Googled the words that you presented back to her, and she was unable to find the article that you were referencing.
HH: She never found the Aetna article that the president of Aetna said Obamacare is in a death spiral, and more insurers will flee in 2018, said Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini this week?
AS: That’s correct.
HH: She never found that?
AS: We were, we did not locate that story, because again, the evidence that you, that’s why we reached out to your staff to present us a link to the article. I think we’re missing a fundamental flaw here in the system. We exactly tried to get the article that you were trying to reference.
HH: I did, actually, you’re reading the transcript incorrectly. You’re conflating two references. But if you had Googled Aetna…
AS: Well, what was the New York Times reference?
HH: The New York Times reference, I have it here, is to a different story by…
AS: Was it the one that Obamacare…
HH: …Margot Sanger-Katz, which includes the assertion…
AS: The same author who wrote the story headlined Obamacare is not in a death spiral, for the record.
HH: No, actually, it’s Grading Obamacare: Successes, Failures and Incomplete.
AS: No. She wrote a later article on March 15th that said Obamacare is not in a death spiral.
HH: I am looking at the Grading Obamacare: Successes, Failures and Incompletes, which you would have found out had she contacted me on Twitter. And in it are contained these assertions. “Health insurance remains very expensive,” “the health care system remains complex and confusing,” “if you like your plan you can’t always keep your plan…
HH: …or your doctor.”
AS: What’s the reference to the death spiral here?
HH: Now let me finish for a second. I’m giving the audience an idea of the articles that a rookie would have found. It also says “It’s too soon to tell whether we know if the law made America healthier,” and “It’s unclear whether the law, what the law has done to national health spending.” Now had your reporter Googled “Aetna and death spiral…
HH: She would have found, and you would have found, 15 articles on Obamacare death spiral by the Aetna CEO, Mark Bertolini, which conclude that it is in a death spiral, and in addition, in some of those, additional sources…
AS: The article, so we’re clear, Hugh, the articles don’t include it’s in a death spiral. They say that the Aetna CEO and chairman says it’s in a death spiral. But what evidence does he have it’s in a death spiral? I think we should be clear that the article that you read says, go ahead.
HH: In fact, he said that, in the article that I have for Aetna, “between 1 and 5% of its customers account for 50% of its costs, depending on the market, Bertolini said. And in many places, there is little competition and risk sharing, he said. There isn’t any risk sharing going on in Nebraska. It will cost us a lot of money. There isn’t enough money in the ACA today as it is structured, even with its fees and taxes, to support the population that needs to be served.” So that’s what he said. I’m getting to the point that it was very easy to find if you Google Aetna and death spiral.
HH: But your reporter did not do so.
AS: But you didn’t say it correctly.
HH: Actually, I did. Your reporter did not listen carefully to the transcript, and a third year journalism student would Google “Aetna and death spiral,” because I want to play for you, I’m going to go out of order here, Adam…
AS: Aaron (not realizing Hugh was talking to his board operator, Adam)
HH: If we can play the Meet the Press conversation in its entirety, please. Have you listened to this, by the way, Aaron?
AS: I have, of course. Yes, I have.
HH: Okay, here it is for the audience, cut number two:
HH: Obamacare is the time share that the Democrats bought that they cannot admit the cost of, that they keep telling themselves was a good idea. It is in a death spiral. Joy and I have many disagreements about that.
JR: It is not. It is not.
HH: But it is in a death spiral.
JR: It is not.
CT: But it’s not the definition of an economic death spiral, yet.
JR: It is not. It is not.
HH: Well, the New York Times yesterday pointed out that there are, the president of Aetna, that you will lose coverage in many places in America for everyone. And that is, to me, a death spiral for those people. Joy disagrees. I know she should jump in here.
JR: Yes, yes.
CT: She wants to, but yeah, I appreciate her reticence.
JR: And let’s not take Aetna’s word for it, because we know that Aetna lied. We had already a federal judge say that they lied. Aetna wanted to do a merger with Humana. They were told no. They pulled out for other reasons. Insurance companies raise premiums. It’s what they do. That’s what they’re in business to do. But the Congressional Budget Office made it quite clear the Affordable Care Act is not, not collapsing, not in a death spiral, just not.
HH: Now yesterday, you tweeted, Aaron, that I “was corrected” in an attempt to prop up the Politifact story on Meet the Press. Who was I corrected by?
AS: Chuck Todd.
HH: Chuck Todd said it’s not an economic death spiral yet.
HH: Did you note that?
AS: You said is in a death spiral.
HH: I said that, but Chuck Todd said “It’s not the definition of an economic death spiral yet.” [Emphasis added.]
AS: Yes, of course.
HH: So that he did not actually correct me.
AS: That’s Chuck saying what you…
HH: We were debating it…
AS: No, no, no. So here’s the thing with…
HH: And I’m…
AS: …hey, excuse me one second, you said Obamacare is in a death spiral.
HH: It is. It is in a death spiral. It is 100% in a death spiral.
AS: Okay, then you quoted the CEO/chairman of Aetna who said people will lose their plans, their health care.
HH: No, he said it is in a death spiral. That’s what he said.
AS: Correct. What is his evidence? What is your evidence?
HH: I said it and he said it.
HH: Now it’s an interview, not a debate. It’s an interview about Politifact, not about the death spiral about which I’m completely confident for reasons I’ll come to. But I want to go back to your assertion that I was corrected. Is that fair for you to describe me as being “corrected” when Chuck Todd says “It’s not the definition of an economic death spiral yet,” and Joy then cites Aetna, debunks Aetna, and your reporter doesn’t find the Aetna quote?
AS: I don’t, Joy Reid has nothing to do with this. Chuck Todd said what you said was inaccurate. You said it is in a death spiral, he said…
HH: No, that’s not what he said. That’s not what he, I know Chuck very well. He said “that’s not the definition of an economic death spiral yet.”
AS: There’s only…
HH: Because Chuck knows it’s a political term that refers to a collapsing…
AS: No, no, no, death spiral is a very, death spiral is a very specific term in terms of health care, and you know that. And I hope we’ll explain that to the listeners so they understand.
HH: Let’s get to that, because for someone who doesn’t know what the FEHB is, or “adverse selection,” you’re awfully sure about what a health industry term is. Death spiral, she wrote in the original story, is a health industry term. There is no footnote attached to that. Can you tell me what is the footnote that you’re referring to there?
AS: What do you mean, a footnote? So a death spiral, what a death spiral is, and this is actually very important, death spiral is a really simple kind of concept, but it’s very, it’s when healthy people leave the pool because insurance is too high. What happens is the people who remain are generally unhealthy, I mean, all relatively, of course, and so what happens, premiums rise further and faster. As a result, more healthy people leave the pool. And so at the end, you’re only left with the unhealthy. So the unhealthy is on the unhealthy, and therefore the whole system collapses, because the larger the pool, the better.
HH: Specifically, she writes, “a death spiral occurs when shrinking enrollment leads to a deteriorating risk pools.” Do we have deteriorating risk pools in many states in the Union?
AS: So this is also really important to note. The answer is we actually don’t.
AS: We don’t…okay, so this is not a debate, right?
HH: I just want to make sure I hear you clearly. You’re saying we do not have shrinking enrollment and deteriorating risk pools in many states?
AS: No, no, no. Now you’re saying, you see, now you’re changing the question.
HH: No, that’s your story. Your story says a death spiral occurs….
AS: No, you said, you asked about, you asked about deteriorating risk pools. You didn’t ask about shrinking enrollment. Of course, the answer is in 2017, enrollment is down in the, first of all, it’s important to note that we’re talking about the individual market prices, the non-group plan. Individual enrollment is down about 500,000 enrollees. But what’s important, what’s really important to note, and critical to note that’s the one we’re talking about, who’s leaving, we don’t have all the information, yet. And in fact, the information that we do have suggests that the risk pool is not deteriorating. Here’s the best evidence of it. The Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services said 26% of the invincible group, 18-34, was enrolled in plans in 2016, the same percentage that is enrolled in plans in 2017. Further, the other thing that’s important is to realize why people are leaving. We don’t have good answers on that, but one of the things that we do know is that most of the people in non-group plans have seen, have not seen a premium increase of any substance thanks to the tax credits that are part of the Obamacare or Affordable Care Act. And so…
HH: But back to the, back to the, I know you’ve got some talking points there, and that’s interesting.
AS: No, but…
HH: But I want to go back to the fact that she said it’s a health industry term.
AS: All right, I apologize.
AS: You take over. Go ahead.
HH: Yeah, it’s a “health industry term,” and it’s not, actually. It’s a term of art.
AS: It’s not a term of art. It’s not a term of art.
HH: It is.
AS: It’s not. It’s not.
HH: You also say specifically “a death spiral occurs when shrinking enrollment leads to a deteriorating risk pool.” That’s your statement.
HH: “Or, or when healthy people leave the plan due to costs.” [emphasis added] Have healthy people left the plan due to cost?
AS: There’s, in some statistically significant way, there is not evidence of that.
HH: All right, now then, if the president of Aetna…
AS: Okay, so I…
HH: I got your record. I got your answer.
HH: Is the president of Aetna an expert?
AS: The president of Aetna is, how many insurance marketplaces is Aetna participating in this year?
HH: I don’t know. I’m just asking you, do you think he’s an expert, the CEO?
AS: What does this…
HH: Is he an expert?
AS: Correct, the CEO and chairman of Aetna.
HH: Is he an expert?
AS: He is certainly an expert. Yes, of course. I mean, but chairman of Aetna health care.
HH: Okay, so can he make materialistic misleading statements without consequence given that it is a publicly-traded company?
AS: I mean, define “consequence.”
HH: You don’t understand the subject, the question of what a publicly-traded CEO can say about what’s going on in his company falsely?
HH: If it’s off your radar –I’m going to the probity– the value of his statements are quite high given his expertise and the fact that he’s in a regulated situation in which he cannot mislead investors.
AS: So the issue here, Hugh, is that Aetna, as you know, is not participating in the exchanges in most states in this country. They’re…
HH: No, Aetna, no, the issue is that an expert, the CEO of a huge health insurance company…
AS: So…how does this affect…
HH: …says it’s in a death spiral. You wish to dismiss that evidence to claim my assertion is “False,” not mostly false, not debatable…
AS: I don’t…sure.
HH: …not the subject of great controversy, but “False.” So to do that, you have to not look up the president of Aetna and not credit –or the CEO of Aetna– and not credit him with the authority that goes with that position, even though you don’t know basic terms like FEHB and adverse selection. That’s what I’m getting to.
AS: Got it. Got it. Okay, so…
HH: So now, could no reasonable person…
AS: …the chairman of Aetna, the chairman, no, no, Hugh, my turn for a second.
HH: No, it’s not. It’s an interview. Politifact sideswipes people every day. Just put it there and go on with the interview.
AS: Right. Okay.
HH: Could any reasonable person, any reasonable person at all, conclude it’s in a death spiral?
AS: The standard is not, a standard is not what you think about Obamacare.
HH: Not a trick question.
AS: Of course.
HH: It’s a “reasonable person” question. It’s asked every day in a thousand courtrooms. Could a “reasonable person” conclude that Obamacare is in a death spiral?
AS: The authorities who study the health care law, in my opinion, are the country’s…
HH: That’s not an answer. You’re avoiding an answer, because…
AS: I am answering.
HH: …journalists hate to have to defend when they do drive-by’s, but I’m just asking…
AS: It’s not a drive-by at all.
HH: Can any reasonable, it is…
AS: Not a drive-by at all.
AS: So just do you know…
HH: Then could a “reasonable person” conclude that it’s in a death spiral? You don’t want to answer the question, because the answer is what?
AS: The Washington.
HH: Of course, they could.
AS: It’s a term, it is not a term of art, as you say. It’s actually a very specific term.
HH: But could a, look, could a reasonable person say that the capital of the United States is Los Angeles?
AS: Sure, why not?
HH: A reasonable person could not say that.
AS: Why not? Lots of people think that.
HH: No, because they would be wrong. That would be objectively wrong.
HH: Can a reasonable person say that Obamacare is in a death spiral?
AS: By the same standard, that is also objectively wrong. So the same argument would hold.
HH: So the CEO of Aetna is objectively wrong?
AS: What is the CEO of Aetna’s evidence?
HH: I didn’t ask that. I’m just saying you are saying the CEO of Aetna is objectively wrong.
AS: Are you sure of it?
HH: That’s what you are saying.
AS: Hugh, your evidence is that the Aetna CEO said it’s a death spiral, therefore it is.
HH: Yeah, again, you don’t want to answer questions which convict your practices…
HH: And I understand that, but it doesn’t sound good.
AS: No, no.
HH: Let me ask you this.
HH: Let me play for you another person who had problems with Obamacare. Let me play for you cut number one:
Bill Clinton: So you’ve got this crazy system where all of a sudden, 25 million more people have health care, and then the people are out there busting it sometimes 60 hours a week, wind up with their premiums doubled and their coverage cut in half. It’s the craziest thing in the world.
HH: Did you fact-check that statement?
AS: So what would you fact check?
HH: I just, it was a question, not a debate. Did you fact check that statement?
AS: What, there, what’s the objective statement that it’s making?
HH: So the answer is, “it’s a crazy system.”
AS: How would you verify or disprove that? The answer is…
HH: So you did not fact check, I’m just asking, you did not fact check Bill Clinton?
AS: What does that have to do with death spirals and the fact check of you?
HH: Okay, let me, it has to do with Politifact. That’s what we’re talking about, is Politifact.
AS: Oh, okay.
HH: Did you fact check Bill Clinton?
AS: That the system is crazy?
HH: That statement, did you fact check that statement?
AS: That the system is crazy?
HH: No, his whole statement, any part of it?
AS: That premiums have increased?
HH: No, I’ll play it again, cut number one.
BC: So you’ve got this crazy system where all of a sudden, 25 million more people have health care, and then the people are out there busting it sometimes 60 hours a week, wind up with their premiums doubled and their coverage cut in half. It’s the craziest thing in the world.
HH: Did you fact check that statement?
BC: We have certainly fact checked claims about premiums increasing…
HH: Ah, geez, Aaron, honest to God, you’re proving my point. Did you fact check that statement?
AS: Good, (laughing) we have fact checked claims on premiums increasing…
HH: You did not fact check that statement.
HH: Here’s another statement, cut number three.
President Obama: We will keep this promise to the American people. If you like your doctor, you will be able to keep your doctor, period. If you like your health care plan, you will be able to keep your health care plan, period.
HH: Did you fact check that statement?
AS: We have, yes, of course.
HH: What did you conclude?
AS: When did, when was that said?
HH: It was said repeatedly, often.
HH: That was one, that particular quote is from 2009.
AS: Okay, so that matters, and the answer is…
HH: Why does that matter?
AS: Because the health care plan changed from what, this is actually, this is actually great. I’m glad you asked this, because I think your listeners could use, we can all kind of have a second here and take a breath and talk about this. So when Barack Obama ran for president, he did not propose an individual mandate. I hope you know that.
HH: Oh, God.
HH: This is just filibustering. I mean, all I want to know is if you fact-checked his 2009 statement. Do you, you know, it’s just a matter of record whether or not you did.
AS: I’ve already, and I’ve already said yes.
HH: And when did you fact check it?
AS: We fact checked that claim several times between 2008 and I believe 2014.
HH: Have you ever rated it false?
AS: We gave it the lie of the year in 2014. I think that’s a pretty strong condemnation of the statement.
HH: And in 2012, when he was running for president, what did you rate it?
AS: 2012? I believe we rated it half-true.
HH: Okay, thank you. Now are you familiar with the California budget as…
AS: But you, did you ask why?
HH: No. I’m interested, I’m not, I’m interested in probing something about Politifact, which you’re doing very well, so I’ll keep up with it.
AS: Okay, great.
HH: Is there, are you aware of the latest on the California budget?
AS: So we rated that claim half-true, because…
HH: No, no, I’m not, I’ve moved on.
AS: …ask the majority of Americans…
HH: I’ve moved on. I’m running out of time. I’ve less than 15 minutes.
HH: Have you done any stories on the California budget with regards to Obamacare?
AS: I personally, we’ve fact checked 14,000 things over 9 years. I’m not aware of us fact checking a claim about the California budget. We may have.
HH: With regards to Obamacare, because on January 18th…
AS: We may have. I do not know.
HH: Because on January 18th of this year, $1.9 billion dollar accounting error with regards to Medical was discovered, creating what is called by the AP a “massive hole in the Medical budget, surprised state lawmakers.” Is that evidence of the “death spiral” of Obamacare, in your view?
AS: I don’t know enough about it. I don’t even know, I don’t know, I wouldn’t know. A death spiral, again, I will say this again, a death spiral is when healthy people are leaving the invididual, non-group market causing premiums to rise, therefore more healthy individuals leave the market.
HH: Causing premiums to rise. It will go to that fact. But you have, you see, what your reporter could have discovered is that “death spiral” is in fact a term of art that many people use in a debate, as was going on.
AS: Not true.
HH: Was it her responsibility to alert her readers that there was a vigorous debate in which I in fact alerted the audience that Joy disagreed with my characterization in which we engaged, and she critiqued the source of my primary, my primary source, and that we had a full and fair exchange of views on the subject. Was that her responsibility?
HH: All right. If not, why not?
AS: Because we’re fact checking a claim, the statement you made. The responsibility of us is to thoroughly investigate your claim. The responsibility of you is to provide evidence that your claim is correct.
HH: Which I have just done repeatedly by giving you the Aetna cite, by giving you the Cal budget.
HH: But now let me ask you…
HH: Is your story, the one that we’re talking about, the one that Allison posted, is that representative of your work at Politifact?
AS: Politifact. We fact check 14,000 claims over 9 years. I would say they are all representative of each other. We, on the record, of course, we list all of our sources.
HH: Okay, so yes. Now she contacted my booker at 12:06, at 12:16 on Sunday afternoon.
HH: My booker, who is a married mother of two, was at church. She got home from church, she sat down, and she eventually checked emails at 6:30 [P.M.], and she wrote me yesterday that, I want to read this to you so that I get it correct, that I do not misstate it, she said “I try not to work on Sundays if I can help it. I usually do a 30-40 minutes on Sunday evening just to make sure everything is in order for Monday. So I would have missed the Politifact email and their deadline window.” Your reporter said she had a 3pm deadline. Why?
AS: We, because we, you respond, you could, it would take, I think, 15 minutes for someone to respond to our query. I think three hours was plenty of time. And quite frankly, if someone responded and said I need two extra hours, we would always say yes.
HH: And so you think it is a fair approach by Politifact to send an email to my booker at 12:16 on Sunday, tell her it’s a deadline at 3pm, not check my Twitter feed, send an email to email@example.com, which is a, you know, public email that occasionally, every five years or so we get, not use the comment box which my other producer measures, you believe that that was professionally responsible?
AS: I think it, I think we learned something that you don’t, you don’t personally check firstname.lastname@example.org. I think that’s good for people to know.
HH: That’s not true.
HH: I don’t check it on Sunday afternoon when I’m on Twitter. I check it during the show to see who’s responding to the show.
HH: After I’m on Meet the Press, I check the Twitter feed and engage with journalists about it, which is obvious to the world. And had you had a professional standard to check someone’s Twitter, you could have done it. But what about sending an email to my booker at 12:16 on a Sunday afternoon and expecting her to respond by 3pm? Is that reasonable?
AS: I think when you’re on Meet the Press, I think that is reasonable.
HH: You do?
AS: I think unfortunately for your staff, yeah, I think, you know, when I work on Sunday, my staff has to be available to answer questions and help me. I think that’s a reasonable expectation, and you know, that when you’re, so I’ll give you another example. The week before, we were fact checking…
HH: I don’t want another example. I just care about this one.
AS: Okay, yeah. Sure, sure, sure.
HH: I don’t give a lick about, I don’t read your site, I don’t care about your site. I think your site’s a piece of crap.
AS: Yes, you do. You do read it.
HH: I, no, it was brought to my attention by other people. I don’t read Politifact. I think it’s a left wing hit piece. But let me ask you in closing, do you know much about George Orwell?
AS: I’ve read 1984, yes, of course.
HH: Okay, so do you know O’Brien?
HH: What do you think of O’Brien? What’s his job?
AS: I don’t, I don’t understand what the point of these questions are.
HH: Well, it’s a literary reference.
HH: You said you’ve read 1984. O’Brien is a critical figure. What do you think of his role?
AS: I want to, let’s stick to talking about fact checking.
HH: You don’t recall O’Brien, do you?
AS: No, I do, but let’s talk about health care.
HH: Tell me about him. Tell me about him.
AS: No, Hugh, I don’t play…
HH: You said, you just made a factual statement you recall him. What do you recall about him?
AS: I’m not going to play this game. Sorry.
HH: You don’t recall him. Have you read Darkness at Noon?
AS: I’m not going to play this game.
HH: It’s just a question of fact. Have you read Darkness at Noon?
AS: It has nothing to do with why I’m on this show.
HH: Oh, it’s got everything to do with why you’re on this show. If you had read it, you would know why. But have you not read it?
AS: Please continue.
HH: But I mean, have you not read, have you not read Darkness at Noon?
AS: (pause, silence)
HH: Are you still there?
AS: I am, yes.
HH: And so you’re not going to answer my question?
AS: I’ve spent an hour on the phone. I think that’s pretty.
HH: Actually, no, you’ve spent 47, actually, you’ve spent 41 minutes on the show, and I’m asking you about one of the central works of the 20th Century about people who try and define truth so as to intimidate their political opponents so as to shut down political conversation to win before the debate occurs. That’s in Darkness at Noon, the importance of words. Have you read it?
AS: I think I’ve been very gracious, and I’ll continue to be gracious as long we continue having a nice conversation about fact checking.
HH: I think this is very gracious. I think that Darkness at Noon goes exactly to what you are doing. You don’t remember O’Brien. You say you read 1984, but you don’t understand what you’re doing. This is actually all about Politifact, and you’re unwilling to admit that you havent’ read the central issue about truth in our time.
AS: Hugh, these are not actual questions. You understand that, though. You’re just kind of using…
HH: It is a question. It is a question.
AS: No, you’re, it’s a test.
HH: Have you read Darkness at Noon? I asked you questions earlier about Looming Tower. You answered them. Earlier, you told me about other books you read, but you don’t want to answer this one. Why is that?
AS: (long pause and silence)
HH: Because we’re getting to the core of the issue, aren’t we?
AS: Okay, I think…
HH: We’re getting to the core of what Politifact does, and you don’t want to debate what Politifact does.
AS: I don’t know, I don’t know where the issue is. No, I thought we weren’t debating. I thought we were having an interview.
HH: We are. I’m interviewing you.
HH: …the person who runs Politifact about your abilities to run such a site and to criminalize conversation and to an attempt, I think…
AS: Sure, sure.
HH: …to carry forward a left wing agenda to peremptory remove what are effective arguments from the public square by refusing to consider contra evidence…
HH: …and by not investigating thoroughly that which has been said about a controversial subject, because Obamacare is in a death spiral.
HH: I know a lot about death spirals. You don’t. You don’t know about the “FEHB.” You don’t know about “adverse selection,” and yet you will not cite Aetna’s CEO as an expert witness.
AS: It’s in the item. It’s in the item now. You can go online.
HH: You won’t. I asked you whether he’s an expert witness.
AS: I said he was, yes.
HH: And so if he says it’s in a death spiral, is it a false statement for him to say it’s in a death spiral?
AS: It’s been contradicted by the CBO. I encourage…
HH: Oh, Aaron, is it, did it…
AS: …health care.
HH: Did the Aetna CEO make a false statement?
AS: I believe he did, yes. I would say the same thing, yes.
HH: All right. Thank you. See, that’s all I wanted. I just wanted to have your opinion on the Aetna CEO.
AS: You know what? You never asked that.
HH: Have you ever read Darkness at Noon?
HH: Why don’t you want to answer that question?
AS: Because it has zero relevance. Let’s talk about, let’s…
HH: Why does Darkness at Noon have zero relevance to Politifact?
AS: You’re upset about two things – one, that any…
HH: I’m not upset. I’m actually interested in why you are not going to answer the question about Darkness at Noon.
AS: If you email email@example.com, you don’t answer, so we learned that, and I will tweet you next time. That’s not a problem.
HH: I will give you five minutes to make your story. I’ll give you a closing statement of five minutes.
AS: I don’t need it. I don’t need it. I don’t need it.
HH: I just want to know about Darkness at Noon, why you won’t answer it.
AS: I don’t need it.
HH: I just, after I’m done with this, I’ll give you the floor for three minutes. Why, whatever you want, why won’t you answer the question about having read Darkness at Noon? I’m curious as to why that’s the breaking point for you?
AS: Because it’s, it’s not a breaking point. It’s not a breaking point. I think we’ve had the discussion for 46 minutes, and I’m feeling pretty comfortable with where we’re at. It’s not a breaking point.
HH: I’m glad to hear that. And so why won’t you answer that question?
AS: Because whether I read it or not is irrelevant.
HH: And why, if you have not read it…
AS: Because I’m a fact checker writing a story about Obamacare, and it being in a death spiral.
HH: Is there no, is there no novel…
AS: And that’s what this discussion is about.
HH: Is there no novel that could inform your job, your understanding of what your job is in society? Is there nothing in art that could possibly inform what you do?
AS: Hugh, every conversation we have as human beings informs us.
HH: So the book, the book could matter?
AS: So whatever we read or watch…
HH: You just said it could matter. If you haven’t read it, you wouldn’t know that, right?
AS: All right, okay.
HH: Have you read Darkness at Noon?
HH: Vic Scully used to say let the sound of the crowd roll on. I’m just letting the silence roll on here. You’re not going to answer the question?
AS: Fair enough. Continue.
HH: And I’m curious as to why. I really am. What is it about either having read or not read a book that upsets you so? Is it the fact that we’re undermining your credibility? Is it the fact that you haven’t known so many things in the course of this interview?
AS: Oh, okay.
HH: Is it the fact that you don’t have published standards? Is it the fact that your reporter obviously did not attempt to find me, did not Google “Aetna and death spiral?” Is it the fact that you made up an industry standard that does not exist?
AS: It does.
HH: Is it the fact that you don’t know so many things about that which you claim to have the ability to make a false statement?
HH: Is that what upsets you?
AS: Hugh, you should be careful. I don’t want to have to fact check you again today.
HH: You go ahead. Fact check me, because I think you just go all you want. I’ve got lefties every day fact checking me. You guys are a left wing site that tried to make things radioactive in advance of Democratic talking points to serve the overall Democratic agenda. Everybody knows what you did with President Obama. Everybody knows that you did not fact check Bill Clinton. Everybody knows, Aaron. That’s my point. My point is you’ve got to get better at your game if you’re going to persuade people that you have any credibility, and not send emails to people at 12:16 on a Sunday with a 3pm deadline.
AS: When you’re working, when you’re working. One, when you’re working.
HH: And not check me when I’m on the Acela talking to four journalists. You didn’t really want to talk to me.
AS: We emailed firstname.lastname@example.org. Of course, we did.
HH: Oh, no, you didn’t. Aaron, honest to God, do you think you’re fooling anyone?
AS: Why would I come on this show if I didn’t want to talk to you?
HH: Because I called you out online, because people now know that Politifact, even more people know you’re just a bunch of hacks. You are literally a bunch of left wing hacks.
AS: Okay, so just so your listeners know that both NPR and the Washington Post fact checker, both professional, credible fact checkers have ruled this same claim as false, the idea that Obamacare is in a death spiral or collapsing or exploding. They’ve both said this was false. This is not Politifact in isolation. Of course, I stand by everything that we have in that article, and all the objective evidence, whether it’s the CBO saying the markets are stable, whether it’s Kaiser, which I think is one of the most trusted, respectable health care policy analysts saying the market is stable, we have a lot of things to see. Things can change, of course, and I think this thing can evolve. That’s why Chuck Todd said yet. I think that is important.
HH: That’s not what he said. You misrepresented again. He said the “economic” thing. By the way, did you read the CBO report yourself?
AS: Of course.
HH: What did it say about the stability of the health insurance market? Do you have it with you?
AS: It’s, I don’t, I’m not the phone.
HH: I have it here with me. Let me read it to the audience.
AS: But it says that it…
HH: “Decisions about offering and purchasing health insurance depend upon the stability of the health insurance market, that is our having insurers plural participating in most areas of the country, and on the likelihood of premiums not rising in an unsustainable spiral.” That’s what they said.
HH: My major argument about why we are in the death spiral…
AS: Hugh, that’s not all they said.
HH: Do you want to hear my major argument about why we are in the death spiral? I would have been happy to have told your reporter had she reached out on Twitter.
AS: Hugh, you’re misleading the listeners.
HH: …is that we have gone from 7…
AS: You’re misleading the listeners. The same CBO report that you’re quoting said that the markets are stable whether it’s the AHCA…
HH: I’m not misreading the report. I will be happy to read the rest of the paragraph. I was going to the fact that the key part for my evidence is that it requires a stable number of insurers in most areas of the country. The reason I believe it is in a death spiral is because in 2016, 7% of the counties in the United States had one plan. And now, 33%, one year later, have one plan. That is expected to rise as more insurers pull out of the single group or small group coverage market. Therefore, it is in a death spiral for those people. That is my number one bit of evidence.
AS: Who’s saying it’s expected to rise? I’m sorry, you?
HH: It went from 7 to 33%, so I am projecting forward, and the Aetna CEO made the same assertion, as did Molina Health Group.
AS: Explain to your listeners why that number went from 7 to 33%.
HH: I don’t know why.
AS: Yes, you do.
HH: …I would use that, yet.
AS: The reason it did is because the reinsurance programs ended in 2016. So in 2014, 2015, 2016, insurance, insurers, essentially being subsidized by the government to stay in the plan, that ended. And this is just a fact.
HH: Sure, just a fact. And I would be happy to discuss that with you. But I’m going to the point that I had an argument to make. I have made it with Joy many times in public. It is an argument that Aetna’s CEO agrees with, and that many people agree with and is legitimate. I do not much care what –I like Glenn Kessler quite a lot. I certainly do not care what NPR says, though I like them quite a lot. I have no time at all for Politifact, given the standards that you guy use, which are Gletkin-like. Do you know who Gletkin is?
AS: I do not.
HH: That’s because you haven’t read Darkness at Noon, and he’s the central character. Thank you, an admission against interest.
HH: Finally, I got it out of you.
AS: You got it, Hugh.
HH: I want to close by saying read Darkness at Noon, and you will understand what you are doing.
HH: What you are attempting to do is make the truth radioactive, and to shut down debate.
HH: That’s what you’re trying to do, last three minutes to you.
AS: Thank you, and I won’t need, I won’t take three minutes so you can keep going. I will simply say that I swear to you that at Politifact, our job is to actually try and provide an antidote for misinformation. And I think as Americans, I think one of the things that we all need to do more of is try to have debates about fact, and try to understand what the true facts are so that it’ll help make huge important policy decisions. And so we rated what you said as false. And I stand by it, but I think that there is a debate and discussion that we should be having that is related to how the health care law has been implemented, and has been going forward. And if we can agree on certain sets of facts, quite frankly, I think the American public will be a lot better off for it. I mean, I think the fact is that anyone could be a publisher of information today, and so that’s really good, but it also allows a lot of people to spread misinformation. And so if we can all work together, I think, to have a discussion about what are true facts, what is legitimate, what is on the record, what is well-sourced, I think the American public will be better off. And they will make, they will make good policy choices whether it’s, whether they support health care law A or B, or whether they vote for President A or B. And that’s all we’re trying to do, and I swear to you that is our mission, and we know now that I will be, I follow you on Twitter. We will be the best of Twitter friends, I hope.
HH: No, we won’t, because you do not realize, you do not realize that I, though I have no personal animus to you, believe what you are about is totalitarian. You have no idea who Kim Philby is, you have not read and understand who O’Brien is, you have no idea who Gletkin is. You actually have no concept of what you are about, which is to become a Ministry of Truth, which is an attempt to segregate out those talking points of the left which are most damaging to them, and that you have been in faithful service of the left since you ever first appeared on my radar screen, and that I have no time for Politifact, nor does most of the country, because they understand you to be an agenda-driven, even if you do not know it, servant of the left wing. That’s what you guys have become, and because you will not listen, and are not fair, I have no time for you. That’s all.
AS: Can I just say, okay, can I just say real quickly…
HH: Oh, sure.
AS: I have fact-checked more, the person that we fact-checked more than any other person on Politifact is Barack Obama.
HH: And you think somehow that that’s significant? You really do? That’s what’s wrong with journalism. You haven’t read Darkness at Noon, you don’t know who Kim Philby is, you don’t know what a “FEHB” is, and you think that is significant? So you don’t get a thing. But we’re at the end of our time. I want to give you the last minute.
AS: Okay, no, and I just want to say thanks for having me, and I enjoyed the discussion. I think that, again, Obamacare is not in a death spiral. The CBO, Kaiser, independent fact checkers, independent experts who study health care say that it does not meet the definition of a death spiral. We’ll see what happens going forward, but I think quite frankly, the Trump administration will play a large role in what happens, because they can probably help affect this outcome one way or the other.
HH: Thank you very much.
AS: Thanks, Hugh.
HH: Obamacare is in a death spiral, but I have plenty of time to defend it on my own. I appreciate it.
AS: You got it.
HH: I’ve got to move on to the next guest. Take care.
AS: Okay, bye bye.
End of interview.