Russell Pearce's Prevarications Whitewashed by AZ Fact Check

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I've blogged till I'm blue in the face about the endless stream of whoppers concerning illegal immigration flowing from the pie-hole of racist state Senator Russell Pearce, the main sponsor of Arizona's "breathing while brown law" SB 1070.

One of Pearce's favorite falsehoods, a phony stat he's sputtered on numerous occasions, like he did back in April in an interview with Channel 12's Brahm Resnik, is that, "9,000 Americans [are] killed every year at the hands of illegal aliens."

I noted at the time that there's nothing to back that figure up. It's based on a faulty analysis by nativist Iowa Congressman Steve King of a 2005 GAO report. As often as it's been repeated, it's been debunked. The group Colorado Media Matters, for instance, has pummeled this spurious claim into steak tartare, over and over again.

So along comes Azcentral.com's AZ Fact Check, which (surprise, surprise) discovers that the claim is as empty as Pearce's cranium, yet still labels its findings "inconclusive."

This, despite the closing line of the Fact Check itself: "Bottom Line: Pearce and King could not produce research to support their 9,000 estimate, which was disputed by a leading expert in the field."

Blogger Mitch Martinson over at ArizonaPolitics.com has been all over this fumble from jump. He gives high marks to the research done by reporter Vaughn Hillyard, all of which is spot on. However, he notes that Hillyard likely did not have the final say in whether or not Pearce's claim was labeled "false" or "inconclusive."

Martinson writes:

"Now, it is unlikely that the reporters at the Arizona Republic/Channel 12/Cronkite School are the individuals determining what the final rating of a statement is.  Especially, when it is an ASU journalism school student doing the reporting.  Because it is hard to imagine that an award-winning student reporter who has already demonstrated a journalist's (good) strong principles would do the reporting that he has on State Sen. Russell Pearce's (R-LD18) use of statistics and still come up with a finding of `inconclusive.'"

In addition, Martinson correctly points out that the burden of proof is on the person spouting the stat. If Pearce and King concoct dubious factoids for their own political ends, and there's no valid evidence behind what they assert, we can assume they're full of bunk.

I'm reminded of that old H.L. Mencken quote: "Journalism is to politician as dog is to lamp-post." Martinson has the right idea: Call a spade a spade, or a canard a canard. Don't pussyfoot around when it comes to bigots and scoundrels such as Pearce and King. Otherwise, AZ Fact Check should lose its motto, "Keeping Arizona Honest."

Unless, of course, that tag's meant as a punch line.

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