The Washington Post took a dim view of the Biden administration’s recent claims that Republicans support defunding police departments across America, with one of the paper’s fact-checkers slapping “Three Pinocchios” on the talking point Wednesday.
Top Democrats, including White House adviser Cedric Richmond and White House press secretary Jen Psaki, have claimed that the GOP turned their back on law enforcement by voting against the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan earlier this year. President Biden said last month that states and cities could use approximately $350 billion in aid from the law to combat rising crime, including by hiring more police officers.
“Although Republicans all opposed Biden’s coronavirus relief package, no one voted to cut, or defund, anything,” Salvador Rizzo wrote in a piece headlined: “The White House’s slipshod claim that Republicans are defunding the police”.
“Rather, Democrats proposed $350 billion in emergency funds for state and local governments, and Republicans voted against those extra funds,” Rizzo added. “That’s not a reduction.”
Rizzo went on to note that the $350 billion Biden referenced last month was technically earmarked as “state and local aid”, with “no guarantee that police would get a slice of the pie.”
“[V]oting against a one-time infusion of cash is not the same as voting to cut funding, so there is little basis to claim that Republicans are trying to ‘defund the police,’” he concluded.
The White House claim has been met with fury by Republicans, with Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), calling it a “calculated, cynical lie” in an op-ed published by Fox News Monday.
“For them to come out and claim that it’s Republicans who want to defund the police, that’s like an arsonist showing up at the fire and blaming the firemen,” Cruz told the same outlet last week. “That’s like the Chinese blaming the Americans for the Wuhan virus. That’s like OJ [Simpson] saying he’s gonna help find the real killer.”
Cruz added at the time that the White House argument was the latest example of Democrats “trying to claim, ‘These aren’t the droids you’re looking for’ and they’ve never supported it [the ‘defund the police’ movement] … It’s absurd [and] it’s ridiculous.”
The Biden administration responded to Cruz’s claims last week by pointing to Republican support for former President Donald Trump’s proposal to excise $170 million from the Justice Department’s Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) program.
According to Rizzo, “Psaki and the White House are on more solid ground by framing this talking point in terms of the COPS program … That’s the only thing keeping this talking point from being a Four Pinocchio claim.”
“Three Pinocchios,” according to the Washington Post fact-checking rubric, are given to claims that contain “[s]ignificant factual error and/or obvious contradictions.” Pinocchios are awarded on a scale of one to four, with “Four Pinocchios” being the most severe rebuke.