ABC news interim host of “This Week,” Jake Tapper, appeared on “The Colbert Report” Wednesday night to explain why he’s invited PolitiFact to fact-check claims made on his show, an idea proposed by NYU professor Jay Rosen. Bill Adair, editor of PolitiFact, also appeared. (PolitiFact is a project of the St. Petersburg Times, which is owned by Poynter.) An unofficial –- and very funny — transcript of the exchange appears below the video.
Stephen Colbert: I’ve always liked Jake, ever since I figured out he was not Terry Moran. But he has foolishly accepted professor Rosen’s challenge and hired the Web site PolitiFact to fact-check Sunday’s show. What was he thinking? That’s like enjoying a delicious hot dog and then fact-checking to find out how much of it is horse lung and beef nut. (All of it, really. Really, all of it.) I will never, in a million years, ever understand what Jake Tapper was thinking. Here to tell me what Jake Tapper was thinking, please welcome the host of “This Week,” Jake Tapper. Jake, thanks so much for coming on. Good to see you my friend.
Now, Jake. Why on earth would you cede the power of the host to an organization like PolitiFact to check the facts on your show?
Jake Tapper: Well, I am the first line of defense and I am supposed to check the facts when people say things that are false.
Stephen Colbert: So you check the facts on your show.
Jake Tapper: I’m supposed to but it’s not –-
Stephen Colbert: You don’t. You’re a busy man.
Jake Tapper: The truth of the matter is that when you do a show, as you know, you don’t have research in front of you and fact-checking can be a little bit more complicated. Senators don’t come –-
Stephen Colbert: I don’t care about that. I gut check my show. I say, I say, ‘Gut, gut, does that feel true to you?’ And Gut says, ‘Yes it does, Stephen. Let’s get a grilled cheese sandwich.’
But, OK, so you, you turn to PolitiFact and?
Jake Tapper: If the first line of defense doesn’t work, we thought it would be good to augment what the show offers by having PolitiFact look at what the newsmakers say and research the claims to find out if they’re true or false.
Stephen Colbert: But to what end? What purpose do you think the Sunday shows serve?
Jake Tapper: To elucidate. To provide information for the viewers so they can determine what’s going on in Washington.
Stephen Colbert: OK, that’s the first fact you got wrong because it’s about drama, OK? It’s about winning a battle. It’s two gladiators in one ring. One will choose the sword of truth but the other one can choose the AK47 of bullshit. I’m going with the AK.
Because, why do you think like Dick Cheney or Axelrod does all of your shows. Like you and the ‘Meet the Gregory’ and the ‘Face the Schieffer’? Why do you think he does all of them?
Jake Tapper: They go on shows to share their ideas and their thoughts on the important issues of the day.
Stephen Colbert: To drive home their ideas through repetition. The more something is repeated –-
Jake Tapper: That is –-
Stephen Colbert: If you repeat it, it’s true. If you repeat it, it’s true. And through repetition, something becomes true. If you repeat it enough. Until it becomes true. Or do I need to repeat that for you?
Jake Tapper: You know, when you first said that it didn’t seem right. But now that you’ve repeated it…
You’re right. They come on these shows and too often these guys and gals get away with saying things that are not factual and often it might –
You know, here’s a great example. John McCain said the other day, ‘I’ve never considered myself a maverick.’ Right?
Stephen Colbert: He never has. He never has.
Jake Tapper: There are a lot of instances of John McCain saying, ‘I’m a maverick.’
Stephen Colbert: I am not aware of them.
Jake Tapper: It was the subtitle of one of his books.
Stephen Colbert: It was ghost-written. It was ghost-written, Jake.
Jake Tapper: He said it in a presidential debate. He had a TV ad called ‘Maverick.’ But those are facts I would not have had on hand because you don’t expect somebody to come out and say, ‘The sky is black.’
Stephen Colbert: Who are these PolitiFact guys to check on the facts of your show? Hang on one second. (Turns to Bill Adair) Bill Adair from PolitiFact, everybody. Bill, thanks for joining me.
Bill Adair: Thanks for having me.
Stephen Colbert: You’re the editor of PolitiFact.com. OK, who makes you the watchman? Who watches you guys?
Bill Adair: The voters watch us. And we hear back from voters, readers, people who give us feedback on our, on the articles that we write. But ultimately, we need to be the referee. I think American politics needs a referee.
Stephen Colbert: Oh, you need to be the referee. Oh, really? Who’s paying your bills?
Bill Adair: We’re part of the St. Petersburg Times, an independent newspaper.
Stephen Colbert: So you’re a Russian paper.
Bill Adair: But we write in English.
Stephen Colbert: Did you nail anybody on Jake’s show this week? What’d you find out?
Bill Adair: We did. We nailed –- so to speak -– Senator Schumer for claiming that –-
Stephen Colbert: That guy’s a liar. I’m not surprised. What did he say?
Jake Tapper (to Colbert): You were one of them.
Stephen Colbert: Yes I was.
Can you use my show? Can you use my show as a source to reference? Like if I say something on my show -– By the way, did you do the in-depth fact-checking that I did on their show? Cause they call it ‘This Week,’ but it’s mostly about what happened last week. The whole show’s a lie.
Jake Tapper: You may have something there.
Stephen Colbert: Now is this going to be valuable to you? If somebody comes on next week and they’ve lied to you, are you going to put ‘em in stocks and pelt them with rotten garbage? What’s the ultimate outcome of this?
Jake Tapper: The ultimate outcome is for our viewers and the readers of our Web site and PolitiFact to know what the truth is. Because not every time –- as you showed so well in the lead-up to this segment –- not every time that people are coming on to these shows are they saying things that are accurate. And sometimes you don’t have the facts on hand when you’re doing a live television show, but you want people to know what the truth is. And I think the media really abdicated its role in the early part of this decade in the buildup to the war in Iraq, and -–
Stephen Colbert: But if they hadn’t, we wouldn’t have had the war. And that’s made for some great TV, Jake. That’s made for some great TV.
Jake Tapper, thank you so much for joining me. Bill Adair from PolitiFact. Will people care about facts? We’ll be right back.