Ever hear the story about how a popular urban-legend fact-check site posted a piece without checking easy-to-check facts?
Hang on a second — don't bother looking this one up on Snopes.com.
The story begins with a suddenly discovered YouTube video from an obscure academic panel discussion in 2013. In the video, health economist Jonathan Gruber, an architect of Obamacare, said that a “lack of transparency” and the “stupidity of the American voter” made it possible for Congress to pass the bill.
Gruber clearly says this on tape, but Snopes.com seems to think there might be more — or less — to this story.
Gruber’s remarks at the 24th Annual Health Economics Conference hosted by the University of Pennsylvania were captured on a video that went largely unnoticed until the conservative activist group American Commitment noticed it and posted a shorter version that only included the clip of Gruber.
“Lack of transparency is a huge political advantage,” Gruber said. “Call it the stupidity of the American voter or whatever. But basically, that was really, really critical to getting the thing to pass.”
Shortly after the American Commitment video gained national attention, the University of Pennsylvania's Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics YouTube channel pulled down the video of the panel discussion on which he said it. This led to confusion over whether the school was intentionally trying to scrub its records. The entire 51-minute video was reposted to the institute's YouTube channel about an hour after an editor at the Washington Examiner noticed it had gone missing (although it could have been down longer than that) while making inquiries about the tape's provenance.
Snopes set out to investigate: “ 'Obamacare architect’ Jonathan Gruber recently said Obamacare only passed due to the ‘stupidity’ of the American voter and a lack of ‘transparency,’ and video footage of his remarks was deleted from the Internet.”
Rather than giving the claim what is easily a “true” rating, the fact checking group gives it a “mixture” rating.
“It appears the comments made by Gruber entered the stream of social media hot topics due to a 9 November 2014 post on the website the Daily Signal, where it was framed as a ‘newly surfaced video,' ” the website reported. “The shorter version of the video was initially posted by the political action committee (PAC) American Commitment.”
American Commitment, which is not a PAC, had also linked to the original video from UPenn from its own YouTube channel.
Even so, the involvement of a conservative group was apparently enough for Snopes.com to question claims that Gruber said what he clearly says on the tape. Snopes.com also writes that American Commitment’s Phil Kerpen is the source of claims that the University of Pennsylvania pulled the video — which is not exactly true because the video did go offline and was reposted Monday around 2 p.m. Eastern Time.
Snopes fact-checkers seem unable to draw obvious conclusions about something as simple as reading a time stamp on YouTube.
“While the newly-circulated video of Gruber's remarks is unedited, the comments are neither recent nor complete, and whether the originating source attempted to pull them from the Internet at one point remains unclear,” the conclusion reads.
Snopes.com did not respond to the Washington Examiner’s request for comment.