Is This Just Fact-Checking?

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The latest factcheck.org entry by Emi Kolawole points out some misleading and inaccurate information in a recent ad for Michael Steele, a black Republican running for Senate in Maryland. Most of the writeup is the standard fact-checking of misleading or inaccurate information of the sort most political ads have that the site generally does well at. But one thing about Ms. Kolawole's writeup strikes me as unusual. She makes a big deal out of the fact that Lt. Gov. Steele doesn't say that he's a Republican. She says it's pretty clear from his opponent's ads that Steele is a Republican (though what she points to is not about political party but about some conservative views he has, an important distinction). But she seems to think he has an obligation to identify his party affiliation.

I wonder about Ms. Kolawole's emphasis on Steele's party. After all, most political ads I've seen this year do not mention the candidate's party. This isn't something just Republicans are doing. In the current divisive environment, candidates appreciate the opportunity to associate their name with positions they hold that might win them support, and if they can do that without the potential of a party name turning people off immediately, they often will. This seems to me to be a pretty standard practice. I don't see factcheck.org pointing it out every time other candidates do this. So why spend so much time emphasizing it in Steele's case?

The only reason I can think of is because he's one of those somewhat rare black Republicans. Perhaps Ms. Kolawole thinks black Republicans have some special obligation to point out that they don't think and vote the way black people are "supposed" to think and vote. I hope this isn't what's driving this, but I really can't think of any other reason. It doesn't make me very confident of her ability to write for a non-partisan fact-checking site if a political agenda could lead her to do this sort of thing. I'd have no problem with emphasizing someone's party when the candidate doesn't say it. It's just that Steele seems to have been singled out especially for this. I can't think of any motivation to do that unless it's out of some immoral desire to take black politicans at face value only if they are liberal Democrats, and otherwise they must make their party affiliation clear in a way that other candidates regularly do not. Non-partisan websites should not be operating by that kind of double standard. Is there some explanation for why his party affiliation would be so important to her when the factcheck.org site doesn't normally complain about this sort of thing?

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