Representative-elect Alexandria Ocasio- Cortez (D-NY) sent a Nation investigation viral on December 2 when she commented on a tweet about Dave Lindorff’s feature on the Pentagon’s failed audit.
The original tweet, by journalist Jordan Uhl, included two screenshots from Lindorff’s piece, which starts on page 12 of this issue but was first published online on November 27. Ocasio-Cortez, seeing the $21 trillion figure highlighted in Uhl’s screenshot, added her own wry observation: “66% of Medicare for All [at an estimated cost of $32 trillion] could have been funded already by the Pentagon.” But Ocasio-Cortez was wrong: The $21 trillion refers to the Pentagon’s undocumented transactions, which include both inflows and outlays. Prominent news outlets jumped on her error, even though Ocasio-Cortez clarified in a follow-up tweet: “This is to say that we only demand fiscal details w/ health+edu, rarely elsewhere.” Salvador Rizzo of The Washington Post’s “Fact Checker” blog awarded her four Pinocchios—the same falsehood rating that the paper gave President Trump for his claim that the death toll from Hurricane Maria had been inflated, as Reed Richardson of Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting wrote. FAIR noted that Ocasio-Cortez reacted to an accurate figure but misunderstood its context. It’s true that everyone—new congresspersons included—should start reading more carefully before they tweet. But Rizzo’s harsh Pinocchio verdict reads more like a grasp for “both sides” objectivity than a measured reality check.