Washington Post's Glenn Kessler Stands By Discredited Immigration Fact Check


Washington Post fact-checker Glenn Kessler is standing by his blog claiming that the White House had erred in citing President George H.W. Bush's immigration data -- despite evidence discrediting his conclusions.

In his November 24 piece for The Washington Post's Fact Checker blog, Glenn Kessler examined claims that President George H.W. Bush used an executive action to protect 1.5 million undocumented immigrants. Kessler described the figure as a “round-ed up estimate” that the media adopted because many of the applicants included people who were not eligible to be legalized at the time due to pending applications or appeals. Kessler concluded that the White House had “seized on a single news report” to take the opportunity to highlight higher numbers and that even the Federal Immigration Commissioner, Gene McNary, claimed not to be factual.

Huffington Post politics and immigration reporter Elise Foley responded to Kessler's blog by pointing to congressional testimony from McNary from 1989 in which McNary affirmed that 1.5 million undocumented immigrants were covered by the policy.

Kessler updated his blog to note the discovery of McNary's testimony but failed to offer an apology or retraction for his oversights, instead doubling-down on his conclusions:

Update: in light of the discovery of McNary's testimony, we will assess whether this should be reduced to Three Pinocchios. In any case, the actual impact was far less than suggested in administration statements

Media outlets have since latched onto Kessler's piece as evidence that the Obama administration's citation of the number was inaccurate. The Washington Post's Charles Lane described the post's conclusions as “devastating,” and Fox News' Chris Stirewalt used it to claim that President Obama was wrong in using the numbers as “a centerpiece” of his argument for an executive action on immigration.