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News Busters
6 Jan 2024
Clay Waters

NextImg:NY Times 'Fact Check' Nods Along to FBI Brutes to Label Trump a Liar on Catholics

The New York Times issued a sad “Fact Check” against claims of anti-Catholic persecution made by Donald Trump, mounting a reaction in the FBI’s defense that would have been seen as pathetic from a journalistic outlet, pre-Trump: “Biden’s Christian ‘Persecution’? We Assess Trump’s Recent Claims.”

Former President Donald J. Trump has repeatedly tried to appeal to Christian voters in recent weeks by accusing the Biden administration of criminalizing Americans for their faith.

On multiple occasions this month, Mr. Trump has claimed that President Biden has “persecuted” Catholics in particular. Mr. Biden himself is Catholic.

Times fact-checker Angelo Fichera ruled Trump's claim of targeting Catholics was "false," which is at odds with the facts. Fichera was formerly employed at, and his work both there and the Times adhere to the sad state of current “fact checking” -- self-proclaimed arbiters of political truth that dig with bad faith into claims made by conservatives:

WHAT WAS SAID: “Over the past three years, the Biden administration has sent SWAT teams to arrest pro-life activists.”-- in a video on Truth Social this month

This is misleading. The Justice Department has initiated an increasing number of criminal prosecutions under a law that makes it a violation to interfere with reproductive health care by blocking entrances, using threats or damaging property. In at least one case, a defendant’s family claimed he was arrested by a “SWAT” team, but the Federal Bureau of Investigation said that was not the case.

Eventually Fichera admitted that the frightening armed raid on Mark Houck's home had in fact happened -- so why on Earth say “misleading”? To make Trump a liar, Fichera went to frankly embarrassing lengths to tell the FBI's side without questioning its position at all. Strange behavior for an ostensibly liberal paper, but par for the course in an age of using “misinformation” as an excuse for suppression of conservative viewpoints online.

Mr. Trump’s claims about the use of “SWAT teams” may be a reference to the 2022 arrest of a Catholic activist in Pennsylvania. The defendant, Mark Houck, was charged with shoving a volunteer at a Planned Parenthood center in Philadelphia in 2021. Mr. Houck’s defense maintained that he was responding to abusive comments made toward his 12-year-old son by the volunteer. He was acquitted earlier this year.

Republican lawmakers have criticized Mr. Houck’s arrest by armed agents, but the F.B.I. has rejected the claim that it used a SWAT team and said its tactics were consistent with standard practices.

“There are inaccurate claims being made regarding the arrest of Mark Houck,” the F.B.I. said in a statement….

As NewsBusters’ Tim Graham pointed out last month:

This is the same Justice Department who raided the home of pro-life activist Mark Houck in the fall of 2022 with a SWAT team of about 25 and pointed guns at the Houck family over an alleged violation of the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act. All Houck had done was shove an abortion-clinic volunteer who was harassing his son a year earlier, in 2021. Does this sound like a government that’s a good judge of who’s a violent extremist, or in this raid, did they look like the violent extremists?

Fichera wasn’t done defending the FBI, finding fault with another Trump statement true in its details:

WHAT WAS SAID: “The F.B.I. has been caught profiling devout Catholics as possible domestic terrorists and planning to send undercover spies into Catholic churches, just like in the old days of the Soviet Union.” -- in a video on Truth Social this month

This needs context. Mr. Trump was likely referring to a leaked January memo prepared by the F.B.I.’s field office in Richmond, Va., that warned of the potential for extremism for adherents of a “radical-traditionalist Catholic” ideology. Republicans have criticized the memo for months.

But the memo was withdrawn and the nation’s top law enforcement officials have repeatedly denounced it.

Fichera just couldn’t help himself:

Some researchers believe there is some merit to those concerns, even if the memo was flawed. Mr. Ravitch, the Michigan State University professor, said he believed agents erred in focusing on Catholicism….In a statement this week, the F.B.I. reiterated, “Any characterization that the F.B.I. is targeting Catholics is false.”

It’s touching how the Times has come to trust the FBI, its favorite domestic surveillance organization, in the age of Trump.