CNBC reporter John Harwood called out Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) for a number of statements he's made that appear to be factually incorrect.
Harwood recently sat down one-on-one with Cruz to discuss the 2016 Republican presidential candidate's political history. He brought up one comment in particular that Cruz made during a speech in March about taking the "110,000 agents at the IRS" and putting them on the southern border.
"They've only got 25,000 agents or something," Harwood corrected him. "You've talked about the job-killing nature of Obamacare. We're adding jobs at a very healthy clip right now. Why shouldn't somebody listen to you and say, 'The guy'll just say anything -- doesn't have to be true'?"
Cruz defended himself, saying he was just making a joke.
"There is a game that is played by left-wing editorial writers. It's this new species of yellow journalism called politi-fact," Cruz said. "That particular stat is in a joke I used. So, they're literally fact-checking a joke. I say that explicitly tongue in cheek."
Cruz added at the beginning of the interview that many news outlets portray him as "a wild-eyed lunatic," but said he doesn't mind.
The edited transcript of the interview is available at CNBC.
Cruz may think he was making a joke, but Mediaite's Tina Nguyen outlined on Thursday why that joke doesn't exactly excuse his embellishment:
Point 1: Cruz clearly made a joke, and it was “explicitly tongue in cheek.”
Point 2: The joke, however, was about an over-the-top thing Cruz wanted to do with the IRS.
Point 2(a): The number of IRS agents was not implicated in the joke-making, and thus seemed like a plausible number of agents that could exist.
Point 3: Even if he defined “agents” as “all employees of the IRS,” the number is still off: The IRS had roughly 90,000 employees as of 2013, and is actually facing a staffing shortage.
Point 4: Cruz could have made the joke without sacrificing accuracy — 25,000 agents is still a lot of agents, enough to make a joke argument that one should abolish the IRS. But 110,000 agents is on a completely different magnitude than 25,000; and while it’s not OMG FALSEHOOD level of bad, it’s a worrisome tendency towards embellishment.
Alternative Point 4: Cruz needs new joke writers?
Alternative Point 4(a): This is getting pedantic.