The link to the piece in the WaPo shows us again how Kessler avoids making a call on what’s clearly a gross distortion, if not outright lie, from Liz Cheney who quite wrongly claimed that this current impeachment process was breaking norms (along with other typical Cheney BS). Kessler begins his equivocating by making the absurd statement that “it depends on when you start the clock” and then clearly documents just how false that statement was on its face. Rather than giving it the lie rating it deserves he decides that no Pinocchios would be applied. It’s CYA journalism.
I’m not sure where the link is, but I can find the Kessler “fact-check”,
I agree that “To some extent, it is a matter of opinion about where to start the clock, and so we will not be issuing a Pinocchio rating” is a cop-out – because fact-checkers “check” opinion and statements that mix fact and opinion on a regular and continuing basis. I’ve seen opinions with no factual element rated as false – illogical might work, but false requires a factual basis. And given how uncharitable fact-checkers can be in other contexts, it’s not clear why Cheney gets something very close to a free pass.
Kessler also frames the analysis in a manner highly favorable to Cheney. After referencing the “four Pinocchios” claim that the Democrats were not following proper process in their impeachment inquiry, Kessler narrows the issue for Cheney to “how does the current situation compare with the impeachment inquiries against Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton” and then (as you note) further by asserting “The answer depends on where you start the clock”.
If the answer does in fact depend upon when you start the clock, then we have two possibilities: Either it is premature for Cheney to make her allegations and they are unsupported by fact, or Cheney’s objections are timely and can be judged in accord with the facts.
In the sense of avoiding calling out a false statement (or in other contexts to exaggerate a minor transgression into a major falsehood) to avoid accusations of partisanship? To avoid having the accusations of fabrication and falsehood stack up in a disproportionate manner against one political party? Those have been issues with fact-checkers from their inception.