Kellyanne Conway got blasted in the news media three weeks ago for the following interchange with the moderator of Meet The Press, Chuck Todd of NBC:
KELLYANNE CONWAY: Don’t be so overly dramatic about it, Chuck. What– You’re saying it’s a falsehood. And they’re giving Sean Spicer, our press secretary, gave alternative facts to that. But the point remains–
CHUCK TODD: Wait a minute– Alternative facts? Alternative facts? Four of the five facts he uttered, the one thing he got right was Zeke Miller. Four of the five facts he uttered were just not true. Look, alternative facts are not facts. They’re falsehoods.
At the time, I thought … whaaa? There are often several explanations for a given event. I see this all the time in my writing and research about the climate. These different climate explanations often depend on different datasets of observations of temperature, pressure, rainfall, and the like. I thought that those would be alternative facts. So it seemed to me she was getting a raw deal, although I couldn’t say exactly why.
What I didn’t know until yesterday was that “alternative facts” is actually a legal term. Here’s a document from a case from over a decade ago:
Statements of Truth – Alternative Facts. (Clarke v Marlborough Fine Art (London) Limited and Marlborough International Fine Art Establishment)
May 30, 2003
To what extent can a statement of truth be signed when there are inconsistent sets of facts pleaded? This was the issue addressed in the case of Clarke (Executor of the Will of Francis Bacon) v Marlborough Fine Art (London) Limited and Marlborough International Fine Art Establishment  1 WLR 1731.
Mr Justice Patten found that, in certain circumstances, inconsistent sets of facts could be pleaded within a claim. Patten J held in relation to Part 22 of the Civil Procedure Rules (CPR) that those signing particulars of claim could plead the inconsistent facts in the alternative if they did not have personal knowledge of the relevant matter, provided there was plausible evidence to support both alternatives.
And here is a section from a recent book on drafting legal documents dealing exclusively with alternative facts.
That discussion of “alternative facts” also gives an interesting distinction of when alternative facts can and cannot be used in law.
Wikipedia has a very clear definition, viz (emphasis mine):
Alternative facts is a term in law to describe inconsistent sets of facts put forth by the same party in a court given that there is plausible evidence to support both alternatives. The term is also used to describe competing facts for the two sides of the case.
In particular, consider the second law-related definition highlighted above, “competing facts for the two sides of the case”. This fits perfectly with my experience in climate science, where each side presents its own facts and theories about why the climate does what it does.
It is also exactly what Kellyanne Conway is describing. Chuck Todd put forward facts supporting one side of the case, and Kellyanne Conway said that there were also facts supporting a different interpretation of the case. She described those facts accurately in a legal sense as being “alternative facts”.
So … is that what Kellyanne Conway actually meant? Or is this simply my own tortured legalistic interpretation? I mean, why would Ms. Conway use some obscure legal term??
Here’s a few alternative facts that might help you make up your mind …
Conway received her Bachelor of Arts degree magna cum laude in political science from Trinity College, Washington, D.C. (now Trinity Washington University), where she was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. She then earned a Juris Doctor with honors from the George Washington University Law School in 1992. She served as a judicial clerk for Judge Richard A. Levie of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia after graduation.
In other words, she’s a lawyer, and if honors are any judge, a good one. Her only crime was to use a legal term that was not understood by the moderator, Chuck Todd.
Now, please note that on the basis of not understanding what Conway meant, Chuck Todd, a used-to-be-respected journalist, flat-out called her a liar. He didn’t ask her to explain what she meant by “alternative facts”. He didn’t give her the benefit of the doubt.
Instead, Mr. Todd immediately made up his own definition of the words she’d said, and then used that incorrect definition to accuse her of dishonesty. His ridicule was picked up by the rest of the Democratic-media complex and has been used to falsely impugn and discredit Ms. Conway to this day.
People think President Trump is crazy for attacking the fake news media, saying such attacks distract from his message. I think it is an unfortunate necessity. It is essential to point out the highly partisan and liberal-dominated nature of the media. If he did not fight back, the false accusations of people like Chuck Todd would be believed without question.
Finally, no, the President did NOT say that “the media is the enemy of the people”. Nor did he attack the First Amendment. You’ll see those bogus lies repeated over and over by the fake news media … surprising, I know.
What he actually said was that the FAKE NEWS MEDIA is the enemy of the people, and that is sadly true. People like Chuck Todd are making up false claims, working to slander and damage Ms. Conway’s reputation, and distorting the news to further their own political agendas. I’m sorry, but that kind of dezinformatsiya hurts the American people.
Anyhow … that’s the real facts about alternative facts.
My best wishes to each of you, I’m going outside to smell the flowers,
PS—When you comment please QUOTE EXACTLY WHAT YOU ARE REFERRING TO so that we can all understand your precise subject.