Fact-checkers race to dispute report HHS is funding crack pipes, leaving the ‘truth’ clear as mud

The official purveyors of truth — the Fact-checking Brigade — focused its Big Tech eyes on a recent report that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will be passing out crack pipes in the name of racial equity, and now the truth is even more difficult to ascertain.

Here’s how the story unfolded:

On Dec. 8, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), an agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), announced an “unprecedented” $30 million “Harm Reduction” grant program.

According to SAMHSA’s website, the funding was authorized by President Biden’s American Rescue Plan, and “will help increase access to a range of community harm reduction services and support harm reduction service providers as they work to help prevent overdose deaths and reduce health risks often associated with drug use.”

The press release states that, for the first time ever, overdose deaths over a 12-month period exceeded 100,000, and the funding will support those workers who are fighting the war on drugs in their communities.

“This funding allows organizations to expand their community-based overdose prevention programs in a variety of ways, including distributing overdose-reversal medications and fentanyl test strips, providing overdose education and counseling, and managing or expanding syringe services programs, which help control the spread of infectious diseases like HIV and hepatitis C.”

So, right there, SAMHSA states that part of the funding will go to providing drug addicts clean needles.

But how did the story go from needles to crackpipes?

Well, buried in the 75-page Harm Reduction document, under a bullet that reads “Purchase equipment and supplies to enhance harm reduction efforts,” is the phrase: “Safe smoking kits/supplies.”

This is the phrase the Washington Free Beacon leapt upon, in its Feb. 7 article entitled, “Biden Administration To Fund Crack Pipe Distribution To Advance ‘Racial Equity.’

“A spokesman for [HHS] told the Washington Free Beacon that these kits will provide pipes for users to smoke crack cocaine, crystal methamphetamine, and ‘any illicit substance,'” the article claimed.

The article instantly went viral, prompting harsh criticism from conservative politicians and news analysts.

“This is truly reckless,” tweeted Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton. “Joe Biden should be focused on keeping dangerous drugs off of our streets, not this nonsense. I won’t stand for this senseless endangerment here in Texas.”

“The Democrat agenda for marginalized communities in plain sight — victimize them even more,” said Fox Nation host Tammy Bruce. “Disgusting.”

“They really want to destroy black America,” stated “America First” host Sebastian Gorka.

And Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) tweeted: “Biden crime policy: Crack pipes for all. What could go wrong?”

By Feb. 9, the Biden machine was in full motion, stomping out the ensuing fires faster than you can say “Smokey the Bear.”

A joint statement from HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra and Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) Director Rahul Gupta was issued, stating that the administration was “focused on using our resources smartly to reduce harm and save lives. Accordingly, no federal funding will be used directly or through subsequent reimbursement of grantees to put pipes in safe smoking kits.”

And in her daily press briefing, White House press secretary Jen Psaki attempted to drive the message home, calling the reporting of the grant program, “inaccurate” and stating that crack pipes “were never a part of the kit.”

“The safe smoking kit may contain alcohol swabs, lip balm, other materials to promote hygiene and reduce the transmission of diseases like HIV and hepatitis,” Psaki said. “I would note that what we are talking about here is steps that we’re taking as the federal government to address the opioid epidemic, which is killing tens of thousands, if not more, of Americans, every single day, week, month of the year.”

“We wanted to provide clarification on the allowable uses for the HHS Harm Reduction Program,” she added. “It’s not a change in policy.”

Meanwhile, as Fox News reported, “Snopes, PolitiFact, the Washington Post, New York Times, Facebook, Salon, the Daily Beast and others have rushed to Biden’s defense, publishing stories and ‘fact checks’ disputing the Free Beacon report,” adding that the outlets were mirroring Psaki’s talking points.

Still, the controversy continues and the actual truth remains murky.

WaPo’s own editor-in-chief tweeted Wednesday about Becerra and Gupta’s careful wording in their statement, noting, “there is no suggestion that the original reporting on crack pipes was wrong. The use of the word ‘Accordingly’ suggests a change in policy without directly saying so.”

By Friday, fact-checker Glenn Kessler had dug deeper and written an article entitled, “Viral article that unleashed ‘crack pipe’ firestorm relied on assumptions.”

In it, Kessler states that Free Beacon reporter Patrick Hauf “did not specifically ask whether pipes would be included in the kits. Instead, he looked elsewhere for examples of what is typically in such smoking kits and found that they often included glass stems (pipes.)”

So where does that leave the truth?

Well, liberal fact-checking outlet Snopes updated their “mostly false” rating on the crack pipe inclusion to “outdated” following the HHS statement.

“It’s true that the grant description required the provision of harm reduction supplies, and listed ‘safe smoking kits’ as an example — and established component of harm reduction strategy — but in reality, those kits constituted just one of several subcomponents of an even longer list of requirements for grant recipients,” wrote Snopes, making the whole issue just as clear as mud.

According to former New York Times tech reporter Nellie Bowles, the “fact check” by Snopes was a joke.

“This hilarious fact check that labels the reporting FALSE but then describes it as entirely true but ‘not important,’ Bowles tweeted.

Sen Tom Cotton (R-AR) still contends the HHS statement was a result of getting “caught.”

And according to The Blaze, “We are living in a South Park episode.”

So, there you have it: The Truth… ish.

All clear, now?


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