Yesterday at NewsBusters, I noted that all of the major-media “fact-checking” efforts recognized by Duke University’s ReportersLab.org website lean left, and that almost all of them are quite decidedly on the left. That only begins to explain how the “fact-checkers” are distorting the news landscape.
It isn’t just that the evidence they select and the evaluations they reach are inevitably left-biased, sometimes laughably so (e.g., CNN evaluating Sean Spicer’s recent crack about Russian dressing and saying it didn’t originate in Russia). That’s bad enough, but only a small part of the story. The bigger problem is that they overwhelmingly select facts presented and representations made by Republican and conservative politicians and pundits, while mostly ignoring the at least similar level of howlers generated by the left.
John Hinderaker at Powerline, who has been looking at these matters for some time, took note of the following on April 4 in criticizing the Associated Press. The AP is one of the 43 U.S.-based entities on Duke’s worldwide map of fact-checking sites, and is one of five organizations Facebook has engaged to help it ferret out so-called “fake news” and false claims:
Like other Democratic Party news outlets, the Associated Press is conducting a daily war against President Trump and his administration. This war is waged through biased news stories, which are legion, and through the AP’s purported “fact checks.”
(Regarding AP’s “fact check” of a deliberate exaggeration Trump made in a speech about Barack Obama’s stimulus plan that “Nobody ever saw anything being built,”) Obama’s stimulus plan was sold as a “shovel-ready” infrastructure building program, but that turned out to be an insignificant portion of the whole. The AP doggedly documents the fact that a tiny portion of Obama’s stimulus bill went for infrastructure, and therefore Trump is supposedly a liar.
… This kind of thing happens over and over. Often, it is worse. On Saturday, the AP accused President Trump of “false advertising,” even though it didn’t show that Trump said anything that was false. It merely quoted his statements on various issues and countered with the Democratic Party’s talking points.
The “false advertising” story to which Hinderaker refers is particularly odious. The AP identified a total of nine statements by Trump or Secretary Sean Spicer. Not one of the wire service’s presentations of its “facts” rendered Trump’s or Spicer’s statements demonstrably false.
Now let’s get to Hinderaker’s most powerful point (comments between items on the list omitted; bolds in the list flag items solely about Trump or conservatives):
… Do you want to know what is really false advertising? The AP’s claim that its “fact checks” constitute “a look at the veracity of claims by political figures.” In reality, the AP “fact checks” only one political figure, President Trump, with occasional attacks on members of his administration. Here are the headlines for the last 25 AP “fact checks.” Judge for yourself:
- AP FACT CHECK: Trump errs in describing Obama stimulus
- AP FACT CHECK: Republicans thwarted high court picks, too
- AP FACT CHECK: Trump’s week of feints and false advertising
- AP FACT CHECK: Trump didn’t get luxury-model Air Force One
- AP FACT CHECK: Spicer says case closed on Russia. It’s not
- AP FACT CHECK: Trump no factor in Social Security increase
- AP FACT CHECK: Obama, Trump had role in Flint water relief
- AP FACT CHECK: The week when Trump’s wiretap accusation died
- AP FACT CHECK: Trump’s promise on repealing health care law
- AP FACT CHECK: Trump overlooks his Obamacare promise
- AP FACT CHECK: Trump’s truths can come from wisps of info
- AP FACT CHECK: Willie Nelson not deathly ill, publicist says
- AP FACT CHECK: Trump and his unachieved achievements
- AP FACT CHECK: Trump’s claim of fleeing doctors rings false
- AP FACT CHECK: Trump tweets vs. FBI testimony on Russia
- AP FACT CHECK: A Washington week of bluster
- AP FACT CHECK: Fukushima radiation not cause for alarm in US
- AP FACT CHECK: Who needs a wall? Trump says border is strong
- AP FACT CHECK: Irish slavery a St. Patrick’s Day myth
- AP FACT CHECK: Both sides loose with facts in health debate
- AP FACT CHECK: [Trump] Cabinet members go rogue on science, history
- AP FACT CHECK: Some Trump boasts stumble, but jobs do grow
- AP FACT CHECK: Trump, Carson Give Wrong Impression
- AP FACT CHECK: How Trump’s Keystone XL story fell apart
- AP FACT CHECK: Trump’s facts on Navy’s size don’t float
The Associated Press was once a respected news service, but today it is just one more member of the Democratic Party’s press auxiliary.
As of early Friday evening, five of the seven AP “fact checks” since Hinderaker’s post have exclusively gone after Trump or members of his administration. All told, combined with the 19 out of 25 such items on Hinderaker’s list, that makes 24 out of 32. Even that’s an understatement, because as seen earlier, one AP item looked at nine different Trump-related claims. Bravely assuming none of the other items above evaluate multiple claims, the brings us to 32 out of 40, or 80 percent of all recent “fact checks.”
The AP is not an isolated example. Readers going to the first few pages compiling recent “fact checks” by Politifact and its various state affiliates will see a clear tendency to go after Republicans and conservatives combined with a stubborn reluctance to give them the benefit of the doubt.
A comparison which looks at the number of times the Politifact has evaluated the statements of certain well-known politicians demonstrates how obvious the lack of balance is:
- Scott Walker, Republican Governor of Wisconsin: 175
- Chuck Schumer, Democratic Senator from New York: 9
- Rick Scott, Republican Governor of Florida: 148
- Andrew Cuomo, Governor of New York: 12
The three governors listed above have been in power since the 2010 elections, and Schumer’s national profile, which has never been low, thanks to his attention-seeking nature, rose to higher visibility at roughly the same time.
To believe that Politifact doesn’t have a selection bias, one has to defend the absurd notion that Walker and Scott have consistently made controversial or questionable statements or claims worthy of evaluation at a rate 15 times greater than Schumer and Cuomo (323 for Walker and Scott combined compared to 21 for the two New Yorkers).
That’s obviously not the case. What is the case is that Walker and Scott are particularly despised Republicans whose nearly every word Politifact has monitored for slicing and dicing for over six years, while Schumer and Cuomo are favored Democrats who are not genuinely monitored. To cite just one obvious example, Cuomo won’t allow hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) in the Empire State despite the lack of any genuine scientific basis for his stance. Politifact has never evaluated any of Cuomo’s related anti-fracking claims.
Thus, it’s clear that U.S.-based “fact check” sites, all of which lean left, almost all of them decidedly so, not only turn out biased evaluations. They go further by overwhelmingly focusing their biased efforts on discrediting the statements of Republicans and conservatives.
The goal of this constant drumbeat of criticism aimed at the center-right is to convince relatively disengaged voters that leftists and Democrats are the safer alternative in elections; after all, according to the “fact checkers,” they “obviously” don’t play fast and loose with the truth like the GOP and conservatives do.
As astute commenter “USMC OV-10 Bronco” observed at yesterday’s post, this can have a meaningful impact in close elections:
While these so called Fact Checker sites tend to lean left, they only have to get a marginal amount of voters to believe their lies. The people who run these sites know this and that’s why the Fact Checker sites are proliferating.
That said, it’s probably fair to say that many and perhaps even most news consumers looking for genuinely fair and balanced evaluations have figured out what these sites are up to, and are tuning their nonsense out in ever-increasing numbers. Additionally, certain politicians, most notably President Trump, have had some success going after the “fact checkers,” significantly damaging the presumptive credibility they once had. This Trump tactic’s effectiveness especially grew after it became clear that Hillary Clinton was using “fact checkers” during the presidential debates as a cowardly cop-out to avoid genuinely addressing the Republican candidate’s contentions herself on stage.
Their weakening position would explain why the “fact checkers” are forging alliances with the world’s largest search engine and the dominant social media provider to force online news readers to look at their work even before they see the news itself. A future post will show how these alliances threaten to tighten the establishment media’s control over the news narrative while marginalizing center-right media and alternative voices.
Cross-posted in revised form at NewsBusters.org.