Facebook has decided to clamp down on the supposed epidemic of fake news by appointing an assortment of "fact-checkers" to vet their news feed.
The problem is that these fact-checkers — PolitiFact, FactCheck.org, Snopes, Associated Press and ABC News — are all slanted to the left and have a bad habit of inserting their progressive opinions into "fact-checks" instead of simply being objective.
Here are 11 of the worst "fact-checks" by the five Facebook fact-checkers.
1. PolitiFact has tried to claim that President Barack Obama never went on an apology tour. PolitiFact did this multiple times when Mitt Romney was hammering Obama over the apology tour. In their initial 2010 fact-check, PolitiFact's ruling was lengthy to the point where they even quoted multiple experts on what exactly the word apology means and compared Obama's statements to apologies made by Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.
"Yes, there is criticism in some of his speeches, but it's typically leavened by praise for the United States and its ideals, and often he mentions other countries and how they have erred as well," PolitiFact wrote. "There's not a full-throated, sincere apology in the bunch. And so we rate Romney's statement False."
The one thing missing from PolitiFact's post: the actual definition of the term "apology" from a dictionary, which is "an admission of error or discourtesy accompanied by an expression of regret."
Here are five statements Obama made during the apology tour:
- "In America, there's a failure to appreciate Europe’s leading role in the world. Instead of celebrating your dynamic union and seeking to partner with you to meet common challenges, there have been times where America has shown arrogance and been dismissive, even derisive."
- "Another issue that confronts all democracies as they move to the future is how we deal with the past. The United States is still working through some of our own darker periods in our history."
- "While the United States has done much to promote peace and prosperity in the hemisphere, we have at times been disengaged, and at times we sought to dictate our terms."
- "Don’t be discouraged that we have to acknowledge potentially we've made some mistakes. That’s how we learn."
- "Unfortunately, faced with an uncertain threat, our government made a series of hasty decisions. … I also believe that all too often our government made decisions based on fear rather than foresight; that all too often our government trimmed facts and evidence to fit ideological predispositions. Instead of strategically applying our power and our principles, too often we set those principles aside as luxuries that we could no longer afford. And during this season of fear, too many of us — Democrats and Republicans, politicians, journalists, and citizens — fell silent. In other words, we went off course."
While it's true that Obama is not explicitly saying he's sorry for America's actions, he was making these statements as if he was talking to a priest during a confession–he laid out what he thought America's sins and that the country should do better. Obama was indirectly saying "I'm sorry." PolitiFact's ruling should have been "True."
2. PolitiFact gave The Federalist's calculations on how much the Clinton Foundation spends on charity a "Mostly False" — despite admitting it was "technically true." The Federalist's Sean Davis wrote in 2015 that he thoroughly crunched numbers to determine that only 15 percent of the money the Clinton Foundation raised from 2009-2012 was spent on "programmatic grants," which are "charitable grants to other organizations."
PolitiFact's Louis Jacobson took umbrage with the figure, writing in an email to Davis: "While technically true, that number ignores the much larger amount they spent in-house on programmatic efforts."
In other words, Jacobson felt that the measly amount the Clinton Foundation gave in charitable grants was more than made up for with the foundation's charitable efforts. But that's not the role of a fact-checker to determine, and Davis wasn't having any of it.
"Let me stop at you at 'while technically true,' because that's really the only standard that matters when judging whether something is true or not," Davis replied. "Whether you happen to like a fact is irrelevant to whether it's true. So when you tell me that the truth of a statement is not the primary factor in determining whether something is true is not ("I don't expect it to be a full true"), it tells me that you have an agenda that's separate from determining whether something is true. That's disappointing."
Davis proceeded to quote the Clinton Foundation's chief executive bragging that the foundation was not being used for charitable purposes. Jacobson still gave Davis's 15 percent figure a "Mostly False" rating.
3. PolitiFact didn't like Romney's figure on the number of women who lost jobs under the Obama economy even though it was true. During the 2012 presidential campaign, Romney's spokeswoman Andrea Saul tweeted out that "women account for 92.3% of the jobs lost under @BarackObama." PolitiFact couldn't help themselves.
"The numbers are accurate but quite misleading," PolitiFact wrote in their ruling. "First, Obama cannot be held entirely accountable for the employment picture on the day he took office, just as he could not be given credit if times had been booming. Second, by choosing figures from January 2009, months into the recession, the statement ignored the millions of jobs lost before then, when most of the job loss fell on men. In every recession, men are the first to take the hit, followed by women."
Once again, PolitiFact is inserting their opinion rather than providing an objective fact-check. They admitted that the figure was accurate, but then tried to spin it in favor of Obama. That's not what a fact-checker is supposed to do.
4. PolitiFact gave Hillary Clinton's claim that she "never received nor sent any material that was marked classified" a "Half-True" rating and then quietly edited it when it was clear they had embarrassed themselves. The PolitiFact Bias blog provides a brief timeline of PolitiFact's ruling:
-July 3: A fact check by PolitiFact writer Lauren Carroll rates Clinton's claim that she "never received nor sent any material that was marked classified" on her private email server Half True (original version at the Internet Archive).
-July 5: FBI Director James Comey issues a statement effectively refuting Clinton's claims and exposing her outright falsehoods regarding the email scandal.
-July 5: After Comey's statement, PolitiFact publishes an update by Carroll laying out Comey's evidence and explaining how it undermines Clinton's claims. Despite this, Carroll says there will be no changes and affirms the original "Half True" rating.
-July 6: PolitiFact and Carroll publish an entirely new fact check on the same claim, this time rating Clinton False. PolitiFact archives a version of the "Half True" fact check.
It should have been obvious from the get-go that Clinton was lying about the classified information on her email server, but PolitiFact tried to weasel their way out of giving her a "False" rating by claiming that there wasn't any available information at the time to suggest that "Clinton knowingly sent or received classified information," even that information was available even before Comey's announcement. They did eventually change the rating to "False."
5. Jim Webb and Ron Paul made the same claim about the federal income tax, yet PolitiFact gave Webb a better a rating than Paul.
In looking at both of PolitiFact's assessments regarding each claim, they both mention that the caveat to Paul's and Webb's statements is that a temporary income tax was implemented during the Civil War as a funding mechanism for the war. They both even quoted the same expert — Joseph Thorndike, director of Tax Analyst's Tax History Project — in both pieces, and he said the same thing both times. In Paul's, Thorndike called the Civil War tax a "relatively small caveat" and in Webb's it was "an anomaly."
Here's how PolitiFact came to their conclusion on Paul's statement:
Paul’s statement that the federal income tax rate was zero until 1913 reflects the timing of the constitutional change enabling the current tax. But his claim disregards two pre-1913 efforts to impose an income tax — one of which was in place for a decade. This debate claim rates Half True.
And their conclusion on Webb's:
Webb said "we did not even have a federal income tax in this country until 1913."
The modern income tax structure, complete with Form 1040, was born in 1913. But in the interest of history, it should be noted that Lincoln ushered in an income tax in 1862 and it lasted 10 years.
So we rate the statement of Webb -- a historian himself -- Mostly True.
Despite making the same claim, PolitiFact gave two separate ratings for Paul and Webb, and there's no question that their writing was more favorable to Webb than to Paul.
6. PolitiFact ran an embarrassing "fact-check" on Patricia Smith claiming that Hillary Clinton lied to her about Benghazi. PolitiFact simply said there was no way that Smith, whose son Sean Smith died in the Benghazi terror attacks, could have known for sure if Clinton was lying:
When the review of what the survivors of the four men lost in Benghazi said was finished, PolitiFact merely threw up its hands, claiming that none of these grieving relatives can really be trusted as reliable providers of fact.
"It is impossible to know with certainty what Clinton told these families in brief conversations at a private reception only three days after Benghazi. Some, but not all, family members who have spoken to the media said Clinton mentioned a video or protests in their meeting. Some said she didn't mention a video. Clinton says she did not."
To Politi-“Fact,” Mrs. Clinton’s record of lying about her server doesn’t tilt the scales of credibility. In another article on Monday night, the website suggested grieving relatives might have “fuzzy” memories. Adair even suggested that even if Hillary was incorrect, she might not have been lying: “If she did say something about the video, would it have been an intentional lie? It’s very possible that this is one of the many conflicting pieces of intelligence that the administration was working with at the time.”
Adair claimed no one can really claim Hillary lied: “There simply is not enough concrete information in the public domain for Rubio or anyone to claim as fact that Clinton did or did not lie to the Benghazi families.”
Actually, the public domain is clear about the fact that Clinton lied about Benghazi.
7. Snopes tried to cover up the fact that there weren't many American flags present on the first day of the Democratic National Convention. It was obvious that once the Pledge of Allegiance was said, the American flags were taken offstage and weren't brought back the rest of the day. However, Snopes took a screenshot of American flags being onstage on the second day of the convention to claim that they were present on the first day of the convention. This is a clear and obvious example of Snopes' naked partisanship obscuring the truth — and they're supposedly a fact-checking news outlet.
8. Snopes also tried to argue that Omar Mateen, the terrorist who shot up the Orlando nightclub, wasn't a Democrat, even though he was registered as one. It is with absolute certainty that Mateen was registered as a Democrat. And yet Snopes still tried to squirm out of this uncomfortable fact by trying to make excuses for it with a "Mixture" rating.
"What that lone fact means is the subject of a good deal of speculation, with possibilities ranging from Mateen's being a supporter of Democratic ideology to his simply having chosen a random political affiliation when he initially registered," the alleged fact-checker wrote. "Mateen didn’t appear on the FBI’s radar until 2013, and it’s possible that in the ten years between 2006 and 2016 his political outlook (whatever it was to begin with) might have changed radically, even if his voter registration did not)."
Obviously people can interpret such a fact as they see fit, but Snopes promotes themselves as a fact-checking news site, so it's not their role to determine what this fact means nor present hypothetical scenarios by which it might not be true. And yet they tried to because this fact triggered their feelings.
9. Snopes also attempted to defend Clinton on her gaffe that we didn't lose anyone in Libya. In March, Clinton jumped through logical hoops to defend the 2011 invasion of Libya while being opposed to the Iraq War.
"Libya was a different kind of calculation, and we didn't lose a single person," Clinton said.
Obviously, there were four Americans who died in the Benghazi terror attacks in 2012. But Snopes decided to make excuses for Clinton by claiming she was talking solely about the invasion by pointing out that after her "we didn't lose a single person" line, she then said, "We didn't have a problem in supporting our European and Arab allies [during the 2011 intervention in Libya] ... in working with NATO ... and now we've gotta support the Libyan people." Therefore, Snopes argued that she was only talking about the Libya invasion and not the terror attacks a year later.
This is a lame defense for two reasons: One, Clinton defended her support of the invasion by citing the fact that there were two democratic elections afterward, so the aftermath of the invasion — under which the Benghazi attacks certainly fall — was part of her calculus in defending it. Two, the Benghazi terror attacks were the direct result of the failures involved with the Libya invasion.
10. FactCheck.org made a major error in calculating food stamp numbers while trying to discredit a Republican. Per Forbes:
Here, they work to rebut Newt Gingrich’s food stamp president claim. There’s a calculation error here which is key, and I assume FactCheck.org people were likely just calculating based on a misreading of the numbers – they ought to have been comparing 14.55 million (under eight years of Bush) to 14.46 million participants under (at the time) 3 years of Obama - which is not, contrary to their estimates, 444,574 fewer (I have no conceivable explanation for how they found that figure). But this less than 100k difference really sticks in my mind because of the unmitigated spritely optimism of the FactCheck.org review, which claims that things are looking up and that more people will come off the food stamp rolls in the near future, perhaps even tomorrow. Now that we have the latest numbers in hand, we see a total of 46,681,833 people on the rolls - which means Obama added 14.69 million participants to the program on his watch... definitively making Gingrich's claim correct.
11. The AP's fact-check falsely claimed that Donald Trump was wrong about Bill Clinton's legal consequences for his sexual infidelities. "He was impeached, he lost his license to practice law, he had to pay an $850,000 fine to one of the women," Trump said during the second presidential debate.
Here's how the AP tried to spin it against Trump:
In 1998, lawyers for Bill Clinton settled with former Arkansas state employee Paul Jones for $850,000 in her four-year lawsuit alleging sexual harassment. Clinton did not acknowledge wrongdoing in the settlement. But Trump erred in describing the legal consequences of that case. In a related case before the Arkansas State Supreme Court, Clinton was fined $25,000 and his Arkansas law license was suspended for five years. Clinton also faced disbarment before the U.S. Supreme Court, but he opted to resign from the court’s practice instead of facing any penalties.
This is a dishonest portrayal of what happened. Newsbusters provided the timeline:
- In April 1999, District Judge Susan Webber Wright found Bill Clinton in contempt for "intentionally false testimony" in the Paula Jones sexual harassment trial and fined him over $90,000.
- In May 2000, an Arkansas Supreme Court committee determined that Clinton "should be disbarred for 'serious misconduct' in the Paula Jones case and began the court proceeding to strip him of his law license." Almost no one besides Clinton himself and his lawyer genuinely believed that the state's Supreme Court would fail to follow the committee's recommendation.
- "On January 19, 2001, Clinton agreed to a five-year suspension of his law license and a $25,000 fine in order to avoid disbarment and to end the investigation of Independent Counsel Robert Ray," which was formalized the next day.
Clinton then paid an $850,000 settlement in the Paula Jones lawsuit — more than what Jones and her lawyers had asked for — because the fact that he was held in contempt meant that "Jones was in a position to revive the case with a reasonable chance of winning and establishing for the record that Clinton had lied about the sexual imposition involved in her case," so Clinton avoided that with the settlement. Therefore, Trump was right and the AP was wrong.