Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Campaign sites say they offer 'truth' but push partisan arguments; shows need for more journalistic fact-checking

There are facts, and there are opinions, and there are falsehoods. For years we have relied on fact-checkers at news organizations and nonprofits like to nail down the truth, especially when it comes to politicians and their campaigns. Now they have started their own "fact checking" websites that deal more in argument than fact.

The site has since been reconfigured.
Perhaps the latest is from the campaign of Rep. Kevin Cramer, a North Dakota Republican challenging U.S. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, reports Glenn Kessler, who writes "The Fact Checker" column for The Washington Post: "The website . . . directs people to 'find the truth,' which leads to a series of 'articles,' which mostly read like news releases that attack Heitkamp or bolster Cramer."

One example: “Heitkamp’s talk of deficits is pure speculation and none of it takes into account the economic growth the Trump pro-growth agenda is delivering.” Kessler notes that the 'talk of deficits' comes from the Congressional Budget Office, "the official scorekeeper of Washington. The CBO is so well respected that Cramer’s 'fact' website cites a CBO projection in another article to attack the Affordable Care Act."

Kessler writes, "Given how [the site] is pitched, it needs to hold up to a high standard of 'the truth'." And he gives it his worst rating, four Pinocchios.

This trend, which Kessler accurately calls "pernicious," illustrates that it is more important than ever for local and state news media to provide reliable fact checking, either on their own or by using The Fact Checker, or Politifact, a paid service of the Tampa Bay Times. Kessler offers a form to submit items for checking and a weekly newsletter, as does

Fact checking is needed beyond political campaigns. USA Today has a fact check today on the separation of children and parents at the Mexican border.

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