PANTS ON FIRE: PolitiFact Defiles the Truth

Fundraising email claims website is dedicated to 'holding our leaders accountable.' (Fact check: It is not.)

May 9, 2022

PolitiFact, the allegedly "independent" fact-checking website, is soliciting donations to fund its "fact-based, unbiased reporting." Unfortunately, these fundraising efforts have already been tainted with disinformation.

"Help us hold politicians accountable," PolitiFact's audience director, Josie Hollingsworth, wrote in a fundraising email on Monday.

FACT CHECK: Mostly false.

The email asserts that PolitiFact is dedicated to "holding our leaders accountable." The claim lacks crucial context, and grossly misrepresents the truth about the organization's priorities, according to a Washington Free Beacon analysis of nearly 300 PolitiFact posts dating back to March 10, 2022.

Our analysis found that more than half the PolitiFact fact checks published in the last two months involved random content posted on social media. More than a third (112) of the website's 290 fact checks over that period involved content posted on Facebook, which has enlisted PolitiFact and other so-called nonpartisan organizations to "identify and review false information."

PolitiFact has been "holding our leaders accountable" by devoting it resources to fact-checking the asinine claims of random Facebook users: that John F. Kennedy Jr. is still alive and leading QAnon, that "paying taxes is optional," and that Hillary Clinton is imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay. All three were given a "pants on fire!" rating, in case you were wondering.

An additional 59 fact checks over the past two months involved content posted by "bloggers" or by users of Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, YouTube, as well as "viral images" posted on a variety of social media platforms. PolitiFact has been holding the powerful to account by debunking claims that actors Bob Saget and Gilbert Gottfried died from the COVID-19 vaccine, that Russian president Vladimir Putin was assassinated, that Disney CEO Bob Chapek was arrested for human trafficking, that the state of Tennessee was operating COVID-19 internment camps, and that Christine Blasey Ford and Brett Kavanaugh were portrayed by actors wearings masks during the latter's Supreme Court confirmation hearing.

These fact checks comprise the majority of PolitiFact's output since early March. For the sake of comparison, the website has published just three fact checks involving statements from President Joe Biden during that same period, which amount to roughly 1 percent of the organization's output. The most recent Biden fact check, published on April 22, involved the president's claim that "for four years, I was a full professor at the University of Pennsylvania." PolitiFact conceded that the claim was technically false—Biden was not a full professor and only held the position for two years—but nevertheless assigned it a rating of "half true."

Less than a third of PolitiFact's posts (86 of 290) during the analyzed time period involved claims made by politicians or party committees. The vast majority of the politicians subjected to fact checks (62 of 86) were Republicans, and a majority of those claims (41 of 62) were rated "mostly false" or worse. Meanwhile, just eight claims made by GOP lawmakers or party officials were rated "mostly true" or better. Shockingly enough, Democrats were assessed to be far more truthful. Out of 24 total fact checks involving Democrats, 11 were rated "mostly false" or worse, and 10 were rated "mostly true" or better.

The findings of the Free Beacon analysis will not come as a surprise to observers of the professional fact-checking industry. Like their ideological cohorts in the White House press corps, who complain that their jobs are "boring and difficult" now that a Democrat is president, professional fact-checkers are markedly less enthusiastic about "speaking truth to power" in the post-Trump era.

CNN's Daniel Dale, whose breathless on-air fact checks of former president Donald Trump made him an internet celebrity, has essentially disappeared. Like his professional peers at PolitiFact, Dale hardly bothers to fact-check Joe Biden, and devotes most of his time to debunking random social media posts, including one about actor Leonardo DiCaprio donating $10 million to Ukraine, and another about United Nations troops invading Canada. He is not particularly interested in holding Democrats accountable. Of the 23 most recent posts listed on Dale's CNN bio page, 14 involve claims made by Republicans, compared with just 2 involving Democrats.

Meanwhile, journalists such as Dale's colleague Brian Stelter remain flummoxed as to why so many ordinary Americans regard the mainstream media as irredeemably partisan and don't trust them to get their facts straight.