Fact Check: Nearly 100 Percent of Political Contributions From Fact Checkers Go to Democrats

Free Beacon review of federal disclosures contradict claims of neutrality from top fact-checking operations

June 13, 2023

Nearly 100 percent of political donations from self-identified fact checkers—including those whose employers claim journalistic neutrality—go to Democrats, a Washington Free Beacon analysis of federal campaign finance disclosures found.

The Free Beacon reviewed political donations over the past four election cycles from those who identified their occupation as "fact checker." $22,580 of the $22,683 in political donations that came from self-identified fact checkers during that time—a whopping 99.5 percent—went to Democrats and liberal groups. Only three of the fact checker donations made during that period went to Republicans. Top recipients include socialist Vermont senator Bernie Sanders, who during the seven-year period received ten times more fact checker money than every Republican combined.

The findings contradict claims of neutrality from top fact-checking operations. Fact checkers for the New York Times and Reuters, for example, contributed to President Joe Biden, failed South Carolina Democratic Senate candidate Jaime Harrison, and liberal Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren's presidential campaign. The Times fact checker, Cecilia Nowell, contributed three times to Warren's failed presidential bid from 2019 to 2020 and still accepts "fact-checking assignments" from the outlet on a freelance basis, according to her LinkedIn. Reuters, meanwhile, from 2020 to 2021 employed Carrie Monahan, daughter of veteran journalist Katie Couric, as a "fact check producer." Monahan during that time contributed to Biden, Harrison, and Georgia Democratic senator Jon Ossoff.

Both the Times and Reuters say they approach fact checking in an unbiased and balanced manner. Those organizations and others, however, have a long history of botched fact checks on high-profile conservatives.

In a 2020 fact check, for instance, the Times accused Arkansas senator Tom Cotton of flirting with conspiracy theories when the Republican suggested that COVID-19 may have originated in a Chinese research lab. Federal investigations have since corroborated the lab leak theory Cotton promoted.

Fact checkers working for Facebook, meanwhile, last year erroneously designated as misinformation a Free Beacon report on Biden's Department of Health and Human Services, which was set to fund the distribution of safe smoking kits with crack pipes. Facebook's fact checker, Lead Stories, kept the piece in place even after the Free Beacon proved that federally-funded harm reduction organizations distributed crack pipes.

Fact checkers have even gone as far as to tell readers how they can (and can't) respond to factual information. When the Free Beacon in July reported that the Biden administration sold one million Strategic Petroleum Reserve barrels to a Chinese state-controlled gas giant, the Washington Post acknowledged in a subsequent fact check that the sale happened. Still, the Post's Glenn Kessler wrote, there's "no reason for outrage" and "anyone who suggests the Biden administration is doing something wrong here … earns Three Pinocchios."

Since the 2016 presidential election, the number of fact checking organizations has dramatically increased. Liberal academics and pundits argue that the extraordinary dishonesty of former president Donald Trump and other Republicans has created the need for an army of fact checkers. Tech giants like Facebook and Google have poured millions of dollars into fact-checking initiatives. While those fact checkers claim they are neutral, industry giants such as PolitiFact are more likely to accuse Republicans of aggressively lying than their liberal counterparts.

In addition to the New York Times and Reuters, federal disclosures reviewed by the Free Beacon show that fact checkers at Appen Global, a data management firm that Facebook contracted in 2019 to help build its fact checking infrastructure, donate exclusively to Democrats. Recipients include Sanders, Warren, and Progressive Takeover, a group that's "dedicated to mobilizing the Democratic Party."

The Free Beacon contacted Appen Global to ask how they vet fact checkers for potential biases but did not hear back. The Times also failed to return a request for comment, while Reuters told the Free Beacon it doesn't "comment on current or past newsroom staffers."

One of the few fact checkers who contributed to Republicans seemingly felt the need to obscure her identity—the Google employee listed her address as "123 No Name Drive." Conservative tech employees have long said they feel the need to self-censor their views, including on topics as seemingly benign as the nuclear family. "The issue of cultural norms when it comes to family and sexual orientation, those are difficult conversations, they are just intensified in the Bay Area," Lincoln Network cofounder Garrett Johnson told Wired in 2018.

The campaign finance disclosures reviewed by the Free Beacon show contributions from fact checkers at Reuters, the Times, Google, New York Magazine, CBS News, the New Republic, Vox, the New Yorker and National Geographic, among others. Overall, fact checkers at 40 different organizations donated to Democrats.