Fact-checker Snopes contradicted various reporters and fact-checkers Thursday by coming to the defense of a liberal meme about Obamacare repeal.
The meme in question features a picture of Republicans at the White House following the Obamacare repeal vote with red X’s superimposed over their faces, declaring that all of them were voted out in the 2018 midterms. Not only were many with X’s re-elected, but many more were not even in elected office, or have since taken other offices.
As the meme was going around the internet, reporters mocked it for inaccurately claiming "Every one[sic] with an X has been voted out of Congress." Jake Sherman of Politico called the meme "quite literally insane fake news" three whole weeks ago.
DeSantis ran for gov. Tom Price went into the Cabinet. Steve Pearce didnt run for the House
This is quite literally insane fake news.
— Jake Sherman (@JakeSherman) November 18, 2018
But Snopes saw fit to resurrect the meme in order to rate the claim "true."
Snopes fact-checker Bethania Palma Markus mocked the idea of looking at the actual picture and determining the truth of the meme’s claim that everyone pictured with an X over their face was voted out. Many reporters easily performed that fact-check weeks before Snopes published its take, but the writer mocked such specificity as examining the "meme in microscopic detail to try to discern the identities behind the tiny faces obscured with red X’s."
Instead, Snopes focused on the fact that 33 Republicans who voted for Obamacare repeal had left office, which is not the claim the meme makes. According to Snopes reasoning, the meme does not name the people with X’s over their faces, it therefore it should be interpreted to mean 33 Republicans were voted out, not that the individuals pictured actually lost their seats. The meme, however, claims otherwise—that it is these particular individuals who were "voted out of Congress."
The primary Twitter user who spread the meme even took down his tweet with the meme and acknowledged it was inaccurate.
While a number of GOP Members of Congress who voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act are crossed out in this image, it has been pointed out that there are several errors, so I have taken it down. pic.twitter.com/QC5Di5ZUfY
— Nicholas Kitchel (@nicholaskitchel) November 18, 2018
In addition, the Snopes piece used a version of the meme that cropped out a 34th person with an X in order to arrive at its conclusion.
Yet Snopes defended the article, crediting its readers with superior intelligence that can transcend material facts such as pictures and "understand the difference between a literal representation and a symbolic one."
"The overall point offered by the meme in question is that some 33 Republican members of Congress who voted to repeal the ACA lost their seats. And as our fact check documents, that point is correct," Snopes co-founder David Mikkelson told the Daily Caller.
"The meme isn’t really about the specific persons who appear in the accompanying photograph, as they weren’t identified by name and are largely unrecognizable to viewers as shown due to the small size of the photograph and the fact that their heads are obscured with red X’s," Mikkelson said.
"Our audience is intelligent enough to understand the difference between a literal representation and a symbolic one," he added.
Snopes has roamed so far outside the role of checking fact claims that it has repeatedly fact-checked people for jokes, including the satirical news site Babylon Bee. This prompted the Bee to publish a satire in 2017 that Snopes had rated it "the world’s most accurate news source." There was even a recent controversy about Facebook flagging the Bee over a Snopes fact-check, which Facebook apologized for.
Despite all this, Snopes continues to be treated as a trusted fact-checker by Facebook.