The week in fact-checking: The best (or worst) election ads, faux facts, and Banksy’s recurring demise
The American Press Institute presents a roundup from the world of fact checking, debunking and truth telling — just in case you haven’t been paying as much attention as we do.
It’s that time of year when debates between political candidates are fact-checked in real time by journalists. The process is hectic and involves writing with one hand, fact-checking with another, and possibly using other appendages to post thoughts to social media. So when campaign staffers for New Hampshire Senate candidates Jeanne Shaheen and Scott Brown began e-mailing their own “fact checks” to reporters during the debate, at least one was pushed to the perimeters of patience.
“Combined, you all sent 28 ‘fact check’ type emails about the debate between 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. No one is reading these,” Burgess Everett wrote in Politico’s Huddle blog. “Other candidates are doing the same during debates, but this was the worst one yet.”
How bad was it? We asked Everett for a sample. He sent 24. The subject lines began with somewhat confusing statements like “Fact Check: Women can’t trust Scott Brown,” and a lot of ALL CAPS. Read it.
Fact-checking gold mine
This week’s candidate for “most likely to be fact-checked” is the Pennsylvania governor’s race. It features two guys named Tom who have made a series of misstatements and missteps, all nicely summarized by the newly launched Billy Penn news site. Writer Anna Orso list the fact checks and explains the race marked by “Crazy ads, debate gaffes and porny emails.” Read it.
What? Something is fake on the internet?
The Internet, apparently not paying attention to itself, has fallen for yet another story that revered British graffiti artist Bansky was arrested and jailed. The International Business Times patiently breaks it down for the deluded believers: a fake press conference by a fake police chief, a fake interview with a fake reporter who was awarded a fake Pulitzer prize, and so on. Read it.
Behind the fact check
The State newspaper in South Carolina tallied up the truth in ads from Republican and Democratic candidates for governor in that state, and deemed it a horserace. The newspaper calls its fact-checking measurement a “Buzzer,” and political ads can earn a half-Buzzer for a “small slip” and a full Buzzer for a “major misstep.”
In the end, five of Republican Gov. Nikki Haley’s nine ads were “Buzzed,” as were five of Democratic rival Vincent Sheheen’s six ads. The State called it a tie; for those who prefer percentages, that’s 55.56 percent vs. 83.33 percent. Either way, the records could win a World Series. Read it.
Fact check of the week
Last year, the Fact Checker at the Washington Post awarded the dreaded “Four Pinocchio” ruling to an ad that claimed certain lawmakers had voted to allow Congress to fly first class at taxpayer expense. Now the disproven claim has resurfaced in another ad, “and nothing depresses the Fact Checker more,” writes the Post’s Glenn Kessler.
The latest ad targets Rep. Julia Brownley, (D-Calif.), who allegedly cast a vote on the issue. “Congresswoman Julia Brownley is what’s wrong with Washington,” the ad says. However, the Fact Checker has other ideas about what’s wrong with Washington. Read it.
Fact checking under attack
When PunditFact once again this week demonstrated that evidence does not support the Family Research Council’s alleged research-based stand against gay marriage, the conservative group went on the attack. Writing on the FRC blog, Peter Sprigg says, “Unfortunately, the PolitiFact article itself gets a failing grade.”
PunditFact looked at each of the research reports promoted by the FRC as evidence of child suffering due to being raised by gay parents. In each case, the results were misinterpreted or the methodology was not up to par. Still, the FRC writes about PolitiFact/PunditFact: “We rate their claim, ‘Highly Implausible.’” Read the fact check and the rebuttal.
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