Zebra Fact Checks

Fact checks and commentary articles that fact check fact checkers

PolitiFact’s misleading ‘Truth-O-Meter’ explainer

We saw something funny on PolitiFact’s Facebook page the other day. It was a video purporting to answer questions about PolitiFact’s trademarked “Truth-O-Meter” system for rating the relative truth of political statements. We would count the explanatory video as an unmitigated disaster. Much of PolitiFact’s video deserves critical commentary. We invite readers to watch the embedded video via YouTube before…
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Do U.S. fossil fuel power plants kill millions of birds annually?

The go-to paper on avian mortality from power plant operation has little to back its conclusions about plants using fossil fuels, and fact checkers struggle to describe it correctly. A funny thing happened when media fact checker PolitiFact looked into the question of birds killed by fossil fuel-burning power plants. PolitiFact either neglected to check the facts or neglected to…
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Fact-checking ‘systemic racism’?

Zebra Fact Check has noticed a tendency among mainstream fact checkers to leave “systemic racism” alone as a fact-checking topic. The so-called “elite three” (FactCheck.org, PolitiFact, Washington Post Fact Checker) all suffer a lack of content on the subject. A Democrat can state that systemic racism exists as a reality in any number of contexts and fact-checkers will ignore it….
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Juggling apples & oranges

Zebra Fact Check considers the avoidance of apples-to-oranges comparisons a completely basic task in fact-checking. Thus, it especially piques our interest when two mainstream fact checkers fact check the same apple fact with orange data when researching the same subject. During his inauguration speech, President Biden said the coronavirus deaths from the past year equaled the number of Americans killed…
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The week in weak fact-checking

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Mainstream fact checkers have had a terrible October so far in 2020. Their poor performance prompts this answer to the Poynter Institute’s “Factually” newsletter and its “The Week in Fact-checking” with what we’re tempted to call “The Weak in Fact-checking.” FactCheck.org Whitewashes Steele Dossier Annenberg Fact Check (FactCheck.org) chastised Republicans for citing an unverified intelligence report from Russia saying the…
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Snopes’ semantic contortions on Trump & taxes

Mainstream fact checker Snopes.com on Sept. 28, 2016 (tweeted out on its four-year anniversary) published a fact check on whether Donald Trump said not paying federal taxes made him smart. The fact check exemplifies one of the semantic games mainstream fact checkers end up playing: Interpreting claims to fit a narrative instead of giving them a natural contextual interpretation. The…
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Notes on the International Fact-Checking Network’s upcoming annual review of PolitiFact

Zebra Fact Check documented the International Fact-Checking Network’s 2019 failure to hold its stable of “verified” fact-checking organizations to account. PolitiFact, which shares ownership with the IFCN, was notable in escaping scrutiny. The IFCN has yet to explain those failures, but coincidentally or otherwise it revised its Code of Principles in December 2019 along with its methods for verifying compliance…
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An Unhealthy ‘PolitiFact Health Check’

This week PolitiFact, with its franchise partner Kaiser Health News, published what was, in effect, a fact check of a prediction by President Barack Obama. “PolitiFact Health Check” awarded Mr. Obama a “True” rating for his prediction. Spoiler: For good reason, fact checkers usually try to avoid doing fact checks on predictions. A Trump Lawsuit Seeking to Overturn the ACA?…
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