Zebra Fact Checks

Fact checks and commentary articles that fact check fact checkers

Poynter: A Florida gag order on climate change?

Note (Dec. 29, 2016): We have updated this item in response to a critique from Aaron Huertas, the main target of our criticism. Find a description of the changes as well as the original version of the article here. Did Florida’s state government issue a gag order stopping state employees from discussing climate change? A Dec. 22, 2016 article published…
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PolitiFact California walks back its ‘conversion therapy’ ruling

On July 29, 2016, we fact checked PolitiFact California’s ruling finding it “True” that Republican vice presidential candidate Mike Pence once advocated diverting federal money from AIDS care efforts toward gay “conversion therapy.” On Dec. 2, 2016 PolitiFact California changed its ruling to “Half True.” As with Snopes.com’s “Mixture” rating of the claim about Pence and conversion therapy, we regard…
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Is context optional at PolitiFact?

If it’s about Trump it’s too good to check? Fact checkers in 2016 (not to mention 2015) showed a tendency to take vague statements from Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump and upgrade those statements via interpretation into relatively clear statements. On December 2, 2016  a new PolitiFact story led us indirectly to a great example of this tendency. Lauren Carroll’s…
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Fact checkers awry on Trump and nuclear proliferation

“Donald Trump has repeatedly said he is OK with more countries having nukes.” —Headline from LA Times fact check, Oct. 4, 2016     “Donald Trump wrongly tweets that he ‘never said’ more countries should have nuclear weapons.” —Headline from PolitiFact fact check of Donald Trump, Nov. 14, 2016   Summary Does Donald Trump favor nuclear proliferation? Saying a nation…
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Snopes’ ‘Mixture’ ruling on Mike Pence and ‘conversion therapy’

“Mike Pence once supported the use of federal funding to treat people ‘seeking to change their sexual behavior.’” —Snopes.com, from a fact check published on Oct. 27, 2016   Overview Snopes’ fact check does too much to leave legs on a legless claim about Pence supporting the use of federal funds for gay “conversion therapy.”   Background Facts Republican vice…
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Live fact-checking: What could go wrong?

The mainstream fact checkers can’t seem to wait to grasp one of the Holy Grails of fact-checking: Live fact-checking. The problem? Live fact-checking leads directly toward a magnification of one of fact-checking’s standard problems, selection bias. In standard fact-checking, the fact checkers pick a claim and then take their time in (hopefully!) getting the facts right and then reporting on…
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Traffic stops, racism, Tim Kaine, and PolitiFact

“Kaine said Castile was stopped by police 40 or 50 times before the time when he was fatally wounded. According to multiple independent press reports, that is accurate. Police had stopped Castile at least 46 times.” —PolitiFact, from a fact check of Democratic vice-presidential candidate Tim Kaine, Oct. 5, 2016   Overview PolitiFact largely drops the context of Kaine’s remark,…
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Murders up or down under Mayor DeBlasio?

“Donald Trump off-base in saying murders are up in New York City” —PolitiFact headline, Sept. 27, 2016   Overview Democrat presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton said murders are going down under New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio. Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump, contradicting Clinton during debate, said murders are going up. PolitiFact came down on Clinton’s side, but the numbers do…
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Lauren Carroll, PolitiFact botch the “Trump Effect”

“They asked about 2,000 K-12 teachers who reported in large part that they were seeing an increase in bullying, especially among immigrants, children of immigrants and Muslim students.” —PolitiFact Senior Writer Lauren Carroll, during an Aug. 27, 2016 appearance on MSNBC Live.   Overview Fact-checker Lauren Carroll passed along false information to the MSNBC audience, reproducing and magnifying errors from…
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PolitiFact’s ‘Trump Effect’ failures

On Aug. 26, 2016, mainstream fact checker PolitiFact published a spectacularly awful examination of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton’s claim that teachers were reporting a “Trump Effect” in schools involving an increase in harassment and bullying of some minority groups. PolitiFact relied for its evidence on an extremely flawed survey from the left-leaning Southern Poverty Law Center. PolitiFact also…
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