Zebra Fact Checks

Fact checks and commentary articles that fact check fact checkers

Eugene Kiely’s misleading spin

“Cheney wrongly claimed that the U.S. prosecuted Japanese soldiers ‘for a lot of stuff’ but ‘not for waterboarding.’ While they weren’t solely prosecuted for waterboarding, Japanese soldiers were prosecuted for torturing American prisoners, including the use of ‘water torture.’” —Annenberg Fact Check Editor Eugene Kiely, from the FactCheck.org article “Cheney’s Tortured Facts”   Overview Why pick solely on PolitiFact and…
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Torture narrative trumps facts at PolitiFact

There’s no solid evidence that waterboarding works. https://t.co/rWBEn8n9r2 — Bill Adair (@BillAdairDuke) May 24, 2016   Bill Adair, Duke University’s Knight professor of computational journalism, helped found PolitiFact. That likely helps explain his “Truth-O-Meter”-ish Twitter avatar. Adair’s tweet about waterboarding helps show the way mainstream fact checkers help reinforce false partisan beliefs, in this case the popular narrative that torture…
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Voter I.D.: PolitiFact Missouri vs. Will Kraus

Will Kraus “Says Missouri needs a voter I.D. law because ‘there’s over 16 people in the state of Missouri who have been convicted of some type of voter fraud.’” —PolitiFact Missouri   Overview We don’t see the evidence supporting PolitiFact Missouri’s interpretation of Kraus’ remarks. We judge PolitiFact Missouri ruled “Half True” on a distorted version of Kraus’ claim. The…
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PolitiFact vs. Rubio on defense spending

Back in May 2015 PolitiFact, specifically PolitiFact Florida, published an amazingly incompetent fact check. PolitiFact Florida’s fact check looked at whether Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio was right that the United States is not building aircraft, aircraft carriers and submarines. PolitiFact Florida said it found plenty of evidence the United States was building aircraft, aircraft carriers and submarines, rating Rubio’s…
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Did Fiorina say Obama was preparing for 250,000 Syrian refugees?

Did Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina say Obama was planning to accept 250,000 Syrian refugees? On Nov. 26, 2015 international news agency Agence France-Presse published “Facts take a back seat in White House race,” an article providing supposed examples of campaign trail falsehoods. The story leads with four examples: Republican Donald Trump’s claim that Arab Americans cheered during the September…
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The trouble with the AP’s climate change fact check

When The Associated Press ran a headline proclaiming a climate science fact check of presidential candidates, we smelled trouble. Journalists tend to struggle with science. One might expect fact check journalists to do a better job handling science. And maybe they do, but it still often looks like fish out of water. Case in point: At the request of The…
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PolitiFact botches judgment on Ben Carson tax plan

PolitiFact vs. Ben Carson

“[Becky] Quick’s math is sound, based on what’s publicly known about Carson’s plan. Carson’s 15 percent flat tax would generate a $1.1 trillion hole. By his own math, his plan would create a $1 trillion hole.” —PolitiFact, from a Nov. 4, 2015 fact check of GOP presidential contender Ben Carson   Overview PolitiFact’s omissions and misrepresentations leave behind a misleading…
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PolitiFact Wisconsin and the Rouhani-Obama fauxto

On July 24, 2015, PolitiFact Wisconsin published a fact check piggybacking on a recent BuzzFeed criticism of a political ad. On July 23, 2015 BuzzFeed published a story about a political ad aired by Restoration PAC in support of the re-election campaign of Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wisc.). The BuzzFeed story, by Ilan Ben-Meir, focused in part on one of the…
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Fact-checker agreement—and disagreement

In recent months we’ve pored over a pair of scholarly works on the topic of fact-checking. One, Checking the Fact-checkers in 2008: Predicting Political Ad Scrutiny and Assessing Consistency by Michele A. Amazeen, we reviewed earlier this year. The second, a doctoral dissertation by former PolitiFact writer Lucas Graves, contains much material we’ll address in one way or another over…
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