Special Report

Misinformation and Checking the Fact-Checkers: Rise of the Fact-Checking

The Battle Against Misinformation and Checking the Fact-Checkers (full series)
Rise of the Fact-Checking | The Money Behind Fact-Checking
Other Major Players | Pushing Censorship | The Future of Fact-Checking

A casual political observer may take the “fact-checker” label at face value. But the entire industry (with little exception) serves as a Trojan horse to justify censorship for the political Left. This section provides a comprehensive overview of the history of the fact-checking industry, how we know for a fact that it’s biased, and what its real goals are.

For the past five years, I’ve semi-regularly been writing articles on the theme of “fact-checking the fact-checkers.” Even without actively searching for bad fact-checks to refute, the volume of misinformation from those claiming to debunk misinformation was large enough to make it impossible to ignore.

A Rasmussen poll ahead of the 2016 election found that only 29 percent of likely voters believe the media’s fact-checkers, while 62 percent believe that they are skewed to “help candidates they support.”[1]

Similarly, the Pew Research Center did polling on how Republicans and Democrats view fact-checkers in 2019 as they’re increasingly used to drive the national conversation.[2] Only 28 percent of Republicans believe that fact-checkers deal with both sides fairly, compared to 70 percent who think they’re biased. Democrats trust fact-checkers 69 percent to 29 percent, and Independents are split 51 percent to 47 percent.[3]

The Rise of the Fact-Checking Industry

While fact-checking itself is nothing new, throughout the Trump presidency the media escalated the use of supposed “fact-checks” to backdoor censorship against dissenting voices. Due to the role that fact-checkers play on social media, once something is “fact-checked” by them, the issue is treated as settled. Anyone who repeats a claim on major social media platforms that’s been supposedly refuted by these de facto arbiters of truth will find their post slapped with a warning telling them that they’ve shared misleading or false information, with a fact-check article attached purporting to justify it.

On Facebook specifically, accounts that are fact-checked have their pages restricted so that future posts don’t appear as often in the feeds of their followers. Pages can also risk losing their ability to monetize their content as a result.

This kills two birds with one stone for the censor, having both the effect of limiting the spread of information that goes against the cathedral and spreading a preferred narrative.

The rise of advocacy fact-checkers has not coincidentally coincided with the decline of journalism, an industry whose employees are disproportionately liberal. Weekly newspapers lost more than half of their workforces from 1990 to 2017, shedding a quarter of a million jobs. As jobs in journalism shrunk, journalists rebranding themselves as fact-checkers rose. In 2014, there were 44 fact-checking organizations in the U.S.—and by June 2021, there were 341. More fact-checking organizations were added in the year prior to June 2021 (51 new groups) than existed in 2014.[4] A headline from Harvard University’s Nieman Lab says it all: “Publishers hope fact-checking can become a revenue stream. Right now, it’s mostly Big Tech who is buying.”

The Washington Post’s fact-checker Glenn Kessler famously began a running tally of their fact-checks during the Trump administration, eventually claiming that President Trump made 30,000+ false statements during his presidency.[5] The “30,000 lies” figure was perfect for the headlines—and also the result of poor reasoning and methodological trickery.

Illustrating the subjective nature of fact-checking, one example of Trump’s supposed lies included his statement that “my job was made harder by phony witch hunts by ‘Russia, Russia, Russia’ nonsense.” This single true statement and variants of it account for at least 227 of the “lies” on their list. Jokes, sarcasm, and examples of obvious hyperbole also dominate the list, and each time they’re repeated, they’re counted as an additional “lie” to further the appearance of mass dishonesty.[6]

Uncoincidentally, Kessler decided to stop maintaining a running presidential fact-check database after Biden’s first 100 days in office.[7]

The bias is further evident in what Kessler sees as worthy of examining. In one bizarre column, Kessler, decided to fact-check how difficult Republican Senator Tim Scott’s family “really” had it living in the Jim Crow South. (Kessler is the great-grandson of Jean Baptiste August Kessler, an oil executive responsible for the growth of the Royal Dutch Shell Company (now Shell Oil), and the grandson of industrialist Geldoph Adriaan Kessler.)

Contrary to their job title, the role of the fact-checkers is to simply provide cover for liberal media narratives, the media being an industry to which they themselves belong. One notable recent example of national significance was when then-New York Governor Andrew Cuomo was heralded as a champion in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic in its early days, while Florida Governor Ron DeSantis was portrayed as taking a “do nothing” approach by resisting crushing lockdowns and questionable mask science. In this case, even objectively true statements weren’t safe from the fact-checkers. In July 2020, PolitiFact’s Tom Kertscher fact-checked the counternarrative claim that “Florida is doing over five times better than New Jersey and New York in COVID-19 deaths per million people” by acknowledging that the claim was 100 percent true at the time of writing, but saying that things could change in the future, so they rated it “Mostly False.”[8]

It’s these sorts of unfair ratings that reveal the “fact-checkers” role in silencing a contrary narrative—especially when you consider the mental gymnastics required to admit something is true before rating it “Mostly False.”

Nothing is truly too absurd to check as long as it’s coming from a Republican. My favorite fact check of all time came from the Mercury News, which fact-checked Trump’s obviously not literal claim that, if you stacked up the 1,000 burgers he’d bought to cater an event at the White House, they’d pile up “a mile high.” That produced a headline you can’t help but just laugh at: “FACT CHECK: At two inches each, a thousand burgers would not reach one mile high.”[9]

Thank God they cleared that up.

In some cases it’s impossible not to get the impression that the conclusions of the fact-checkers are determined before they’re even written. One such example comes from when the fact-checkers rallied to defend Joe Biden against accusations that he had eulogized a Klansman—which he did at the 2010 funeral of Robert Byrd. The eulogy was broadcast live on C-SPAN and can be found easily online.[10]

To downplay the incident, the fact-checkers decided to nitpick Byrd’s job description. The fact-checkers instead combed through the depths of social media to find any random person making a less true version of the “Biden eulogized a Klansman” claim and then seized on that version of it. In this case, it turned out that some people on social media wrongly said that Biden eulogized a Grand Dragon in the KKK, which gave the fact-checkers exactly what they needed to spin the truth.

The Associated Press fact-checker rated the claim that Biden eulogized a Klansman “Partly false” because while “Biden did eulogize Sen. Robert C. Byrd when he died . . . Byrd was not a ‘grand wizard’ in the Ku Klux Klan. He was a member of the KKK in the early 1940s but later renounced his affiliation of the hate group.” They continue: “As a young man in West Virginia, Byrd recruited members to a local KKK chapter and was elected to the post of ‘exalted cyclops’ according to his 2005 autobiography.”[11] The “exalted cyclops” is the head of a local Klan chapter, making it a relatively high-ranking position within the organization, and the AP makes no mention of this, nor does it mention that Byrd also held the title of Kleagle (recruiter).[12]

Amazingly, USA Today’s Ella Lee provided the same defense: “Fact check: photo shows Biden with Byrd, who once had ties to KKK, but wasn’t a grand wizard,” read her headline for an article that mostly focused on Byrd later denouncing the Klan and arguing that he had a good record on race relations in a fact check that borders on PR.[13]

Reuters published a similar fact check of the “grant wizard” claim and even noted that Barack Obama and Bill Clinton also spoke at the funeral as an attempt to normalize it—as if that’s not damning to them too.[14]

This also raises some obvious questions, such as how it is that every major fact-checker chose to check the same “truth-adjacent” claim just to distract from the truth. To point out the blatantly obvious, how do you suppose they would’ve rated such a claim if it were Donald Trump (or any Republican) in the same situation? Would they bother to explain that the person later renounced their beliefs? Would they spend hundreds of words humanizing a former Klansman? To ask such a question is to answer it.

These brief bouts of insanity you’ve read so far are just a subset of the examples I surfaced. Admittedly, I expected to find one major error for every 50 or so fact-checks I reviewed. As it turns out, I overestimated their competence by at least a factor of 10.

Given the impact of these “fact-checkers,” it’s worth reviewing who the major players in this battle are, who is backing them, and how we know their goal is to rewrite reality in favor of the prevailing liberal narrative.

In the next installment, George Soros’s Open Society Foundations and other left-wing foundations provide major funding for PolitiFact and other fact-checking operations.


[1] Rasmussen Reports, “Voters Don’t Trust Media Fact-Checking,” September 30, 2016, https://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/politics/general_politics/september_2016/voters_don_t_trust_media_fact_checking.

[2] Mason Walker and Jeffrey Gottfried, “Republicans Far More Likely Than Democrats to Say Fact-Checkers Tend to Favor One Side,” Pew Research Center, June 28, 2019, https://www.pewresearch.org/short-reads/2019/06/27/republicans-far-more-likely-than-democrats-to-say-fact-checkers-tend-to-favor-one-side/.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Jacob Siegel, “Invasion of the Fact-Checkers,” Tablet, January 1, 2022, https://www.tabletmag.com/sections/news/articles/invasion-fact-checkers.

[5] Glen Kessler et al., “Trump’s False or Misleading Claims Total 30,573 over 4 Years,” Washington Post, January 24, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2021/01/24/trumps-false-or-misleading-claims-total-30573-over-four-years/.

[6] Mark Hemingway, “No, Trump Hasn’t Made 20,000 ‘False or Misleading’ Claims,” Buffalo News, September 16, 2020, https://buffalonews.com/news/national/govt-and-politics/no-trump-hasnt-made-20-000-false-or-misleading-claims/article_cc0abf55-7146-5d93-95e6-b2ac11166210.html.

[7] Valerie Richardson, “Washington Post Shuts down Presidential Fact-Checking Database After 100 Days of Joe Biden,” Washington Times, April 27, 2021, https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2021/apr/27/washington-post-shuts-down-presidential-fact-check/.

[8] Matt Palumbo, “PolitiFact Botches Another Fact Check on New York vs. Florida Coronavirus Deaths,” The Dan Bongino Show, August 4, 2020, https://bongino.com/politifact-botches-another-fact-check-on-new-york-vs-florida-coroanvirus-deaths.

[9] Washington Post, “Breaking Down Trump’s Extravagant, $3,000, 300-Sandwich Celebration of Clemson University,” Mercury News, January 15, 2019, https://www.mercurynews.com/2019/01/15/president-trumps-extravagant-3000-300-sandwich-celebration-of-clemson-university/.

[10] Joseph Biden, “Vice President Biden Eulogizes Senator Byrd.” C-SPAN, July 2, 2010, https://www.c-span.org/video/?c4454847/vice-president-biden-eulogizes-senator-byrd.

[11] Jude Joffe-Block and Marcos Martínez Chacón, “Biden Did Not Eulogize Former KKK ‘Grand Wizard.’” Associated Press, October 10, 2020, https://apnews.com/article/fact-checking-9545480195.

[12] Schumpeter, “The Exalted Cyclops,” The Economist, June 30, 2010, https://www.economist.com/schumpeter/2010/06/30/the-exalted-cyclops.

[13] Ella Lee, “Fact Check: Photo Shows Biden with Byrd, Who Once Had Ties to KKK, But Wasn’t a Grand Wizard.” USA Today, June 16, 2020, https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/factcheck/2020/06/14/fact-check-biden-isnt-kkk-grand-wizard-photo/3183887001/.

[14] Reuters, “Fact Check: Robert Byrd: Eulogized by Joe Biden at Funeral, Was Not KKK Grand Wizard,” Reuters, October 7, 2020, https://www.reuters.com/article/uk-factcheck-byrd-eulogy-biden-kkk-grand/fact-checkrobert-byrdeulogized-by-joe-bidenat-funeralwas-notkkkgrandwizard-idUSKBN26S2EE/.

Matt Palumbo

Matt Palumbo is the author of The Man Behind the Curtain: Inside the Secret Network of George Soros (2021), Dumb and Dumber: How Cuomo and de Blasio Ruined New York…
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