Special Report

Misinformation and Checking the Fact-Checkers: The Money Behind 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

The Money Behind the Fact-Checking Industry: Big Philanthropy

PolitiFact takes the cake as the worst of the faux fact-checkers and has rightly garnered a reputation for being the most clearly biased in favor of the Left.

PolitiFact originated as a project of the Tampa Bay Times (then the St. Petersburg Times) and Congressional Quarterly in 2007, both owned by the Poynter Institute. The Tampa Bay Times endorsed Hillary Clinton in 2016 and Joe Biden in 2020.

Journalist Bill Adair founded PolitiFact and accepted a Pulitzer for it in 2009. He then created the International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN) in 2015 (launched by the Poynter Institute), which has the claimed goal of monitoring fact-checkers. In an interview with the Pacific Standard, Adair admitted that their fact-checking process is subjective. “Yeah, we’re human. We’re making subjective decisions. Lord knows the decision about a Truth-O-Meter rating is entirely subjective,” [1] he said, referencing the scale PolitiFact uses to rate claims from “True” to “Pants on fire.”

In a 2019 op-ed for the Columbia Journalism Review, Adair argued that he believes bias is good, despite what “conservative critics” who “wrongly suggest that bias in journalism is always bad” have to say. “In fact, bias in journalism is good. It just needs to be labeled and understood.”[2]

To understand their bias, it’s first important to follow the money.

Major funding from PolitiFact’s parent organization, the Poynter Institute, has come from George Soros’s Open Society Foundations,[3] the Soros-backed Tides Foundation and Tides Center, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Ford Foundation, and the Carnegie Corporation of New York, among many others.[4]

And it shows.

Their funding from Soros is Exhibit A in how money easily influences their coverage. For example, a Google search for George Soros’s name may pull up a paid advertisement in the search results from PolitiFact that encourages you to learn the “truth” about Soros. “George Soros does not pay protesters. Here’s the truth,” reads the caption to the ad.

When you click through, you’re brought to a fact check of a claim from Candace Owens that Soros is “funding the chaos” in Minneapolis via the Open Society Foundations during the 2020 George Floyd riots.[5]

Fact-checker Emily Venezky predictably rates Owens’ claim “False” while acknowledging that Soros donated $33 million to organizations “that have worked with Black Lives Matter [BLM] or worked to raise awareness during the [2014] Ferguson-related protests.” She then tries to hedge that admission: “However, they had never given money to groups for the express purpose of organizing protests with the movement,” as if BLM wasn’t going to use the funds for whatever they want, including protests they see as central to their mission.

Of all PolitiFact articles to promote in an ad, why one about Soros? To ask the question is to answer it.

The purpose of the article is simply to downplay the role of Soros in degrading law and order in the United States. Whether or not Soros is funding protesters in the exact manner in the exact city that Candace is discussing is almost irrelevant when we’re talking about a man who has spent $40 million funding nearly 80 far-left prosecutors nationwide, all of whom implement soft-on-crime policies and favor defunding police departments.

In a similar vein, PolitiFact’s Yacob Reyes wrote an article downplaying Soros’s funding of BLM-adjacent groups. When Owens specifically mentioned the $33 million figure quoted by Venezky to claim that “George Soros injected $33 million into Black Lives Matter,” Reyes rated the claim “False” because the groups weren’t official BLM groups. They were just groups that shared a virtually identical ideology and engaged in the same kind of disruptive activities.[6]

Soros’s network sees the major fact-checkers as allies, as proven by a leaked concept paper for his OSF from the liberal (and Soros-funded) New America Foundation that praised PolitiFact, FactCheck.org, and the Washington Post fact-checker specifically for their role in the 2008 and (then forthcoming) 2012 election. The paper argued that they should be amplified,[7] describing the emergence of fact-checking sites as “one of the few bright spots” in the media landscape.[8]

Soros himself has copied the strategy of pushing censorship by crying disinformation. In early 2022, Soros and fellow leftist billionaire Reid Hoffman (known for co-founding LinkedIn) founded the Orwellian-named Good Information Inc. The company has the stated mission of “tackling misinformation” and is led by former Democratic strategist Tara McGowan, whose nonprofit ACRONYM firm was known for epically botching vote counts of the Democrats’ 2020 Iowa caucus and who has created multiple “fake news” outlets.[9]

The Capital Research Center has identified Kathryn Murdoch, the left-wing wife of James Murdoch (estranged son of Rupert Murdoch), as a major funder of the disinformation industry. In July and August of 2020, the husband-and-wife duo donated a million dollars to PACRONYM, a left-wing political action committee tied to ACRONYM. As the Capital Research Center’s Scott Walter explained:

ACRONYM funds and controls Courier Newsroom, one of America’s most sophisticated disinfo machines working to elect Democrats.

According to OpenSecrets “Websites affiliated with Courier Newsroom that appear to be free-standing local news outlets are actually part of a coordinated effort with deep ties to Democratic political operatives.”

For example, Courier’s Wisconsin site UpNorthNews can lightly rewrite a Democratic candidate’s press release, and then the real money kicks in as the disinfo machine advertises the fake news story across multiple social media sites, in hopes of swaying Badger State voters who assume they’re reading news, not a political ad.

This is a more transparent attempt at laundering a disinformation operation as news because Courier is organized as a media outlet, but what the likes of PolitiFact, Snopes, and others are doing is no different.

In 2017, the Knight Foundation awarded $1 million to nearly two dozen projects aimed at pushing left-wing narratives in the name of fighting disinformation.[10] The projects funded included Facts Matter, a PolitiFact-linked project that aimed to “improve trust in fact-checking – particularly among people who identify as conservative.” Other programs included developing adult literacy programs, experimenting with the effectiveness of spreading misinformation through “real time interventions,” creating a team of “citizen documenters,” a project to address the spread of misinformation “through charts, graphs, data visualizations,” and much, much more. All the creative projects that received cash were working toward an identical goal: to protect left-wing narratives and suppress contrary ones.

When it comes to funding fact-checking ventures, the Left has a virtual monopoly. With the exception of minor fact-checking operations such as the Daily Caller’s “Check Your Fact” or RealClearPolitics’ “Fact Check Review” (which has reviewed fewer than a dozen fact-checks), there are virtually no fact-checking operations from right-leaning organizations. While it would be ideal for fact-checking organizations to become completely neutral, conservatives’ most realistic option is to create fact-checking alternatives that work to balance the scale.

In the next installment, other major players in fact-checking include major media and tech companies.


[1] Michael Schulson, “An Interview with the Founder of PolitiFact, During a Season of Distorted Reality,” The Dan Bongino Show, August 1, 2017, https://bongino.com/politifact-botches-another-fact-check-on-new-york-vs-florida-coroanvirus-deaths.

[2] Bill Adair, “Bias Is Good. It Just Needs a Label,” Columbia Journalism Review, August 29, 2019, https://www.cjr.org/opinion/bias-journalism.php.

[3] Poynter Institute, “$1.3 Million in Grants from Omidyar Network, Open Society Foundations Will Expand Poynter’s International Fact-Checking Network,” PRNewswire, June 29, 2017, https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/13-million-in-grants-from-omidyar-network-open-society-foundations-will-expand-poynters-international-fact-checking-network-300481553.html.

[4] Barbara Joanna Lucas, “Dishonest Fact-Checkers,” Capital Research Center, March 10, 2017, https://capitalresearch.org/article/dishonest-fact-checkers/.

[5] Emily Venezky, “No, George Soros and His Foundations Do Not Pay People to Protest,” PolitiFact, June 1, 2020, https://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2020/jun/01/candace-owens/no-soros-and-foundation-do-not-pay-people-protest/.

[6] Yacob Reyes, “Soros’ Alleged Support of Black Lives Matter Resurges on Social Media,” PolitiFact, April 18, 2022, https://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2022/apr/18/facebook-posts/soros-alleged-support-black-lives-matter-resurges-.

[7] New America Foundation, “The Pursuit of Facts Project: A Concept Paper for the Open Society Institute,” February 8, 2011, 22, https://www.danielpipes.org/rr/tab-03-extreme-polarization-and-breakdown-in-civic-discourse.pdf.

[8] Ibid, 20.

[9] InfluenceWatch, “Tara McGowan,” https://www.influencewatch.org/person/tara-mcgowan/; and Sara Fischer, “Billionaires Back New Media Firm to Combat Disinformation,” Axios, October 26, 2021, https://www.axios.com/2021/10/26/soros-hoffman-disinformation-tara-mcgowan.

[10] Benjamin Mullin, “Knight Foundation Awards $1 Million to Projects Aimed at Fighting Misinformation,” Poynter, June 22, 2017, https://www.poynter.org/fact-checking/2017/knight-foundation-awards-1-million-to-projects-aimed-at-fighting-misinformation/.

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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