Republican nominee Donald Trump’s 75-minute acceptance speech on the last night of the GOP convention sent fact-checkers into overdrive.
PolitiFact,The Washington Post andFactCheck.org all produced roundups of their research into dozens of Trump’s claims. Here’s a look at four of those claims and the resulting fact-checks, which you can share using the Share the Facts widget.
The widget was created by the Duke Reporters’ Lab and Jigsaw, a technology incubator within Alphabet, the parent company of Google. We encourage you to use the widget toshare fact-checks on Facebook and Twitter, or evenembed them in articles and blog posts.
1. “Household incomes are down more than $4,000 since the year 2000.”
Here’s how the three fact-checking organizations currently using the Share the Facts widget weighed in on this Trump claim. Click “Read More” on each widget to see the facts behind their conclusions.
3. A “550 percentage increase in Syrian … refugees … [Democrat Hillary Clinton] proposes this despite the fact that there’s no way to screen these refugees in order to find out who they are or where they come from.”
While Clinton has proposed allowing as many as 65,000 Syrian refugees into the U.S., fact-checkers find Trump’s claim that “there’s no way to screen” is not true.
4. “Decades of progress made in bringing down crime are now being reversed by this administration’s rollback of criminal enforcement. Homicides last year increased by 17 percent in America’s 50 largest cities. That’s the largest increase in 25 years.”
While the fact-checkers note that Trump has a credible source for his numbers (The Post, in fact), they find he’s guilty of cherry-picking data to give the impression of a scary trend.
Politicians love talking points. The scripted lines provide consistency for campaign messages and quotes that are often irresistible to journalists. Talking points are used repeatedly, even by a candidate like Donald Trump who is known to stray from his script.
With the Republican National Convention about to start, we thought it would be helpful to show some of the stock lines we expect to hear and how the nation’s fact-checkers have judged their accuracy. It’s also an opportunity for us to showcase the Share the Facts widget, our new tool that summarizes fact-checks.
For the past several months, PolitiFact, The Washington Post and FactCheck.org have been using the widget, which was created by the Duke Reporters’ Lab and Jigsaw, a technology incubator within Alphabet, the parent company of Google.
The three fact-checking outlets have already created more than 1,000 widgets, mostly from the 2016 presidential campaign.
According to The New York Times, the first night of the convention is set to focus on the attack in Benghazi, Libya, that killed four Americans during Democrat Hillary Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state. Here’s a look at one Trump claim that FactCheck.org found didn’t hold up to scrutiny.
Another issue expected to be in the spotlight on Monday night is immigration – an especially hot topic for Trump, who has proposed “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.” He says the president has the authority to do it, and The Washington Post’s Fact Checker found he’s largely correct.
The Post gave him one Pinocchio because the president does have “broad powers to deny admission of people or groups into the United States. But the power has not been tested in the way that Trump proposes.”
Trump earned four Pinocchios from the Post for a claim tying crime to immigration.
The second night of the convention is scheduled to have an economic theme, so we expect to hear claims about taxes and trade. FactCheck.org has noted that Trump is fond of repeating that American taxpayers pay more than residents of other countries – which it found isn’t true (though the U.S. business tax rate does rank among the highest in the world).
Trump also speaks frequently about the U.S. trade deficit with China, and he’s accused Clinton of making it worse. But PolitiFact found he’s assigning the blame in the wrong place, since the secretary of state has a small role in trade policy.
Keeping with tradition, Trump is expected to speak on the last night of the convention – a speech that is sure to produce many claims for fact-checkers to examine. As he accepts the party’s nomination, he may repeat an assertion about his vote totals in the primary elections that PolitiFact found is mostly true.
The Duke Reporters’ Lab is introducing Share the Facts, a widget that provides a new way for readers to share fact-check articles and spread them virally across the Internet.
The compact Share the Facts box summarizes the claim being checked and the fact-checker’s conclusion in a mobile-friendly format. The widgets have a consistent look but can be customized with the fact-checkers’ logos and ratings such as Pinocchios or the Truth-O-Meter. The standardization allows readers to recognize fact-checking whenever they come across it on the web and to post Share the Facts on social media and by embedding the boxes in articles and blog posts.
Fact-checkers can create Share the Facts boxes using a simple template developed by the Reporters’ Lab. The form generates the HTML of the box that can be pasted into content management systems or embedded in the same way as Tweets. Share the Facts boxes are also fully machine-readable, enabling new ways of assembling automated collections of fact-check findings from across the Internet. For example, someone could set up a page that compiles Share the Fact boxes from a single event or a particular candidate.
Share the Facts will be helpful to columnists and bloggers because they’ll be able to compile and display several boxes for a debate or a candidate the same way they embed tweets.
Share the Facts was developed by The Reporters’ Lab and Jigsaw, a technology incubator within Alphabet, the parent company of Google.
The widget has been tested in the past few weeks byThe Washington Post,PolitiFact and FactCheck.org. The Reporters’ Lab has been incorporating feedback from those sites and will be making the widget available to other fact-checking sites this spring and summer.
“We are excited to participate in the Share the Facts project,” said Eugene Kiely, director of FactCheck.org. “It gives voters the ability to more easily share fact-checking stories and find fact-checking stories.”
Glenn Kessler, the editor and chief writer of The Washington Post’s Fact Checker, said it “will be a terrific tool for readers to share the results of our fact-checking. In this exciting, fact-challenged campaign year, I expect it will expand the reach and impact of our work.”
Said Aaron Sharockman, the executive director of PolitiFact: “Share the Facts is part of the antidote to the massive spread of misinformation. We all know how quickly falsehoods can spread on the Internet. Now readers have a simple tool to fight back with facts.”
Fact-checking season is underway, and some new players are getting into the act.
FiveThirtyEight, NPR, Vox and Politico unveiled new fact-checking features for the presidential debates that began last month. Others revived their truth-seeking teams, joining usual suspects such as FactCheck.org, the Washington Post and PolitiFact in their perennial efforts to verify what politicians are saying.
The fact-checkers often focus on the same claims, but coverage from last week’s Republican debates in California showed the varying ways they use to explain their findings. In its coverage, CNN rated statements on a scale similar to PolitiFact’s Truth-O-Meter, while the New York Times and NPR chose to work without a grading system similar to the FactCheck.org model.
As in last month’s first debates, hosted by Fox News, the Post set aside its four-Pinocchio scale, offering a single scrolling summary of multiple fact-checks before following up additional posts in its usual style. Politico’s Wrongometer, CNN and NPR used similar models. Others posted individual items about specific claims or packaged a number of individually linkable fact-checks together as a combined reading experience. There also were efforts to do some real-time fact-checking while the debates were underway.
Here’s a roundup from last week’s two-round Republican debate, which included a primetime showdown with 11 candidates and an earlier session with four others:
CNN:The debate host’s “Fact-Checking Team” checked 16 claims and awarded them rulings from “True” to “It’s Complicated” to “False.” The “It’s Complicated” rating was awarded to Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, who said Saudi Arabia was not accepting any Syrian refugees, and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, for statements he made regarding the Iran nuclear agreement.
NPR:The radio network fact-checked four claims as part of its new “Break it Down” segment — all involving statements by or in response to Donald Trump. The claims ranged from the real estate developer’s lobbying for casinos in Florida to the safety of vaccination. NPR didn’t rate the claims on a scale and instead explained the validity of comments.
New York Times:The Times examined 11 claims, including topics from Planned Parenthood to immigration policy. Like NPR, the Times did not use a rating system. They did, however, post their fact-checks during the debate as part of their live coverage. Many of their checks focused on Trump and Ben Carson, the retired pediatric neurosurgeon whose outsider status had helped him climb up in the polls after the August debate on Fox News.
Politico:The Agenda, Politico’s policy channel, applied its Wrongometer to 12 claims, focusing on topics such as Trump’s bankruptcy and President Obama’s nuclear agreement with Iran. The group also scrutinized former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina’s remarks about Syria and a much-repeated Columbine myth. Despite its Wrongometer header, Politico’s fact-checkers do not use a rating system.
Vox:Rather than the relatively short, just-the-facts summations most other fact-checkers posted, Vox penned full-length commentaries on a handful of claims. Two featured statements by Fiorina (one about Planned Parenthood, linked here, and another on her time at HP), and one checked the candidates’ views on vaccinations. No rating was used.
AP:The news service fact-checked five claims, including statements from Fiorina on Planned Parenthood and the effects of Trump’s plan for an economic “uncoupling” from China. The AP did not use a system to rate these claims.
FiveThirtyEight:The site did its fact-checking in its debate live blog. FiveThirtyEight’s staff did not use any sort of rating system in its real-time reviews of the candidates’ statements, such as Trump’s claim about Fiorina’s track record as CEO of HP and President Obama’s likability overseas.
FactCheck.org:The fact-checkers based at the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg Public Policy Center reviewed 14 claims from the debates. FactCheck.org did not rate the claims, which included former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee’s statements about Hillary Clinton’s email scandal to Trump’s comments on Wisconsin’s budget under Gov. Scott Walker.
PolitiFact: Run by the Tampa Bay Times, Washington-based PolitiFact fact-checked 15 debate claims so far, and awarded them rulings from “Pants on Fire” to “True.” The “Pants on Fire” rating went to Carson, who said that many pediatricians recognize the potential harm from too many vaccines. They also awarded a “True” rating to Fiorina’s statement regarding the potency of marijuana. While the debate was underway, the PolitiFact staff tapped their archive of previous calls to live blog the event.
The Washington Post Fact Checker:The Post’s two-person fact-checking team reviewed 18 claims in a roundup that included Trump’s denial that he’d ever gone bankrupt and New Jersey’s Gov. Chris Christie’s story about being named U.S. attorney by President George W. Bush on Sept. 10, 2001. The fact-checkers also posted versions of those items in the Post’s debate-night live blog. Following its usual practice for debates, the Post did not use its Pinocchio system to rate these claims. But since the debate, the Post added more Pinocchio-based fact-checks, including items on Fiorina’s criticisms of veterans’ health care (two Pinocchios) and Rubio’s comments on North Korea’s nuclear capabilities (one Pinocchio). Notably both of those items were suggested by Post readers.
There’s been lots of harrumphing about the decline in local coverage of Congress. Many Washington bureaus have been closed and there are fewer reporters covering congressional delegations.
But is the coverage as weak as the critics suspect?
To find out, students in my Washington in a New Media Age class examined how the local media covered their representatives in Congress last year. Using the Nexis and America’s News databases, the students tallied stories about their lawmakers and analyzed the content.
The resultsjustify the harrumphing. With few exceptions, local coverage of lawmakers is skimpy and superficial. The students found that coverage is particularly anemic for incumbents who are heavily favored — a group that has grown as more districts have been gerrymandered.
The student findings reveal an unexpected side effect of gerrymandering. It hasn’t just skewed the composition of congressional districts, it has become a justification for less news coverage. When a race is likely to be lopsided, editors often conclude they don’t need to cover the race or provide even the most basic coverage of an incumbent. So once a House member has a safe seat, they are likely to receive less scrutiny by the news media.
The average House member was mentioned in 160 news stories in print, online and television outlets, according to the data the students collected. That number sounds pretty respectable at first. But the number varied widely depending whether the seat was considered up for grabs. It was high for a closely contested seat such as Colorado’s 6th District (310 mentions) and low for the least competitive seats, such as the heavily Democratic 11th District in Virginia (51).
The students found little coverage by television stations, although it’s difficult to draw conclusions for all markets because of wide variations in how coverage is archived.
Even when the overall number is high, it doesn’t tell the full story. When the students examined the articles, they found a large portion had little or no discussion of policy or issues. And even when the coverage dealt with issues, it often provided little substance, the students found.
Student Thamina Stoll spent several hours reviewing the coverage of Rep. Loretta Sanchez, D-Calif, but came away with only a vague idea about what kind of lawmaker she is. “I still have no clue other than that she enjoys taking pictures for Christmas Cards, isn’t as involved in the immigration debate as she should be and that she appears to stress the importance of education,” Stoll wrote. “How should a voter feel comfortable voting for her again?”
Jordan DeLoatch, a student from the Raleigh-Durham area, found 171 mentions of his representative, Republican George Holding. But much of the coverage was shallow. “There was no fact-checking, no following up and no real attempt to dig deeper into the race,” DeLoatch wrote.
There were a few notable exceptions. The Denver Post and other news organizations in Colorado provided some good enterprise coverage of GOP Rep. Mike Coffman. And despite its national and international focus, the Washington Post did some good coverage of lawmakers in the Washington area.
But more often, the students found shallow reporting and a lack of questioning. News organizations, shrunken by the disruption of the digital age, have scaled back their accountability journalism. Many are more willing to publish a lawmaker’s op-ed than to assign a reporter who will ask critical questions.
Student Allie Eisen, writing about the 11th District in North Carolina around Asheville, found the coverage to be fawning and uncritical. She summed it up by saying that incumbent Republican Mark Meadows “is in the business of writing his own local headlines, and is wildly successful at doing so.”