The Weekly Standard, which is reportedly in talks with Facebook to become its fact-checking partner, published an article in its new fact-checking section debunking a popular right-wing media myth about former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. But The Weekly Standard has itself pushed this misinformation in multiple articles -- one of which was published just days before the fact check.
In 2015, discredited right-wing author Peter Schweizer alleged in his book Clinton Cash that Clinton played a “central role” in approving the purchase of Uranium One by the Russian State Atomic Nuclear Agency. Schweizer speculated that Clinton did so because the Russians and people linked to the deal reportedly gave money to the Clinton Foundation and her husband. But these bogus allegations were quickly debunked. Schweizer and his publisher subsequently deleted numerous errors from the electronic version of his book.
Right-wing media recently revived the Uranium One story and were helped along by President Donald Trump and his Republican lawmaker allies (it is now the focus of a partisan House investigation and Congressional resolution to remove the former FBI Director Robert Mueller, who is currently investigating Trump).
On November 2, the Standard published an article titled “Fact Check: Did Hillary Clinton Personally Approve the Uranium One Deal?” The article was ostensibly fact-checking MSNBC’s Joy Reid, who said on her show over the weekend that Clinton did not sit on the panel that approved the deal. The article correctly explained, as other news organizations did back in 2015, that the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States approved the deal, and that then-Assistant Secretary Jose Fernandez sat on that nine-member panel, not Clinton herself. The article concluded, “Both Clinton and Fernandez publicly insist that Clinton did not intervene in the Uranium One deal. And no one with knowledge of the process has suggested that they are misrepresenting the truth.”
Good for the Standard to acknowledge that Clinton was not involved with the Uranium One deal. But unfortunately for the Standard’s ambitions to become a trustworthy fact-checker, the magazine itself falsely suggested, as recently as last month, that Clinton was involved in the deal. The subhead of its October 24 article stated: “As secretary of state, Hillary Clinton helped approve the deal that involved donors to the Clinton Foundation” -- a statement which the magazine’s November 2 fact-check debunked. And on October 9, 2016, a month before the presidential election, the Standard rehashed the flawed 2015 Times article that it claimed “many seem to have forgotten,” and cited its discussion of “the key roles apparently played by both the Clinton Foundation and then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Russia's successful acquisition of 20 percent of United States uranium reserves.”
Up until now, the Standard has had no dedicated fact-checking unit. The outlet recently posted a job opening for its first-ever fact-checker. The Standard’s efforts to form a neutral, independent fact-checking unit are a requirement for the outlet to partner with Facebook’s fact-checking consortium. And though the Standard has not yet been approved to join the Facebook fact-checking collaboration, its fact-check of a persistent right-wing media lie like the Uranium One myth suggests that the magazine is attempting to insulate its new fact-checking unit from the outlet’s explicit partisanship -- a “walled garden” of sorts. But this is useless if the misinformation it is debunking is pushed by the outlet itself. If the Standard’s news section pushes right-wing lies, and the Standard fact checks that very same misinformation, then is the fact-checking unit really a reputable source of information? These first stumbling blocks require us to ask the Standard: Will its new unit have to regularly fact-check its own outlet?
Visit mediamatters.nationbuilder.com/facebook-weekly-standard to learn more about how you can get involved in the effort to stop Facebook from partnering with the Weekly Standard to fact-check.