Factcheck.org | Media Matters for America


Tags ››› Factcheck.org
  • Warning To European Facebook Fact-Checkers: Here's How Conservatives Will Try To Discredit You

    ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN

    With Facebook’s recent announcements that it is partnering with fact-checking news organizations in the United States and Germany to fight fake news on its website, conservative media are trying to discredit those organizations by claiming their fact checks -- and fact-checking in general -- are too subjective, suggesting bias due to staffers’ backgrounds or the organizations’ funding sources, launching personal attacks, and making claims of censorship. As Facebook expands its partnerships in France, future fact-checkers in Europe will likely face similar lines of attack.

  • How Conservative Media Enabled Trump’s Outrageous Lies


    Presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump and conservative media figures repeatedly enabled each other to spread baseless smears and outright lies throughout the Republican presidential primary election cycle. Voices in conservative media repeatedly legitimized Trump’s debunked conspiracies, policy proposals, and statistics, some of which echoed longtime narratives from prominent right-wing media figures.

  • Media Claim GOP Debate Was "Substantive," Ignore That "The Substance Was Wrong"

    ››› ››› NICK FERNANDEZ

    Media are lauding CNN and the Republican presidential candidates for a "surprisingly substantive" March 10 debate that "focused on jobs, the economy, education, Cuba, Israel and even ... climate change." Despite this praise, fact-checkers are pointing to the candidates' "bruised realities" and "wrong" policy claims, saying the "debate was very substantive. Too bad that substance was all wrong."

  • Fact-Checkers Slam Trump's Latest "False" And "Literally Wrong" Claims About Trump U.

    ››› ››› PAM VOGEL

    Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump doubled down on his debunked defenses of his embattled Trump University, a real estate seminar business, during the Fox News March 3 GOP debate. Trump once again claimed that the now-defunct Trump U. "has an 'A' rating from the Better Business Bureau" and misrepresented the status of pending lawsuits against the business. Fact-checkers have weighed in, once again, on Trump's defenses of Trump U., concluding that his claims are "false," "literally wrong," "inaccurate," and "misleading."  

  • The State Of The Union On Wind Energy: A Tale Of Two Fact Checks

    Blog ››› ››› DENISE ROBBINS


    UPDATE (1/15/16): After publication of this post, The Washington Post updated its article to include the following: 

    Update: Supporters of wind power energy noted [the Utah State/Strata] report is backed by wind power critics, and said it's unfair to criticize the tax credits because fossil fuels have received many more government incentives than renewables over a longer period of time. They pointed to other sources showing wind's costs to be lower than for other electricity sources.


    The Washington Post's Fact Checker wrongly challenged President Obama's State of the Union comments about wind energy by citing a study linked to the oil billionaire Koch brothers. By contrast, FactCheck.org cited an Energy Department analyst who confirmed that Obama was correct when he said that wind energy is less expensive than fossil fuels in the regions of the country that he mentioned.

    During his January 13 State of the Union address, Obama highlighted the advancements renewable energy has made since he took office, citing the low price of wind energy as an example: "In fields from Iowa to Texas, wind power is now cheaper than dirtier, conventional power."

    The Post's Fact Checker conceded that the "cost of wind power surely is lower in those states than in others," but stated that "the average price of coal and natural gas ... is still cheaper than newer sources like wind," citing an analysis from Bloomberg New Energy Finance about the average cost of electricity nationwide (the Post attributed the stat to the Dallas Morning News).

    But The Post never actually addressed whether Obama was correct when he said that wind power is less expensive than fossil fuels in parts of Iowa and Texas.

    By contrast, FactCheck.org noted that Obama "rightly points out that in some areas of states like Iowa and Texas, wind energy is already cheaper than energy produced by coal or natural gas." Indeed, an analysis from investment banking firm Lazard released last November found that the high-end estimate for the unsubsidized cost of wind energy in Texas and the Midwest ($51 per megawatt hour) is less than the low-end estimate for the cost of all fossil fuel-based forms of energy nationwide (the cheapest being gas combined cycle, with a low-end estimate of $52 per megawatt hour):

    lazard wind

    lazard wind

    Obama's statement was also supported by an official from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), who said in an email to FactCheck.org: "Both our analysis and recent market trends suggest that wind is generally lowest in cost and most competitive in the Great Plains region of the country, roughly corresponding to 'Iowa to Texas.'" The EIA analyst noted that "wind is the low-cost source of power generation in the overnight hours in many states where it exists" and that wind energy has "out-compete[d] other sources in states such as Iowa and Texas during daytime hours." He also explained that when it comes to building new power production nationwide, "wind is generally in a competitive range with combined cycle [natural gas] and perhaps even lower cost than coal, on an unsubsidized basis."

    FactCheck.org also cited a March 2015 article from the Dallas Morning News, which noted that "in Texas, the country's largest wind energy producer, renewable energy plans count among the cheapest options available."

    The Post's Fact Checker also took issue with Obama's remarks by claiming he "overlook[ed] the impact of the federal tax credit that has driven much of the cost of wind power down." As purported evidence, the Post cited a report by the Institute of Political Economy at Utah State University and the research group Strata, without mentioning that either entity has received funding from the oil billionaire Koch brothers. The report was led by Randy Simmons, who is the former Charles G. Koch professor of political economy at Utah State and runs Utah State's "Koch Scholars" program. He is also a senior fellow at the Koch- and ExxonMobil-funded Property and Environment Research Center. According to the Center for Public Integrity, Strata received $653,000 from the Charles Koch Foundation in 2013 alone. Meanwhile, Utah State University received over $1.6 million from the Charles Koch Foundation between 2007 and 2013, according to data compiled by Greenpeace. Then in 2015, the university confirmed that its business school -- where the Institute of Political Economy resides -- would receive an additional $1.54 million from the Charles Koch Foundation, including $540,000 in salary and benefits for two tenure-track professors at the Institute of Political Economy.

    But while The Post claimed that Obama overlooked the impact of wind subsidies -- the focus of the Koch-linked report it cited -- The Post itself overlooked the fact that fossil fuels have historically received far more in government subsidies and handouts than wind or other forms of renewable energy, particularly in the beginning stages of those industries' expansion. A 2011 analysis by Management Information Services for the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) found that a whopping 70 percent of the energy subsidies handed out between 1950 and 2010 were given to the oil, natural gas, and coal industries, compared to only nine percent for renewables like wind and solar. And an analysis from DBL Investors shows how the oil and gas industries received far more in subsidies than renewables during the first 30 years of those subsidies' existence:


    The Post's Fact Checker did mention that experts predict unsubsidized wind energy will become cost-competitive with fossil fuels nationwide within the next decade. But only FactCheck.org managed to explain that the President was right when he noted that wind is already cheaper than fossil fuels in many parts of the country.

  • A Guide To The Right-Wing Media Myths About Syrian Refugees In The Wake Of The Terror Attacks In Paris

    ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN

    Right-wing media have repeatedly exploited the November 13 ISIS-led terror attacks in Paris to stoke fears about Syrian refugees posing a terror threat in the U.S., falsely claiming that the United States lacks a rigorous refugee vetting system, that most Syrian refugees are adult males "of fighting age," and that, like the attacks in Paris, the Boston Marathon bombing and Ft. Hood shooting were perpetrated by refugees.

  • Media Debunk Carly Fiorina's "Utterly Wrong" Debate Claim That 92 Percent Of Job Losses Under Obama Were Women

    ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN

    Media outlets called out Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina's "utterly wrong," "wildly misleading," and long discredited claim at the October 28 CNBC presidential debate that women held 92 percent of the jobs lost during President Obama's first term, pointing out that that statistic is recycled from Mitt Romney's presidential campaign and newer data completely contradicts Fiorina's claim: women actually gained jobs by the end of Obama's first term.

  • FactCheck.org Debunks Deceptively Edited Video Smearing Planned Parenthood

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN

    FactCheck.org debunked a deceptively edited video from the Center for Medical Progress smearing Planned Parenthood by falsely claiming the organization has been "selling" fetal tissue donations, pointing out that the unedited video shows the clinics just "want to cover their costs, not make money" when making donations.

    Discredited anti-choice organization Center for Medical Progress released a deceptively cut video claiming to have caught a Planned Parenthood official discussing the "selling [of] aborted baby parts" on July 14. Conservatives jumped on the opportunity to call to defund Planned Parenthood, despite mainstream media calling out the attack for "show[ing] nothing illegal."

    FactCheck.org further demolished the video's credibility in a July 21 post explaining that, despite Center for Medical Progress' claim, the video does not show Planned Parenthood violated any laws. Noting that the official in the video "repeatedly say[s] its clinics want to cover their costs, not make money, when donating fetal tissue from abortions for scientific research," the fact-check quotes "biorepository" experts explaining that the fees discussed in the video would not generate "a profit at that price" -- it'd just offset some of the costs associated with the process:

    We also asked experts in the use of human tissue for research about the potential for profit. Sherilyn J. Sawyer, the director of Harvard University and Brigham and Women's Hospital's "biorepository," told us that "there's no way there's a profit at that price." She continued in an email:

    Sawyer, July 20: In reality, $30-100 probably constitutes a loss for [Planned Parenthood]. The costs associated with collection, processing, storage, and inventory and records management for specimens are very high. Most hospitals will provide tissue blocks from surgical procedures (ones no longer needed for clinical purposes, and without identity) for research, and cost recover for their time and effort in the range of $100-500 per case/block. In the realm of tissues for research $30-100 is completely reasonable and normal fee.

    Jim Vaught, president of the International Society for Biological and Environmental Repositories and formerly the deputy director of the National Cancer Institute's Office of Biorepositories and Biospecimen Research, told us in an email that "$30 to $100 per sample is a reasonable charge for clinical operations to recover their costs for providing tissue." In fact, he said, the costs to a clinic are often much higher, but most operations that provide this kind of tissue have "no intention of fully recovering [their] costs, much less making a profit."

    Carolyn Compton, the chief medical and science officer of Arizona State University's National Biomarkers Development Alliance and a former director of biorepositories and biospecimen research at the National Cancer Institute, agreed that this was "a modest price tag for cost recovery." Compton told us in an email: " 'Profit' is out of the question, in my mind. I would say that whoever opined about 'profit' knows very little about the effort and expense involved in providing human biospecimens for research purposes."

  • Myths And Facts About The Koch Brothers

    ››› ››› DENISE ROBBINS

    Charles and David Koch, brothers and the oil barons who are already shaping the 2014 midterm elections according to recently leaked audio recordings, are often portrayed as environmentally responsible advocates of the free-market that are unfairly targeted by Democrats. However, their political influence, which benefits the fossil fuel industry and their own bottom line, is unparalleled.

  • Fox Nation Promotes Trump's Ongoing Birther Claims

    Blog ››› ››› ANDY NEWBOLD

    Continuing its pattern of promoting and embracing Donald Trump's birtherism, Fox Nation today is promoting Trump's second attempt to release his "official" birth certificate and in the process promotes yet another falsehood forwarded by the Trump camp.


    The article to which Fox Nation links, an ABCNews.com piece, reports that a member of Trump's staff, Thuy Colayco, wrote a brief memo falsely claiming that with the birth certificate released by the Obama 2008 presidential campaign "you would not be able to get a proper passport from the Post Office."

    What Fox Nation won't tell you is that the Trump memo is dead wrong. Back in 2008, Factcheck.org squashed this argument by showing not only that the document Obama released was legit, but that it "has all the elements the State Department requires for proving citizenship to obtain a U.S. passport." Factcheck.org noted that the State Department requirements include "your full name, the full name of your parent(s), date and place of birth, sex, date the birth record was filed, and the seal or other certification of the official custodian of such records." Upon review, all said elements were found "evident" on President Obama's certificate, thereby making Obama a citizen of the United States and eligible to obtain a passport in his name.

  • FactCheck.org weighs in against falsehoods surrounding stolen climate research emails

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    In a December 10 analysis, the nonpartisan Factcheck.org debunked several claims made about emails stolen from the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia and noted that news coverage "may have contributed to public confusion on the subject":

    [M]any of the e-mails that are being held up as "smoking guns" have been misrepresented by global-warming skeptics eager to find evidence of a conspiracy. And even if they showed what the critics claim, there remains ample evidence that the earth in getting warmer.

    Even as the affair was unfolding, the World Meteorological Organization announced on Dec. 8 that the 2000-2009 decade would likely be the warmest on record, and that 2009 might be the fifth warmest year ever recorded. (The hottest year on record was 1998.) This conclusion is based not only on the CRU data that critics are now questioning, but also incorporates data from the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). All three organizations synthesized data from many sources.

    Some critics claim that the e-mails invalidate the conclusions of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the world scientific body that reaffirmed in a 2007 report that the earth is warming, sea levels are rising and that human activity is "very likely" the cause of "most of the observed increase in global average temperatures since the mid-20th century." But the IPCC's 2007 report, its most recent synthesis of scientific findings from around the globe, incorporates data from three working groups, each of which made use of data from a huge number of sources - of which CRU was only one. The synthesis report notes key disagreements and uncertainties but makes the "robust" conclusion that "warming of the climate system is unequivocal." (A robust finding is defined as "one that holds under a variety of approaches, methods, models and assumptions, and is expected to be relatively unaffected by uncertainties.")


    Claims that the e-mails are evidence of fraud or deceit, however, misrepresent what they actually say. A prime example is a 1999 e-mail from Jones, who wrote: "I've just completed Mike's Nature trick of adding in the real temps to each series for the last 20 years (i.e., from 1981 onwards) and from 1961 for Keith's to hide the decline." Skeptics claim the words "trick" and "decline" show Jones is using sneaky manipulations to mask a decline in global temperatures. But that's not the case. Actual temperatures, as measured by scientific instruments such as thermometers, were rising at the time of the writing of this decade-old e-mail, and (as we've noted) have continued to rise since then. Jones was referring to the decline in temperatures implied by measurements of the width and density of tree rings. In recent decades, these measures indicate a dip, while more accurate instrument-measured temperatures continue to rise.


    News converage of the e-mails and the various claims about what they supposedly show may have contributed to public confusion on the subject. A Dec. 3 Rasmussen survey found that only 25 percent of adults surveyed said that "most scientists agree on global warming" while 52 percent said that "there is significant disagreement within the scientific community" and 23 percent said they were not sure. The truth is that over the 13 years covered by the CRU e-mails, scientific consensus has only become stronger as the evidence for global warming from various sources has mounted. Reports from the National Academies and the U.S. Global Change Research Program that analyze large amounts of data from various sources also agree, as does the IPCC, that climate change is not in doubt. In advance of the 2009 U.N. climate change summit, the national academies of 13 nations issued a joint statement of their recommendations for combating climate change, in which they discussed the "human forcing" of global warming and said that the need for action was "indisputable."

    Leading scientists are unequivocally reaffirming the consensus on global warming in the wake of "Climategate." White House science adviser John Holdren said at a congressional hearing on climate change: "However this particular controversy comes out, the result will not call into question the bulk of our understanding of how the climate works or how humans are affecting it." The American Association for the Advancement of Science released a statement "reaffirm[ing] the position of its Board of Directors and the leaders of 18 respected organizations, who concluded based on multiple lines of scientific evidence that global climate change caused by human activities is now underway, and it is a growing threat to society." The American Meteorological Society and the Union of Concerned Scientists have also reiterated their positions on climate change, which they say are unaffected by the leaked e-mails.


    "Climategate" exposed: Conservative media distort stolen emails in latest attack on global warming consensus

  • UPDATED: CBSNews.com, MSNBC.com, FactCheck.org falsely claim McCain never voted against troop funding bill

    ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI

    In reports on the vice presidential debate, CBSNews.com, MSNBC.com, and FactCheck.org all falsely claimed that Sen. Joe Biden's statement that Sen. John McCain "voted against funding the troops" in a 2007 appropriations bill was wrong. In fact, while McCain did not vote on a later version of the appropriations bill, he voted against the measure on March 29, 2007, and said at the time that he was opposing it, in part, because it "would establish a timeline" for U.S. withdrawal from Iraq.