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The Weekly Standard

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  • We reviewed every fact check from Facebook's new partner The Weekly Standard. There is a lot of partisan opinion. 

    14 pieces are attacks on fact-checking institutions for perceived liberal bias. 17 are opinion columns that reach conservative conclusions, defend Republican politicians, or attack Democratic politicians. 

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.

    The Weekly Standard is the latest organization to be approved by Facebook to join its fact-checking initiative, despite its political bias, record of serial misinformation, attacks on nonpartisan fact-checking institutions, and dismal fact-checking track record.

    In December 2016, Facebook announced its plans for an initiative to partner with the journalism organization Poynter and with fact-checking organizations to help address the problem of fake news and hoaxes on its platform. These third-party fact-checkers would need to be vetted by Poynter’s International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN) and would need to meet five principles: a commitment to nonpartisanship and fairness, a commitment to transparency of sources, a commitment to transparency of funding & organization, a commitment to transparency of methodology, and a commitment to open and honest corrections.

    After finding substantial fault in the Standard's fact-checking process, the ICFN verified it on the basis of just three weeks of new fact-checks that met it standards, despite Poynter's own three-month requirement and over the concerns of its own assessor. MMFA reviewed over 40 pieces of content tagged as fact-checks since early 2011 and found that:

    • Only 24 of the 43 pieces published on the Standard’s website categorized under the tags “fact check,” “fact checking,” and “Tws Fact Check” are actual fact checks.

    • 14 pieces are attacks on fact-checking institutions for perceived liberal bias.

    • 17 pieces are opinion columns that reach conservative conclusions, defend Republican politicians, or attack Democratic politicians.

    • One piece fact-checks a post from a website that describes itself as satirical.

    • One piece fact-checks a meme. Most of the websites the Standard took to task for sharing the meme noted the possibility that it was a hoax.

    • Only 12 pieces feature the byline of the Standard’s official fact-checker, Holmes Lybrand. Of those 12, only seven appear in the section that the Standard presents as its formal fact-checking operation (of those seven, it seems three were published within five minutes of each other).

    • One piece labeled a fact check was written by a Standard opinion writer.

    The Standard has a long record of misinformation and its catalogue of fact-check attempts are no exception; in his November 2017 analysis, the assigned Poynter assessor stated that he would recommend approval only “with several edits and revisions.” But the Standard’s Editor-in-Chief Stephen Hayes told The Guardian that the outlet considers its formal fact-checking operation to have started six months ago and that “the work really does speak for itself.”

    Hayes also touted the hiring of fact-checker Holmes Lybrand as proof of its fact-checking bona fides. As of this writing, Lybrand has published 12 pieces, only seven of which actually comply with IFCN’s requirement that fact-checks be archived on their own page. The rest can be found under its old “fact-checks” section alongside opinion columns.These hard-hitting pieces include a fact check of a claim it isn’t clear anyone was contesting, a non-answer ruling saying “it’s complicated” (in which the author also fails to disclose the conservative/libertarian leaning of one of the sources used for the analysis, the Pacific Legal Foundation), and a piece that included a correction for an inaccuracy.

    Lybrand’s previous fact-checking experience includes work at The Daily Caller News Foundation, where he directed much of his ammo at fact checking institutions and invoked a common right-wing talking point to criticize CNN for its use of a Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) hate-group map after a gunman claimed it as his inspiration for an attack. In addition, the description on Google for his personal website publicizes that he “presents conservative viewpoints on politics, culture, and current events.”


    Only one of these is the actual fact checks section

    Before its sudden interest in developing an actual methodology to correct misinformation, the Standard’s attitude toward fact-checking was very different. Its website tag “fact-check” houses a bulk of articles dating back to 2011 in which a popular theme of commentary is “fact-checkers are bad at their jobs.” At least 14 articles under this tag are criticisms of fact-checking organizations over perceived liberal bias. And, as if it’s already not hard enough to find the official “fact-checking vertical,” there’s also the wildly confusing existence of a third website tag called “fact checking,” housing more anti-fact-checker rants similar to those found under the “fact checks” tag, but not available there. The categorization fumble makes it clear that even the outlet itself has a hard time differentiating between its partisan and its purportedly objective content, raising the question of how a reader should know the difference.

    Facebook’s decision to include an explicitly partisan outlet like The Weekly Standard in its fact-checking fake news initiative shows that Facebook is more concerned with appeasing right-wing fury than with combating propaganda and fake news.

  • Facebook partners with conservative misinformer The Weekly Standard on fact-checking

    The Weekly Standard becomes the only partisan organization tasked with fact-checking for Facebook

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Conservative news outlet The Weekly Standard has been approved by Facebook to partner in fact-checking "false news," a partnership that makes little sense given the outlet’s long history of making misleading claims, pushing extreme right-wing talking points, and publishing lies to bolster conservative arguments.

    The Weekly Standard’s history of publishing false claims on topics such as the 2012 attacks on diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, the Affordable Care Act, tax cuts, and the war in Iraq, among many others, raises doubts that Facebook is taking the challenge of fact-checking seriously.

    As The Guardian reports, The Weekly Standard is the first “explicitly partisan” outlet to partner with Facebook in their effort to fact-check fake news. The decision by Facebook raises concerns over the decision to give a conservative opinion outlet with a history of misinformation unearned influence over the fact-checking process. From the December 6 report:

    A conservative news organization has been approved to partner with Facebook to fact-check false news, drawing criticisms that the social media company is caving to rightwing pressures and collaborating with a publication that has previously spread propaganda.

    The Weekly Standard, a conservative opinion magazine, said it is joining a fact-checking initiative that Facebook launched last year aimed at debunking fake news on the site with the help of outside journalists. The Weekly Standard will be the first right-leaning news organization and explicitly partisan group to do fact-checks for Facebook, prompting backlash from progressive organizations, who have argued that the magazine has a history of publishing questionable content.

    [...]

    “I’m really disheartened and disturbed by this,” said Angelo Carusone, president of Media Matters for America, a progressive watchdog group that published numerous criticisms of the Weekly Standard after the partnership was first rumored in October. “They have described themselves as an opinion magazine. They are supposed to be thought leaders.”

    Calling the magazine a “serial misinformer”, Media Matters cited the Weekly Standard’s role in pushing false and misleading claims about Obamacare, Hillary Clinton and other political stories.

  • Facebook reportedly plans to work with The Weekly Standard, a serial misinformer, on fact-checking

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Facebook, a platform plagued with fake news, is reportedly looking at teaming up with the conservative outlet The Weekly Standard despite its shoddy history on getting facts correct.

    Quartz White House correspondent Heather Timmons reported that Facebook plans to enlist The Weekly Standard “as a fact-checking partner, according to several people briefed on talks between the two companies.”

    As Media Matters has documented, Facebook has served as a conduit for the flow of fake news stories to spread. The platform has recently faced scrutiny for having such lax advertisement policies that a Russian company was able to buy political ads during the 2016 election. The tech company has partnered with fact-checkers such as Snopes, PolitiFact, and the Poynter Institute to combat its fake news problem (though the implementation of that process has faced numerous problems).

    Timmons quoted a source saying the move to bring on The Weekly Standard was an effort to “appease all sides” by adding a conservative outlet to Facebook’s stable of fact-checking partners. The platform’s past attempts to respond to conservative concerns have gone poorly, however. Last year, Facebook fired the human editorial staff responsible for writing summaries for stories in its “Trending” section after they were accused of being biased against conservatives. Shortly thereafter, as The Washington Post noted, Facebook was boosting false information and “trending fake news.”

    And The Weekly Standard would hardly suffice as a reliable fact-checking partner given its history. Stephen Hayes, the editor in chief of The Weekly Standard, was a leading misinformer about the Iraq War. He authored a 2004 book with a glaringly false premise: The Connection: How al Qaeda's Collaboration with Saddam Hussein Has Endangered America. Reporter Spencer Ackerman wrote of Hayes:

    Hayes, in the Standard, has made a career out of pretending Saddam and Al Qaeda were in league to attack the United States. He published a book -- tellingly wafer-thin and with large type in its hardcover edition -- called "The Connection." One infamous piece even suggested that Saddam might have aided the 9/11 attack. Hayes can be relied on to provide a farrago of speciousness every time new information emerges refuting his deceptive thesis. Unsurprisingly, Cheney has repeatedly praised Hayes's work, telling Fox News, "I think Steve Hayes has done an effective job in his article of laying out a lot of those connections."

    William Kristol, the publication’s founder and current editor at large, is also notorious for his disastrous punditry about about the war. He once stated that American and alliance forces would be greeted as “liberators” in Iraq and that “we'll be vindicated when we discover the weapons of mass destruction and when we liberate the people of Iraq.”

    More recently, The Weekly Standard was forced to add an editor’s note to a February piece that attacked Rumana Ahmed after she resigned from the National Security Council.  The outlet falsely claimed that Ahmed was a “political appointee in the Obama White House” who was given a “civil service position” right before Obama left office. As The Atlantic noted in response, “Ahmed held a term appointment that was not set to expire until the summer of 2018,” and her type of appointment “‘would not ordinarily be described as a political appointment.’”

    The publication itself has expressed skepticism of fact-checking. Senior writer Mark Hemingway wrote in 2012 that he has “serious problems with the very idea of independent media ‘fact checking’ organizations, but compared to their peers, PolitiFact has distinguished themselves as being particularly bad at what they do. Ignoring them, or failing that, constantly reminding people they should be skeptical is a good place to start.”

  • Weekly Standard Writer Slams Trump Over Report That He Might Consider Nuclear First Strike

    John Noonan: “Does [Trump] Understand Just How F’ing Dangerous That Is?”

    Blog ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON

    A conservative national security expert and Weekly Standard writer responded with horror to a report that Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has repeatedly asked his foreign policy advisers, “Why can't we use nuclear weapons?"

    During an August 3 interview with former CIA and NSA director Michael Hayden, MSNBC host Joe Scarborough relayed how “a foreign policy expert” advising Trump told Scarborough that Trump had asked the adviser three times, “If we have [nuclear weapons], why can’t we use them?” According to the network, Scarborough only learned of Trump’s baffling approach to the United States’ nuclear arsenal “in the last few days” before reporting it. From Morning Joe:

    Conservative national security analyst John Noonan -- who periodically writes about national defense issues for The Weekly Standard and previously served as an adviser to 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and to 2016 presidential hopeful Jeb Bush -- slammed Trump on Twitter. Noonan’s nuclear expertise stems from his U.S. Air Force service, including work as a missile-launch officer at a nuclear silo in Wyoming. Noonan wondered if Trump understands “how F’ing dangerous” his foreign policy stances are, hit the nominee for “undoing 6 decades of proven deterrence theory,” and lamented the position of officers down the chain of command who are “[w]ondering if they’ll soon answer to a madman”:

    Noonan was not alone in criticizing Trump’s reported interest in using nuclear weaponry. Steve Breen, an editorial cartoonist for the right-leaning San Diego Union-Tribune, mocked the nominee with a depiction of a hypothetical President Trump being physically restrained from launching a nuclear assault in response to criticism from a constituent in Wichita, Kansas:

  • Trump Draws Media Criticism For His Connections To Russia After His “Downright Frightening” Statements On NATO

    ››› ››› ALEX MORASH

    Media figures have raised questions about Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump's connections, financial and otherwise, to Russia after he told The New York Times that he would honor NATO obligations to defend a member nation from a potential attack by Russia only if the member nation had “fulfilled their obligations to us.” Media figures have called the remarks “downright frightening,” possible evidence of a “non-tacit alliance” between Putin and Trump, and a possible cause for “an urgent investigation into whether Putin is interfering in the current American election.”

  • Media Fell For Bogus “New Information” Spin In GOP Benghazi Report

    ››› ››› TYLER CHERRY

    Several media outlets falsely reported that the final report released by Republicans on the House Select Committee on Benghazi contained “new information,” when in fact all of the “key findings” in the report had been previously reported. Committee Republicans reportedly released “embargoed ‘exclusives’” strategically to manipulate reporters into presenting details in the releases as new information.

  • These Conservative Media Figures Are Holding Out Hope That Delegates Will Dump Trump At The GOP Convention
     

    ››› ››› DANIEL ANGSTER

    Prominent voices in conservative media are holding on to the hope that delegates will block Donald Trump as the GOP’s presidential nominee at the Republican National Convention (RNC). Some have made the case that a close reading of the RNC rules shows delegates are not officially bound to vote for Trump, while others are openly calling for him to be set aside in favor of an alternative conservative nominee.

  • Conservative Media Fight Over David French Trial Balloon

    Blog ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS

    Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol, who has long advocated for a third party alternative to the presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump, announced his desire to recruit National Review writer David French as his chosen candidate. French’s coworkers and some core Never Trump figures supported the possible candidacy, while many other right-wing media figures called it “embarrassing” and “preposterous.”

    The Weekly Standard's Bill Kristol Pushes National Review's David French To Enter Presidential Race

    Wash. Post: "David French Is Urged To Enter Presidential Race As Independent." On May 31 The Washington Post reported that Bill Kristol, editor of The Weekly Standard, sought to recruit National Review writer David French as a third-party conservative presidential candidate. French has not stated whether or not he will run:

    Tennessee attorney David French, who in recent years has become a prominent right-wing writer, is being urged by some conservative leaders to make a late entry into the 2016 presidential race as an independent candidate, according to two people close to him.

    William Kristol, the editor of The Weekly Standard magazine and a former Republican White House official, is at the fore of the draft effort. A group of well-known evangelical leaders and GOP operatives is also involved in the discussions, the people said, requesting anonymity to discuss private conversations. 

    [...]

    When reached by phone Tuesday, French’s wife, Nancy, declined to comment. David French did not respond to multiple calls and emails over the past weekend. [The Washington Post, 5/31/16]

    Some Never Trump And National Review Figures Support A French Candidacy

    National Review: "French Is Preposterous? This Year?" National Review blogger Mona Chen defended Bill Kristol's selection of French for a third party bid, calling for "an honest man in this contest." Chen asserted that since “the Democrats are about to nominate a woman who may be indicted” and the Republicans “a reality star who knows nothing of policy, but ... threatens to undermine" the GOP itself, French has a viable opportunity to enter the presidential race:

    Twitter tittered with a combination of contempt and amusement yesterday when word leaked that it might be our own David French who is considering an independent run for president. On MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” — that great “herd of independent minds” — the same tone prevailed (except for Mark Halperin, who noted that much would depend upon whether French could get financial backing). Mika Brzezinski scoffed that Bill Kristol needed a vacation, and the assembled crew were unanimous that French lacks the stature to enter the race. 

    In any normal year, they would certainly have a point. But look around people. This is the year when the Democrats are about to nominate a woman who may be indicted. The Republicans are nominating a reality star who knows nothing of policy but excels at schoolyard taunts, and threatens to undermine the one party that, until recently, stood (broadly) for the Constitution. But David French is out of his league? French is a graduate of Harvard Law. While Trump was bedding married women and allegedly defrauding strivers who signed up for Trump University, French was earning a bronze star in Operation Iraqi Freedom. He’s a major in the US Army Reserve. He’s a bestselling author of, most recently, The Rise of ISIS: A Threat We Can’t Ignore and countless brilliant articles. He is past president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education and has worked for the Alliance Defending Freedom and the American Center for Law and Justice. [National Review, 6/1/16]

    National Review Editor Jim Geraghty: “If A David French Candidacy Gets All Of America To See The Alt-Right Clearly, He’s Done A National Service.”

    [Twitter.com, 5/31/16]
     

    Talk Radio Host Charlie Sykes: “David French Is A Class Act, Would Be An Impressive Candidate.”

    [Twitter.com, 5/31/16]

    RedState's Leon H. Wolf: "French ... Will Easily Get My Vote." RedState.com writer Leon H. Wolf wrote that French “will easily get my vote over any of the options that are currently on the ballot.” Even though Wolf conceded that French has little realistic chance to win, he asserted that he will never “bow before the con man who bragged that I would support him even after he destroyed my party.”

    I guess some are determined not to give French a shot on the basis that he can’t possibly win. Personally, I could not care less. A realistic chance of anyone who deserves the office winning left the building a long time ago.

    I don’t have a duty or obligation of any kind to vote for a candidate who might win. The only duty I have – to myself or anyone else – is to vote for the candidate who is most deserving of my vote. Hell, by the time election day of 2008 rolled around, McCain had no chance, and we all voted for him, didn’t we?

    If French really does run, he will easily get my vote over any of the options that are currently on the ballot, in addition to my help gathering signatures and whatever spare money I can afford. Not only will he deserve it, but I won’t submissively tuck my tail between my legs and bow before the con man who bragged that I would support him even after he destroyed my party. [RedState.com, 6/1/16]

    Erick Erickson: “I’d Gladly Vote For David French Over Either Hillary Clinton Or Her Donor Donald Trump.”

    [Twitter.com, 5/31/16]

    Erickson: “I’d Be Happy To Participate In The #FrenchRevolution.”

    [Twitter.com, 5/31/16]

    Daily Caller's Matt Lewis: “I Will Vote For David French … But We Could Probably Hold Our Convention In A Phone Booth.”

    [Twitter.com, 5/31/16]

    Ben Shapiro: “Voting For David French Over Hillary And Trump Would Be The Easiest Call Ever.”

    [Twitter.com, 5/31/16]

    Others In Right-Wing Media Ridicule The "Embarrassing" Potential Candidacy Of French

    Hot Air: Bill Kristol Is "Now Pulling Fans Out Of The Stands To Play QB." Conservative blogger Allahpundit ridiculed Kristol's choice of French in a May 31 blog post on HotAir.com:

    This was who he had in mind with that much-hyped tweet this weekend that had everyone wondering if Romney had reconsidered? An … NRO writer? Trump fans are forever deriding #NeverTrump as a “movement” consisting of, like, six guys at National Review and the Weekly Standard. And now here we are.

    [...]

    As it turns out, Kristol actually touted French as a potential independent candidate in a piece published in the Standard just a few days ago. No one put two and two together this weekend, though, presumably because, um, no one thought he could possibly be serious.

    [...]

    There’s a sense that, having exhausted everyone on the team’s depth chart, you’re now pulling fans out of the stands to play QB. I’m not sure either what the value is in picking a conservative challenger to Trump who’s even less well known than Gary Johnson is. [HotAir.com, 5/31/16]

    Breitbart News: “It’s Likely This Will End Up In The Ash Heap Of Kristol’s History Of Inaccurate Positions.” Breitbart News dismissed Kristol’s selection of French, writing in a May 31 post that “it’s likely this will end up in the ash heap of Kristol’s history of inaccurate predictions”:

    Kristol created a media firestorm after tweeting that an “impressive” third party candidate would run with a “real chance.” If David French is all Kristol can come up with, it’s likely this will end up in the ash heap of Kristol’s history of inaccurate predictions. [Breitbart News, 5/31/16]

    Guy Benson: French Candidacy “Will Represent An Embarrassing Fizzle For A ‘Never Trump’ Movement That Once Seemed Potent. Or At Least Relevant.” Townhall political editor Guy Benson called French’s selection by Kristol an “embarrassing fizzle” for the Never Trump movement in a May 31 post:

    And the grand reveal is...National Review writer David French? And it's not even confirmed? Don't get me wrong: French is a decorated Iraq war veteran, a strong writer, and a principled conservative whose stalwart commitment to religious liberty is admirable, even if one disagrees from time to time. … He's an impressive man. The impressiveness of his team -- if this presidential run ever actually comes to pass -- remains to be seen. But the notion that a relatively little-known writer could parachute into this race at such a late juncture and have a prayer of winning even a single state is, frankly, preposterous. 

    [...]

    So with due respect to the potential candidate, and with strong sympathy for its most prominent backers, I must say that if the French report proves accurate, it will represent an embarrassing fizzle for a 'Never Trump' movement that once seemed potent. Or at least relevant. Instead, it will have roared in like a lion after Indiana, then trotted impotently and inexorably toward the political abyss ahead of California. [Townhall, 5/31/16]

    Hot Air's Ed Morrissey: "I Like And Respect David, But This Can’t Be Right.”

    [Twitter.com, 5/31/16]

    Morrissey: A French Candidacy Is “Like Picking George Will To Pitch For Your Fantasy Baseball Team.”

    [Twitter.com, 5/31/16]

    NY Times Columnist Ross Douthat: “Both David French And Bill Kristol Will Be Mocked If French Is The #NeverTrump Candidate.”

    [Twitter.com, 5/31/16]

  • Break Out The Popcorn: Bill Kristol Goes After WSJ Editorial Board Over Trump Support

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    Kristol and Trump

    The editor of one of the conservative establishment’s most influential magazines is now lashing out at the nation’s most prominent right-wing newspaper editorial board over whether conservatives should run a third-party candidate if Donald Trump is the Republican presidential nominee.

    With Trump on the verge of clinching his party’s nomination, the conservative movement is in shambles. Dozens of right-wing commentators have come forward to say that they will never vote for Trump, either due to his bigotry and authoritarian tendencies or because of his alleged progressive positions. Those conservatives have said they will stay home, vote for the Democratic candidate, or support a third-party candidate.

    Bill Kristol, the editor of the Weekly Standard and a prominent conservative activist who bears significant responsibility for Sarah Palin ending up on a national ticket, is part of that faction. In February, he said that he “would try to recruit a real conservative” to run an independent campaign if Trump became the Republican nominee.

    But a large group of conservatives are either openly rooting for the New York businessman or have come to terms with the likelihood that he will be their party’s standard-bearer.

    The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board joined that final group this morning, with a piece criticizing any effort to enlist a third-party candidate (Rupert Murdoch, the paper’s owner, has said that the party would be “mad not to unify” around Trump). The editors write:

    Readers know our doubts about Mr. Trump, on policy and as an autumn candidate. His nomination still isn’t guaranteed, and the polls show him badly trailing Mrs. Clinton, despite her many flaws. Third-party advocates say the right candidate would give conservatives an honorable alternative to Trump-Hillary. They say a third-party candidate could win enough states to throw the election into the House of Representatives, which would then presumably choose the non-Trump Republican.

    This isn’t impossible, but then again it almost never happens. The usual presidential result is that the party that splinters hands the election to the other, more united party. 

    The editors conclude that a third-party conservative candidate would be devastating to the party’s House and Senate candidates: “[D]ueling presidential candidates would put House and Senate Republican candidates in a perilous spot. Do they support Mr. Trump or the third-party conservative? If they are forced to choose, they could alienate enough GOP voters to ensure defeat.”

    Hours later, Kristol threw down the gauntlet at the Journal. Pointing to Trump’s “crazed” comments this morning linking Sen. Ted Cruz’s father to the assassination of John F. Kennedy, Kristol declared that “serious people, including serious conservatives, cannot acquiesce in Donald Trump as their candidate.”

    Kristol savaged the Journal for prioritizing “political prudence,” concluding that regardless of the political implications, “Donald Trump should not be president of the United States. The Wall Street Journal cannot bring itself to say that. We can say it, we do say it, and we are proud to act accordingly.”

    The Journal and Kristol may both be right: Giving conservatives no choice but to support Trump in the general election may be better for the party’s congressional candidates (though it also makes it impossible for them to distance themselves from their incredibly unpopular nominee). But supporting Trump in spite of what the Journal gingerly describes as their “doubts” about his candidacy is quite obviously an act of raw political cowardice.

    It’s only May, and the looming Trump candidacy is already dividing even the establishment’s stalwarts. Who knows what the next six months will bring. But it will surely be fun to watch from the outside.