CNN host Brian Stelter asked a big question on his Sunday show. “What’s the future of fact checking now that Trump is out of office?” He proclaimed it was “fraught with complexity and allegations of bias and shouts of false equivalence.”
This is not complex. In 2016, a Rasmussen poll found only 29 percent of the public trusted media “fact-checking” of the candidates. There’s not just “allegations” of bias, but easy and daily confirmation of bias.
Stelter tried to insist – on behalf of his network – that the fact-checking focus was now on Biden. CNN fact-checker Daniel Dale explained “it's basically more like a smattering of falsehood than the daily avalanche we got from Trump, but he's not perfect.” Dale has tried to demonstrate he’s checking Biden, issuing an online report on his first month in office, evaluating 40 presidential statements.
But there’s a catch. Dale’s becoming less visible. Mediaite noted on February 20 that this CNN fact-checker was featured on-air or mentioned by name more than once every other day last year. But exposure dipped noticeably after the election, and since Biden’s inauguration, “Dale has only appeared on the network once. And that appearance, last Friday, was to fact-check Donald Trump’s lawyers.” Then Dale showed up with Stelter the next morning.
Stelter also interviewed PolitiFact editor-in-chief Angie Drobnic Holan. Is PolitiFact obsessed with fact-checking Biden? No.
In the first four weeks after Biden took the oath on January 20, PolitiFact had issued two Biden fact checks. Two! Then last week, they published three checks on Biden’s statements at the CNN town hall, since that was apparently a little too prominent to ignore. They added one more on February 22. So that’s six fact-checks reviewing the president so far.
Let’s compare that to fact checks defending Biden. In the same time frame, PolitiFact issued at least 19 fact checks on Biden’s critics, and all but one of them was proclaimed “Mostly False,” “False,” or “Pants on Fire.” (There was one “Half True.”) There’s apparently no such thing as a Biden critique that’s “True.”
Then Stelter made it worse, asking the PolitiFact boss about Gov. Andrew Cuomo: “Do you think Cuomo has been given an easy break by the media, and is that changing?” This is a humorous question coming from the Cuomo Brothers Comedy Network. But Angie Holan’s answer on Cuomo’s nursing-home record was a doozy.
“I think the situation in New York is really complicated,” she insisted. “We don't see hard evidence that that made a significant difference in COVID deaths. If you look at the statistics, New York is about having the same numbers as other states around the country. And the issue was employees, workers in the nursing homes who didn't realize they were bringing COVID-19 into the nursing homes. So, it's a really complicated situation. There's not clear-cut answers here.”
The “fact” guru is claiming the most serious issue was nursing-home staffers infecting the elderly, not the recovering COVID patients?
In fact, PolitiFact is guilty of giving Cuomo an “easy break” last year. There are only ten fact-checks of Gov. Cuomo since last January, and six of them were “True” or “Mostly True.” Two were declared “Half True,” and two were “Mostly False.” There was absolutely nothing rated “False” or “Pants on Fire.”
If you isolate just the COVID fact checks, there are seven fact checks of Cuomo, and the first “Mostly False” came on June 13. The other one was October 16.
This is why people should laugh uproariously when Holan defends her site by claiming “PolitiFact seeks to present true facts, unaffected by agenda or biases.”