Friday, 20 July 2018

Fact Checker: The evidence contradicting Trump and Putin

Democracy Dies in Darkness
Fact Checker
The truth behind the rhetoric

The evidence contradicting Trump and Putin

After their summit meeting in Helsinki, President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin both cast doubt on the U.S. intelligence community's unanimous conclusion that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election.

Asked whether he believed his own intelligence agencies or Putin's denials, Trump said he had "confidence in both parties" and voiced suspicions about the FBI's handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation.

There's a mountain of evidence that shows Russia did interfere. The president's director of national intelligence, Daniel Coats, issued a statement pushing back on Trump and Putin's post-summit claims. After separate investigations, the Department of Justice and the House and Senate intelligence committees have all confirmed that Russia interfered. A grand jury convened by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III indicted 12 Russian intelligence officers three days before the summit.

Trump later reversed himself and then seemed to un-reverse himself and reverse himself again over the following days.

We fact-checked a series of dubious claims from both presidents, which ranged from Russia's black ops during the U.S. presidential election to debunked conspiracy theories about a Capitol Hill staffer.

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The variety of views on abortion rights

For such a hotly debated issue, the abortion rights question produces a variety of nuanced opinions among Americans. Polling shows that the key Supreme Court decision that guarantees abortion rights, Roe v. Wade, enjoys wide support among Americans (about 70 percent).

But when pollsters ask about the morality of abortion, about personal views or about abortion rights more generally, the level of support drops by 10 points or more.

With Justice Anthony M. Kennedy retiring from the Supreme Court, the issue has once again become a central topic of debate. Kennedy voted to uphold Roe v. Wade in 1992, but the judge Trump nominated to replace him, Brett M. Kavanaugh, may hold different views.

Some of the nuance in these polls gets lost amid the shuffle, so we wanted to highlight the interesting splits on this question and remind everyone that specificity is key in describing poll results.


The old adage …

"Falsehood flies, and the truth comes limping after it," Jonathan Swift wrote in 1710. Three centuries later, the rise of social media seems to have magnified the problem. A trio of professors at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has been studying how quickly false news stories spread on Twitter compared with accurate news stories. They looked at 126,000 conversation chains on Twitter from its inception in 2006 to 2017.

Their findings and conclusions — published in Science magazine and the Harvard Business Review — are a good reminder of the need for more vigilance on social media, and of the value of reputable news sources:

"What we found was both surprising and disturbing. False news traveled farther, faster, deeper, and more broadly than the truth in every category of information, sometimes by an order of magnitude, and false political news traveled farther, faster, deeper, and more broadly than any other type.

"The importance of understanding this phenomenon is difficult to overstate. And, in all likelihood, the problem will get worse before it gets better, because the technology for manipulating video and audio is improving, making distortions of reality more convincing and more difficult to detect. The good news, though, is that researchers, AI experts, and social media platforms themselves are taking the issue seriously and digging into both the nature of the problem and potential solutions."

We're always looking for fact-check suggestions.

You can also reach us via email, Twitter (@GlennKesslerWP, @mmkelly22, @rizzoTK or use #FactCheckThis), or Facebook (Fact Checker). Read about our rating scale here, and sign up here for our weekly Fact Checker newsletter.

Scroll down for this week's Pinocchio roundup.

— Salvador Rizzo

Rep. Claudia Tenney's claim that Trump's tax cuts already paid for themselves
They haven't. The Congressional Budget Office says they will actually drive up the deficit by $1.9 trillion over 10 years.
Phil Bredesen's claim that Tennessee's meth problem was 'cut in half'
The former Tennessee governor is slicing up statistics in a misleading way now that he's running for Senate.
The facts missing from Trump and Putin's news conference
The two presidents omitted key facts while answering questions about Russia's interference in the 2016 U.S. election.
How many Americans back abortion rights?
Do 7 in 10 Americans think Roe v. Wade should be overturned and abortion should be legal, as abortion rights advocates say? Or is it a 50/50 split, as Trump said?
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