Friday, 27 July 2018

Fact Checker: The president who cried ‘fake news’

Democracy Dies in Darkness
Fact Checker
The truth behind the rhetoric

The president who cried 'fake news'

President Trump often cries "fake news" when he doesn't like what's being reported, even when he knows it's the truth.

For example, Trump said he knew nothing about any hush money paid to his alleged mistresses Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal during the 2016 campaign. But we later found out that he did know. Trump claimed he had no role crafting his son's misleading statement about a meeting with a Russian lawyer during the campaign. But his attorneys later conceded Trump had dictated this statement.

The moral of this story is that some of Trump's claims can be fact-checked quickly — say, when he cites spurious data — but other claims, particularly those involving Russia, can be debunked only after reporters and investigators dig up a full factual record. The process can take days, weeks or months.

It's easy to lose the thread, and there's a risk these types of claims will end up forgotten in a memory hole. So we took out our retrospectoscope and revisited several Trump statements that, in the fullness of time, were revealed to be false.

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Nielsen's claim that U.S. election systems weren't hacked to favor Trump

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen — one of the top U.S. officials tasked with safeguarding elections — claimed that Russia's "attempts to interfere in our election infrastructure" in 2016 were nonpartisan.

The Kremlin tried to hack into election systems in nearly half the U.S. states, and some of their attempts were successful, according to the Department of Homeland Security. The Russians stole records with personal information about 500,000 voters in one state, and they hacked and impersonated a private vendor that offers e-voting systems, according to an indictment filed by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III.

There's no evidence these efforts were meant to favor one political party, Nielsen claimed, sounding a lot like her boss, President Trump, who has repeatedly dismissed Russia's interference in the 2016 election.

But Nielsen's claim is mostly false, and we gave her Three Pinocchios. U.S. intelligence agencies unanimously found that "Putin and the Russian Government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump" and that "the Kremlin's campaign aimed at the U.S. election featured disclosures of data obtained through Russian cyber operations; intrusions into U.S. state and local electoral boards; and overt propaganda."

The Russians ran a multi-pronged campaign, the U.S. intelligence community says, and the goal was to help Trump win.


Facebook plays footsie with conspiracy theorists

Millions of people get their news from Facebook, but the company's laissez-faire approach toward conspiracy theories and violent rhetoric has created an opening for a vicious breed of misinformation.

Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg says that he finds "Holocaust denial deeply offensive" but that the people peddling this ahistorical conspiracy theory on his platform might be unintentionally denying the systematic and exhaustively documented murder of millions of Jews and minorities in Nazi Germany.

"I just think, as abhorrent as some of those examples are, I think the reality is also that I get things wrong when I speak publicly," Zuckerberg told Kara Swisher of Recode. Let that explanation sink in for a minute.

It's not just the Holocaust. As BuzzFeed News reported, the conspiracy theorist Alex Jones of InfoWars can hop on his verified Facebook page, post a video claiming falsely that Robert Mueller raped children and covered for pedophiles, pantomime shooting Mueller, and face no consequences. "A Facebook spokesperson told BuzzFeed News that Jones' comments do not violate the company's community standards as they are not a credible statement of intent to commit violence," BuzzFeed reported.

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

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Kirstjen Nielsen's claim that U.S. election systems weren't targeted to favor Trump
The Homeland Security secretary left out that Russians apparently gained access to U.S. election systems and stole 500,000 voter records in one state.
No, HHS Secretary Azar did not say 'zero tolerance' children received a 'great act of American generosity'
An attack ad by an abortion-rights group cites HHS Secretary's Alex Azar's quote out of context.
Over four days, false claims dominated Trump's Twitter feed
We rounded up 14 false or misleading tweets, ranging from the Russia investigation to NATO funding to North Korea to the price of soybeans.
Once again, 'fake news' decried by Trump turns out to be true
The Trump administration has a consistent habit of flatly denying media reports that turn out to be correct.
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