Friday, 14 September 2018

Fact Checker: 5,000! 🎉🎊🎈

Democracy Dies in Darkness
Fact Checker
The truth behind the rhetoric

5,000! 🎉🎊🎈

The president of the United States has surpassed 5,000 false or misleading claims since his inauguration on Jan. 20, 2017. It's an incredible feat of serial mendacity. Never in history have there been so many dead cherry trees in the land of Washington.

To be precise, that's 5,001 claims in 601 days, according to The Fact Checker's database tracking and analyzing all of Trump's suspect statements.

This stream of falsehoods and misdirections has become a defining feature of the Trump presidency. Untruths are a staple of the president's speeches, interviews and tweets, Cabinet meetings, bilateral summits and news conferences, bill signings, video messages and campaign rallies. Sometimes he makes false claims because he's confusing his talking points on the economy; sometimes he tells demonstrable lies about his alleged affairs. And as time has gone by, Trump has only increased his rate of making false or misleading claims.

The average over Trump's presidency is 8.3 claims a day. But in the nine days after Labor Day, his rate was nearly four times higher: 32 per day.

To illustrate this dramatic acceleration, let's take a look at Sept. 6, when Trump made 74 false or misleading claims, nearly nine times the daily average of his presidency. Now let's take Sept. 7 — a new daily record, with an astonishing 125 false or misleading claims. Trump spoke for nearly 120 minutes that day, which means he made roughly 1.04 false or misleading claims per minute.

All 5,001 claims are categorized and fact-checked in our searchable database, and we will keep adding more as they come.

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Not what he said

Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) took exception with one of Brett Kavanaugh's answers during his confirmation hearing for the Supreme Court. Harris, a former attorney general of California, posted a video on Twitter in which the nominee referred to "abortion-inducing drugs." She said it was telegraphic proof that Kavanaugh would dismantle abortion rights.

"There's no question that he uncritically used the term 'abortion-inducing drugs,' which is a dog whistle term used by extreme anti-choice groups to describe birth control," Harris tweeted.

Except, Kavanaugh never blew this dog whistle. When he said "abortion-inducing drugs," he was describing the position held by a group of litigants that had come before the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, where he is currently a judge. Harris tweeted a video with Kavanaugh's comments, but that video was deceptively edited to remove the phrase "they said" — which would have made it clear that Kavanaugh was quoting others, not expressing his own views.

We gave Four Pinocchios to Harris and urged other Democrats to drop this talking point.


More art than science

Key to any good fact-checking operation is having strong standards and rules. But there's no one way to go about it.

Case in point: A study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology found wide variances in the way science publications in English-speaking countries fact-check their articles. (This kind of fact-checking is different from what we do here. Magazines and journals in many cases have a rigorous fact-checking process to vet articles before publication. But those fact-checkers aren't publishing work of their own.)

MIT researchers surveyed 79 science publications and found that only one-third or so have dedicated fact-checkers. "About 15% said they rely on copy editors for fact checking," the study added. "Others place the onus on journalists and editors, and about a third have no formal fact-checking procedures in place at all."

Among other interesting findings: 87 percent of fact-checkers in the study did not have a science degree; science publications tend to invest in fact-checking for long-form articles more than for shorter news items; and digital publications are more likely to fact-check their articles than print publications (68 percent vs. 66 percent).

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

President Trump's Four-Pinocchio complaint about the Maria death toll figures
There have been many numbers regarding the death toll in Puerto Rico, but Trump is way off course to suggest they are still in double digits.
Did Brett Kavanaugh signal he supports 'going after birth control'?
Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) misleadingly trimmed crucial words uttered by the Supreme Court nominee in a discussion of a case concerning access to contraceptives.
Obama's claim that Trump's Obamacare moves have 'already cost' 3 million people health insurance
Obama knocked President Trump for a decline in the number of insured Americans, but he used a cherry-picked number. Other surveys show little change.
Obama adviser running for Congress claims he also worked for Bush
Andy Kim's campaign ad says he worked for Democratic and Republican administrations. But he worked only five months in an entry-level job under President Bush.
President Trump has made more than 5,000 false or misleading claims
In 601 days, the president has made 5,001 false or misleading claims. He passed 2,000 in January, so the pace has increased significantly.
Anatomy of a Trump rally: 68 percent of claims are false, misleading or lacking evidence
For a second time, we checked the accuracy of every factual claim made by the president at one of his rallies. It's a long list, and not very pretty.
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