Why is fact-checking powerful? To answer concisely: People have an innate love of truth, so when evidence and reason show a statement isn’t accurate, it matters. Fact-checking clears the haze of rhetoric and points toward hard truths. The purpose of politics fact-checking is to give citizens the information they need to govern themselves in a democracy.
Here are a few highlights from my fact-checking work with PolitiFact, where I currently serve as editor.
PolitiFact’s Pulitzer Prize. Our team won the Pulitzer Prize for national reporting in 2009 for fact-checking the 2008 election. Our entry included round-ups of fact-checks of the two nominees, John McCain and Barack Obama, as well as candidates from the primary contests (Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, Rudy Giuliani, Mitt Romney and others). I co-wrote stories with Robert Farley, one on Clinton’s travels as First Lady and another on the root causes of the 2008 financial crisis. I also wrote a fact-check on Sarah Palin, Barack Obama and “putting lipstick on a pig.”
Fact-checking health care. In 2009 and 2010, my fact-checking work focused on the drafting and passage of what is now the Affordable Care Act, also called Obamacare. Our team wrote hundreds of fact-checks about health care, and it’s one of the most fact-checked topics at PolitiFact.
As the law was being drafted in 2009, I reported and wrote “Health care reform: A simple explanation”; when passage was imminent, I expanded and revised that story in “Health care reform: A simple explanation, updated.”
I read the original text of the House health care bill in 2009 to report and write the story “E-mail ‘analysis’ of health bill needs a check-up,” which debunked a chain email that cited phony page numbers in the legislation. When HealthCare.gov was about to launch in 2013, I wrote a story summarizing the team’s key fact-checks of health care, “Top 16 myths about the health care law.”
About fact-checking. I wrote this story, “7 steps to better fact-checking”, to explain how we fact-check and to suggest search strategies for those new to fact-checking. I wrote a column reflecting on the dynamics of fact-checking after attending the 2014 Global Fact-checking Summit in London. My column about covering the 2016 presidential race and the Iowa caucuses talked about fact-checking from the trail. For the New York Times, I wrote about fact-checking Donald Trump and the proliferation of fact-checking in 2016. Previewing the 2016 presidential debates, I wrote a fact-checker’s advice for debate moderators.
PolitiFact’s Lie of the Year. PolitiFact selects one inaccurate statement each year that was the most significant. I’ve written or co-written the story explaining our choice from 2009 to 2016:
- 2009: The health care law has death panels.
- 2010: The health care law is a government takeover of health care.
- 2011: Republicans voted to end Medicare.
- 2012: Barack Obama sold Chrysler to Italians who moved Jeep to China.
- 2013: If you like your health care plan, you can keep it.
- 2014: Exaggerations about Ebola.
- 2015: The campaign misstatements of Donald Trump.
- 2016: Fake news.
Last updated Dec. 30, 2016