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In case people are not reading the comments on our results, Andrew Tyndall made some criticism of our recent Mike Murphy fact-check which is worth reading:

This first fact check fails. If Murphy had said: “Violent crime in Arizona has increased during the Obama administration” then the FBI statistics from early 2009 would be relevant.

The force of the “…as a result of unauthorized immigration…” however means that even in a general climate of declining crime, that small subset of violent crime that happens to “result” (whatever that means) from unauthorized immigration may have increased, against the trend. The FBI statistics do not address that question.

In this instance, crowd-sourcer Kelly can be excused, since Meet The Facts’ own paraphrase contains that same error. Murphy did not say that “AZ violent crime is up due to unauthorized immigration” as this post’s headline claims.

Or perhaps it is the transcript that is confusing.

If Murphy meant: “Violent crime in Arizona, as a result of unauthorized immigration, has increased during the Obama administration” then the declining crime rate would make him FALSE.

The lack of commas makes Meet the Facts FALSE instead.

This seems like valid criticism. When I (at least) watched the show and then reread the transcript and wrote the summary post of checkable statements, I understood the context to be as we had outlined. That Mr. Murphy was stating that violent crime had increased in Arizona as a result of a failure by the Obama administration to control unauthorized immigration. Then that the Obama administration had done nothing to counter unauthorized immigration in Arizona. These are some standard talking points that some conservative politicians and pundits are employing around the immigration debate. (examples here, here, here, and here) That being said, this was not an easy “quote” to use in the sense it was broken up like it was, and not grounded in specifics.

Let’s look at the whole thing. (In the original summary post I had condensed Mr. Murphy’s statements.)

Continue reading…

Getting Ready to Kick Some Facts

For the past two weeks Paul and I have been buried with school and Meet the Facts has suffered because of it. We have just been unable to get to some of the statements from each of the last two shows, or we have gotten to them but were unable to find enough information to reach a conclusion. While we will never promise to check 100% of the available statements every single week, we will certainly strive to do better.

Now school is almost out and with more free time and energy – and with the larger team we are working to build – our hope is to set up Meet the Facts to run for as long as it has to – and to run well. We plan to push ahead full bore again starting with Sunday’s show. We’ll also be adding some features and most likely tweaking the site design over the next few weeks.

Most of all we would love your help. On Sunday we’ll post whatever seem to be the most relevant, checkable statements from the show. Anyone is welcome to contribute their research and analysis of those statements. Then we’ll figure out what’s what and post the results.

Please email us if you have any comments or suggestions, or best of all – if you would like to join the effort.

Here’s the preview of this Sunday’s show:


Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY)
Republican Leader

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY)
Senate Judiciary Committee

A critical moment for the future of the Court. What do we know about Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan and which direction she will take the Court? What can we expect from the Senate as the confirmation battle begins? We’ll talk exclusively to two key decision-makers in the process: the leader of the Senate Republicans, Mitch McConnell in his first sit down interview since Kagan’s nomination and a leading democrat on the powerful Judiciary Committee, Senator Chuck Schumer. Plus, how will this fight impact immigration and Wall Street reform? And what is the latest on the government response to the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico?


Jonathan Alter
Senior Editor & Columnist, Newsweek Magazine
Author, “The Promise: President Obama, Year One”

Peggy Noonan
Columnist, Wall Street Journal

Mike Murphy
Republican Strategist

Bob Shrum
Democratic Strategist

Our roundtable weighs in on a busy week for President Obama: a historic pick for the Supreme Court; and on the heels of the failed terror attack by the Pakistani-Taliban, a visit from the leader of Afghanistan. All this, while voters around the country continue to show their anger at Washington, throwing out two long time Congressional incumbents. How is the President and his party faring? And what can we expect in this Tuesday’s primary elections in key races. We’ll ask: Newsweek’s Jonathan Alter, Author of the new book “The Promise: President Obama, Year One”; The Wall Street Journal’s Peggy Noonan; Republican Strategist Mike Murphy; and Democratic Strategist Bob Shrum.

PS: Please join us on Facebook. We are going to try to overtake the fan count on the official Meet the Press Facebook page, right now we have 660 and they have 3144.

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) | Joe Lieberman’s 2006 Campaign | HALF TRUE

MR. GREGORY: But why–you know, when Senator Lieberman ran as an independent, the Democratic Party did not push him away. They said, “No, we’re still, still–stay with us here.” And yet the Republican leadership has said, “No thanks, Governor.” You know, “We’ve changed our mind about you,” as you just said. Is that a right strategy?

SEN. ALEXANDER: Senator Lieberman was different. First, he ran as an independent at the same time he was running as a Democrat. Second, he had a very strong principled opposition to the Iraq war. And third, the Democratic leadership in that case said that they didn’t, they didn’t support him.

Senator Alexander here was trying to differentiate Senator Lieberman’s 2006 Senate campaign from Florida Governor Crist’s current Senate campaign. Senator Alexander is correct that Lieberman ran in 2006 not only as an Independent but as an “Independent Democrat.” However he is very incorrect regarding Lieberman’s war stance, as he was not only an original supporter of the Iraq War but remained a vocal one during his 2006 campaign. It was one of the main reasons Democratic voters supported Lieberman’s primary opponent, who he later defeated in the general election. Finally, while Senator Alexander is correct that Democratic leadership did not support Lieberman’s independent bid, it is worth noting that he did continue to have the support of several Democratic senators even after he chose to become an independent. After he won the general election he was welcomed back by the Democratic leadership and encouraged to caucus with them. We rate this statement HALF TRUE.

In Conn., Lieberman Defends Seat, War Stance (Washington Post, 7/6/2006)
Support for War Tests Lieberman’s Re-election Prospects (New York Times, 4/2/2006)
In Lieberman Fight, Some Faithful Feel Torn (New York Times, 8/2/2006)
Enter, Pariah: Now It’s Hugs for Lieberman (New York Times, 11/15/2006)

Help Fact-check the 5/2 Meet the Press

Below are the statements we think were the most important to dig into from this week’s
Meet the Press. Let’s crowdsource the work that Meet the Press won’t do!

Please help us research these statements – you can either email us the information you’ve found confirming or refuting the statements to or post in the comments.

The specifics to check are in bold.
This week we will be posting the results individually and as soon as possible.

Secretary Janet Napolitano | Govt. Response to Oil Spill

MR. GREGORY:  Secretary Napolitano, there are questions about when the government acted, whether it did everything it could at the right moment.  Is the government playing catch-up here?  You yourself didn’t even request, until late in the week, for additional DOD resources to be brought to bear.  Is this a, a situation of playing catch-up?

SEC’Y NAPOLITANO:  No, not at all.  We had DOD resources there from day one. This was a situation that was treated as a possible catastrophic failure from, from day one.  So we had prepositioned in place hundreds of thousands of feet of boom.  There were 73 vessels, now over a hundred ships there to work on preventing the oil from actually reaching the shore, to, to stage that fight offshore, as it were.

Gov. Charlie Crist | Florida’s Health Care

MR. GREGORY:  All right, couple more issues.  Would you support legislation that repealed the president’s healthcare legislation?

GOV. CRIST:  Yeah, I think we need to start over.  I really do.  We’ve got a great plan here in Florida, David.  There’s no government mandate, no tax increases.  It offers coverage to those who can’t afford it, who have lost a job.  It’s a compassionate way to do it, and I think that’s a good model for the country.

Sen. Lamar Alexander | Joe Lieberman’s 2006 Campaign CHECKED: HALF TRUE

MR. GREGORY:  But why–you know, when Senator Lieberman ran as an independent, the Democratic Party did not push him away.  They said, “No, we’re still, still–stay with us here.” And yet the Republican leadership has said, “No thanks, Governor.” You know, “We’ve changed our mind about you,” as you just said.  Is that a right strategy?

SEN. ALEXANDER:  Senator Lieberman was different.  First, he ran as an independent at the same time he was running as a Democrat.  Second, he had a very strong principled opposition to the Iraq war.  And third, the Democratic leadership in that case said that they didn’t, they didn’t support him.

Rep. Mike Pence | Stimulus Bill Employment Effects CHECKED: HALF TRUE

MR. GREGORY:  His–the, the stimulus plan.

REP. PENCE:  Yeah.  The so-called stimulus bill that has taken us from 7.5 percent unemployment to nearly 10 percent unemployment nationwide; worse in Michigan.

Sen. Lamar Alexander | Energy

MR. GREGORY:  Well, senator and the former secretary of energy is here as well.  But, Senator, this was the Tampa Tribune editorial on Monday on this point:  “The tragic explosion of a drilling rig off the coast of Louisiana exposes the big lie espoused by the oil industry and its minions in the Florida Legislature:  Modern drilling is harmless.  …

“Americans have to accept some tradeoffs if we want an abundant and affordable energy.  But we must balance the risks intelligently…To permit drilling in Florida’s coastal waters where there is no margin for error is unnecessary and irresponsible.” This has to be seen as a setback for offshore drilling.

SEN. ALEXANDER:  It is a setback, and we ought to stop for a moment and see if there’s anything we can do to make it safer.  All 40 Republican senators, now 41, support electrifying half our cars and trucks, the best way to reduce the use of oil.  If we were to do that, it’d probably take 20 years and we’d still need 12 million barrels of oil a day in this country.  And one-fourth of all the air–oil that we produce for ourselves comes from the Gulf of Mexico. So, unless we want $14 a gallon gasoline and tankers bringing oil from Saudi Arabia, which has been 99 percent of the oil spills in history, we’re going to have to find a way to continue to drill safely in the Gulf of Mexico.

Gov. Bill Richardson | BP Role in Oil Spill

GOV. RICHARDSON: I believe BP is to blame.  They have to pay for this.  This is something that, obviously, they saw coming. They predicted wrongly.

Rep. Mike Pence | Arizona Statistics re: Unauthorized Immigration CHECKED: TRUE

REP. PENCE:  Well, well, let, let’s be clear for a second.  This is no laughing matter for the people of Arizona who are–have been profoundly affected by the fact that there’s nearly a half a million illegal immigrants and, and a rampant drug trade and, and, and human trafficking trade that’s been besetting.  Phoenix, Arizona, is, is the kidnapping capital of the United State of America.

Rep. Mike Pence | Federal Spending for Border Security

REP. PENCE:  David, here’s the numbers.  Fiscal 2007, the last year Republicans wrote a budget, $1.2 billion for border security and fencing.  By 2010 that was cut by–to $800 billion.  If you’d kept funding level…

MR. GREGORY:  Right.

REP. PENCE:  I mean, the Democrats have cut three-quarters of a trillion out of this…

MR. GREGORY:  All right.

REP. PENCE:  …and the president wants to go to 50 percent of the level that Republicans

MR. GREGORY:  Governor…

REP. PENCE:  …spent on border security.  We have got to take border security seriously.

Did we miss something? Let us know at

All statements were taken from the transcript here

Fact-check of Meet The Press – 4/25/2010

As an experiment we decided to try to take David Gregory’s advice and fact-check Meet The Press on our “own terms” – not just to look for examples of statements that might not be factual, but to see how difficult it would be for a team of three people, amateurs really, to try to do the job of professional journalists – the job Meet The Press is so far unwilling to do.

We did not fact-check every possible statement, but rather looked at ones we thought important to confirm in the sense that, if false, they would dramatically change the core point the speaker was trying to make.

These statements were chosen and researched non-ideologically. If there was another fact-check organization that covered a same or similar statement we decided to use it as a source, provided that organization showed their work and our analysis of their research reached the same conclusion.

We do not dismiss the possibility of being wrong and encourage others to challenge our conclusions in the comments below. We also welcome additional help to confirm the statements on future shows as we continue our experiment. Please remember we have done this when we were not writing papers, reading assignments, or going to work. Fact-checking is an interesting process, but not an easy one.

Fact Check of Meet The Press – 4/25/2010
(listed in chronological order as they happened on air)

Fact-check 01
GM Government Payback
Senator Richard Shelby (R – AL)

MR. GREGORY: If the complaint is government’s not up to it, we had regulators before, can they do it this time, and we’re so worried about bailouts, look at the track record of bailouts so far.  The president was boasting yesterday that GM and Chrysler have paid off their debts, not completely, but, but, but way ahead of schedule.  TARP is now $186 billion back.  The overall payment is supposed to be around $87 billion.  The record’s been pretty good that the government’s and the taxpayer have done OK so far in bailouts, have they not?

SEN. SHELBY:  First of all, the payback by General Motors and Chrysler will never happen, not all of it.  That’s misleading, even what the president said there.  And they paid back some money that they were already given by the TARP money.  They haven’t paid back the other, and they won’t.

Continue reading…

Ira Glass Also Believes in Fact Check

This American Life’s Ira Glass recently devoted an episode to Steve Poizner’s book Mt. Pleasant, finding multiple examples of the author inserting quite a lot of fiction into this supposedly non-fiction book. This key quote really gets at why it bothers Mr. Glass:

I know it may seem like I’m belaboring all this, putting this book under a microscope point-by-point, but so many of the political discussions in our country seem so disconnected from reality. Every year there are egregious examples of politicians and commentators who believe if they repeat some non-fact over and over, it becomes true. And the more I looked into Poizner’s book, the more it seemed like one of those rare cases that’s so obviously and provably untrue.

Ira Glass, you’re drafted.

Public radio’s Ira Glass calls Poizner book ‘so obviously and provably untrue’ (LA Times)
Radio Show is here.

And continuing to show us you can never beat a journalism professor to links on his niche subject – h/t: Jay Rosen

Radio Discussion on Fact Checking

Yesterday NYU Professor Jay Rosen, PolitiFact Editor Bill Adair, and Director Brooks Jackson were all interviewed on California radio station KPFA’s Letters to Washington. Host Mitch Jesserich led a interesting discussion between the three, starting with Professor Rosen and his explanation of how his idea came about and his analysis of the current state of the Sunday shows:

An argument about common facts in which the parties and their representatives can take divergent views on those facts is one thing, but an argument where people don’t even agree on facts and what is true in the first place is a completely different thing.

Professor Rosen said he believed the goal of the Sunday shows was to both “take the temperature of Washington” and attempt to start the week by making news with statements made by guests, but that the format of the shows has not adjusted to an increasingly hyper-partisan Washington and that the hosts “tend to show a chronic lack of imagination in responding to shifts in the political game itself.”

Regarding Meet The Press host David Gregory’s statement that there was no need to have a “formal arrangement” for fact checking the show’s guests, Rosen said:

My sense is that David Gregory believes that he himself is a fact checker and if somebody tries to pull anything shady on his show he lets us know right away because he’s an expert interviewer.

Rosen believes Mr. Gregory seems to expect that viewers and pundits from the left and right will later argue publicly about the statements made on air and that kind of post-broadcast attention will work fine by itself.

What he’s really saying is “There aren’t any facts to check after I’ve done my job and all there really is is the clash of opinion” and that’s a very bizarre position for a journalist to take.

Continue reading…

Today Howard Kurtz, media reporter for The Washington Post and host of CNN’s Reliable Sources, added a segment to said show where he fact checks statements made on the previous Sunday’s political show circuit. Here were his comments on the new feature (video then below):

You watch them on Sunday mornings, here and on the other networks, the politicians armed with their talking points that don’t always reflect the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. There’s been a lot of chatter lately about whether the programs should fact-check their guests after the interviews, an idea that began with NYU journalism professor Jay Rosen.

I think this is a terrific idea, the actual fact- checking, not the part about Colbert’s gut. And today we’re stepping up to fact-check all five Sunday programs. Were the politicians saying things that were true, partially true, or just plain not true?

Now, this sort of fact-checking takes time and sometimes gets bogged down in details. I bet this isn’t the most exciting television segment you have ever watched. But we all ought to do more of it, especially online, as a way of holding politicians accountable. Maybe that will make them more cautious about what they say on Sunday morning.

On the segment Kurtz basically chose one statement from each show to fact check (incl. CNN’s State of the Union and Fox News Sunday).

UPDATE 5:06pm :

Another comment regarding the feature from Kurtz via Twitter:

Reliable Sources fact-checking popular on Twitter. Should ideally be done during the wk; I’d be happy to help. Viewers seem hungry for it.

Our Fact Check Plan

This site’s original goal was just to provide the public with tools with to pressure Meet The Press to start fact checking its guests after the broadcast. There has been some misconception regarding whether or not we would actually try to fact check them ourselves. Originally that was not the plan, but we are going to try it out.

Here is what we will do:

  • Identify several statements from today’s show that should be fact checked and do the best job we can to do that. This will include doing our own research as well as consulting other news organizations and analysis. We also welcome reader assistance: tweet, facebook, or email us
  • We will “show our work”
  • We will present our results as soon as they are available, without rhetoric
  • Our analysis will be non-partisan
  • We will probably not be able to fact check the entire show, but will look for some clear examples to not only better inform the public but also help reinforce the central logic of this campaign

Please keep in mind we are not professional journalists but volunteers. If you think it’s ridiculous that amateurs should have to do a job that a professional news organization should do but won’t – we agree with you.

From his Twitter account:

Enough talk! On Reliable Sources at 11am tomorrow, I will fact-check all the Sunday shows. Time to move this debate forward.

Should be interesting to see how that goes…