FactCheck’s record of errors, corrections

FactCheck.Org, the self-proclaimed purveyor of truth on the Internet, has a checkered history of getting things wrong and often has to correct its own mistakes in reports about the purported false claims of others.

A random check of stories published by FactCheck.Org since Jan. 1, 2008 found at least 11 articles where the organization was forced to correct its own errors and admit it either reached a false conclusion or simply got it wrong.

Just one day after claiming Capitol Hill Blue is a web site with a history of retracting stories and apologizing to readers, FactCheck.Org retracted one of its own stories and apologized to its readers — the latest in a series of errors and corrections that come at a rate higher than Blue or other web sites that FactCheck judges by its own harsh and hypocritical standard.

In correcting a story about U.S. guns that find their way to Mexico, a story based on erroneous conclusions and unverified facts, FactCheck wrote:

We originally concluded that Obama’s 90 percent figure was “not true” and based on a “badly biased” sample of recovered guns. We are retracting both those characterizations, and we apologize to our readers for this error. We have rewritten the article throughout to correct this.

The correction highlights FactCheck’s shift from a web site that once corrected erroneous statements by politicians by checking the public record to a self-anointed judge of all things published based on its writers’ conjecture and the personal agenda of Executive Director Brooks Jackson.

The story that required correction grew out of Jackson’s anti-gun bias, a bias uncovered and documented by pro-gun bloggers and the National Rife Association.

As an NRA Institute for Legislative Action Alert warned its members in October 2008:

A new story by Brooks Jackson on the FactCheck.org website once again shows that FactCheck cherry-picks “facts” to suit its anti-NRA, anti-gun, anti-self-defense agenda—an agenda that the American people do not share.

The story claims an NRA advertisement on Barack Obama’s votes against a pro-self-defense bill is misleading because (Jackson claims) Obama did not vote for a “general repeal of the right of self defense.”

Of course, that’s not what the ad said.

Even more outrageously, the supposedly neutral Jackson tries to blame the whole situation on the victim, rather than on the repeat offender who invaded his home. Jackson blames the victim for not getting his locks changed quickly enough after the first break-in, and for moving to confront the intruder before the intruder reached the children in the bedroom. But as DeMar himself asked in a newspaper op-ed, “What is one to do when a criminal proceeds, undeterred by a 90-pound German shepherd, a security alarm system and a property lit up like an outdoor stadium?”

It’s interesting that the newspaper column Jackson relies on for his second-guessing includes reader comments from a retired Chicago detective who calls these criticisms “clueless as to the potential enormity” of home invasion crimes, and from a former prosecutor who calls the columnist “the ultimate Monday morning quarterback.”

With all this information from independent sources readily available, why did Jackson and FactCheck choose to highlight facts and details that bolster only one side of the story? Is it because the points they chose to highlight advances their preordained beliefs? Do Brooks Jackson and FactCheck have an intrinsic bias against gun owners?

These are legitimate questions that we encourage everyone to ask before buying Brooks Jackson’s or FactCheck’s perspectives.

A random check of articles published on the FactCheck.Org web site found numerous corrections, including:

Our check found corrections issued on at least nine stories in 2008. There may be more but FactCheck uses different methods to fix past mistakes and it is not easy to identify each method in a search of their archives. We’ve asked a professional researcher to do a more detailed search and compile a more complete list. Our initial list does not include any stories that may have been removed from the FactCheck database.

Since going online on Oct. 1, 19944, Capitol Hill Blue has corrected, amended or removed 86 stories based on our own follow-up research or tips from readers. That’s an average of 6 stories a year over the last 14-and-a-half years — less than FactCheck’s average. In addition, Capitol Hill Blue publishes 5-10 new stories a day — more than double what FactCheck produces in an average week. We have had to correct less than one half of one percent of the more than 25, 000 stories that we have published in the last 14 and a half years.

Mistakes happen in any product produced by human beings. We recognize that fact and work quickly to correct mistakes when we discover them. So, apparently, does FactCheck.Org.  But FactCheck sets itself up as the Holy Grail of Fact on the Internet when, in fact, it publishes mistakes at a higher rate than the web sites it critiques.

FactCheck’s high error rate and increasing use of conjecture instead of fact may be a reaction to its falling readership and an attempt to use hyperbole to increase traffic. Capitol Hill Blue columnist Hal Brown found that Alexa, the web-tracking service, reports FactCheck’s traffic is down 42 percent in the last three months (traffic at Capitol Hill Blue is up 11 percent for the same period).

FactCheck.Org’s double-standard is a fraud and the hypocrisy of its Executive Director Brooks Jackson is now exposed for all to see.

One Response to "FactCheck’s record of errors, corrections"

  1. Hal Brown  April 24, 2009 at 10:22 am

    I don’t like Doug to be in a position where he’s even tempted to pat himself on the back so I’ll do it for him.  It’s a credit to him that it took me to look up the Alexa stats for FactCheck.org. 

    It deserves to be be noted that CHB is a site where contributers, columnists and commenters all account for it’s growing post-election readership during a time when even the popular Rachel Maddow Show’s rating went from 1.9 million to 1.1 million.

    Just staying even during a period when on some days when one of the lead stories in the news is Bo, the Obama’s dog,  would be a credit to CHB. Actually increasing readership by 11 percent is excellent (beating Huffington Post by a tenth of one percent).

    Don’t you wish you could get that return on your investments?

     

     

     

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