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PolitiFact focuses fact-checks more on Biden’s critics than president himself, study finds

It turns out “fact-checkers” at Politifact are more concerned with making sure critics of President Biden are held accountable than the White House itself, according to a new study. 

During Biden’s first 20 months in office, there were 58 pieces published by Politifact to fact-check the president compared to a staggering 338 pieces designed to fact-check Biden critics, according to the Media Research Center’s NewsBusters

“Overall, there were 5.8 fact checks of Biden critics for every one of the president,” NewsBusters executive editor Tim Graham wrote. 

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Politifact, a product of The Poynter Institute, uses a “Truth-O-Meter” to determine if claims are “True,” “Mostly True,” “Half True,” “Mostly False,” “False” or the dreaded “Pants on Fire.” The website insists “fact-checking journalism is the heart of PolitiFact,” and claims its “core principles are independence, transparency, fairness, thorough reporting and clear writing.”

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However, not everyone agrees that the organization has nonpartisan intentions. Conservative strategist Chris Barron believes groups like PolitiFact “could serve a useful purpose, by serving to fairly and consistently compare what a politician said to the objective facts,” but that’s not what’s currently happening. 

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“Unfortunately, PolitiFact has instead chosen to weaponize their work for partisan political purposes. They don’t care about holding politicians accountable, what they care about is protecting progressives while demonizing conservatives,” Barron told Fox News Digital. 

The MRC study indicated that Biden’s critics are treated particularly harshly. 

“Over his first year and a half, Biden landed on the ‘Mostly False’ or worse side in 28 of 58 fact checks (48 percent). But the ‘Fact Checks About Joe Biden’ were overwhelmingly negative – 298 out of 338 were ‘Mostly False’ or worse (88 percent). There were only three that were ‘True,’ six that were ‘Mostly True’ — making 9 out of 338 (2.6 percent). Another 31 were ‘Half True,’” Graham wrote. “There were zero ‘Pants on Fire’ rulings about President Biden in his first 20 months. By contrast, Donald Trump has 10 in that time span.” 

Biden only has six “Pants on Fire” fact-checks since Politifact began in 2007, the MRC noted. 

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“Biden could say the evacuation from Afghanistan was an ‘extraordinary success,’ and we have ‘zero percent’ inflation, and there were no factual objections. On April 22, he claimed he was a ‘full professor’ for four years at the University of Pennsylvania, which is simply false. They called it ‘Half True,’” Graham added. “But there have been 79 ‘Pants on Fire’ rulings against Biden critics in the first 20 months of his presidency.”

President Biden "has tremendous rhetorical power to establish the public's sense of truth," DePauw University professor Jeffrey McCall said. 

Cornell Law School professor William A. Jacobson said Politifact is like the proverbial broken clock.

“It sometimes gets the result right, but far too often seems to bend over backwards to sway it’s ‘fact checks’ as a defense mechanism to protect Democrats,” Jacobson told Fox News Digital. “It is not surprising that the numbers show a bias in which stories Politifact checks.” 

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Conservative radio host Jason Rantz believes many fact-checking outlets essentially serve as publicists for Democratic politicians.

“It allows media outlets to claim Republicans are lying and Democrats are victims of dishonest conservatives,” Rantz told Fox News Digital.

“But there are few fact-checkers who oversee the fact-checkers. Just because a partisan fact-checking site, like Politifact, makes a claim, doesn’t mean it’s accurate,” Rantz continued. “And bias works here in a pretty subtle way — it’s what it chooses to fact-check that allows them to manipulate the media narrative and attack politicians it doesn’t support. The best way to avoid this trap is to fact-check things yourself.” 

DePauw University journalism professor Jeffrey McCall agrees that there is “clearly” a bias in the fact-checking world. 

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“Fact-checkers have much discretion in deciding who or what needs to be fact-checked in the first place. There is a flood of information floating around in the public sphere and fact-checkers must necessarily be selective in what they choose to scrutinize,” McCall told Fox News Digital. 

“Any fact-checker who chooses to be a partisan or advocate can certainly tilt their analyses in their favored direction. This would seem to be the case, based on the NewsBusters study,” McCall added. 

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He believes that Politifact seems to “demonstrate so little rigor” in assessing Biden’s claims and statements that the fact-checks are unhelpful to refereeing the public sphere.  

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“If there is one person on the planet who needs rigorous fact-checking, it is the leader of the free world.  Everything a president says is potentially a history-changing matter, and the accuracy of a president’s remarks is essential,” McCall said. “Fact-checking of a presidential critic, on the other hand, while useful, is less essential on a broad scale.”

Politifact isn’t alone, as CNN’s Daniel Dale lists fact-checking the president as first among his duties on his Twitter bio, but it’s hardly his only focus. He recently went three months without fact-checking the president, and regularly posts articles focusing on conservatives. 

CNN's Daniel Dale rarely fact-checks President Biden. 

In January, Fox News Digital reported on a six-week gap on Dale’s fact-checks of Biden, noting he had ignored false claims by the president in a landmark voting rights speech in Georgia.

McCall noted that many more citizens will hear what a president says on any matter of public interest than will ever hear what random critics have to say.  

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“Thus, fact-checkers who are really interested in confirming truth in the nation’s dialogue should do more scrutiny of a president and worry less about critics shouting from the cheap seats,” he said. 

The Poynter Institute did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

Fox News’ David Rutz contributed to this report. 

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