By Chris Adams
President Donald Trump certainly has kept the fact-checkers of the world busy. But he’s also monopolized time that could be put toward deeper fact-checking.
“I don’t like fact-checking Donald Trump,” said Glenn Kessler of The Washington Post. “I find it a bore. It doesn’t allow me to do deep reporting.”
Kessler relishes nothing more than a deeply-reported, investigative fact-check that examines an important issue of public policy. With Trump, the president’s “facts” are easily disproved. Where’s the challenge in that?
That said, there are a lot of things to disprove. In a session with National Press Foundation Paul Miller fellows, Kessler and two other leaders of fact-check journalism talked about how their role has evolved – and how they keep up with the president’s unending list of misstatements.
Kessler (bio, Twitter) was joined by PolitiFact editor Angie Drobnic Holan (bio, Twitter) and Toronto Star Washington bureau chief Daniel Dale (bio, Twitter). PolitiFact is one of the leaders in the fact-checking space, and Dale has undertaken a project to keep track of every false claim Trump has made since becoming president.
Kessler and the Post’s ongoing tally of Trump misstatements has become a fixture in the political and journalistic landscape. It includes false statements Trump makes again and again and again.
One reality all three journalists face is that some politicians will react to being called out on faulty facts – and others simply won’t care. The same goes for their supporters.
That doesn’t matter to the fact-checkers.
“Our role is to get factual information to as many people as want it,” Dale said. “It’s not our job to convert Trump supporters.”
Such partisan distinctions on what’s factual and what’s not isn’t likely to go away.
“A lot of things have changed in the time I have been doing fact-checking,” said Holan, who helped launch PolitiFact in 2007. “We thought that the political climate was partisan back then. It’s worse now.”