Lib Writer Tries To Debunk Daily Caller Fact Check - But Agreed When Snopes Came to Same Conclusion


Judd Legum is the writer of the political newsletter Popular Information. He doesn’t particularly like that Check Your Fact, a fact-checking organization produced by the conservative Daily Caller website, is one of many independent fact-checking organizations that Facebook uses to check news.

He’s especially upset that it said an article Politico posted about Donald Trump’s so-called “coronavirus hoax” speech was “false information,” claiming that they were being used as a political tool.

Here’s the thing: Check Your Fact was right — and Legum admitted as much when someone mentioned that notoriously liberal fact-checker Snopes had reached the same conclusion.

First off, let’s go to the clip in question.

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“Now the Democrats are politicizing the coronavirus. You know that, right? Coronavirus. They’re politicizing it. We did one of the great jobs,” Trump said in a speech on Friday.

“And this is their new hoax. But you know, we did something that’s been pretty amazing. We’re 15 people [with coronavirus] in this massive country. And because of the fact that we went early, we went early, we could have had a lot more than that.”

“We will do everything in our power to keep the infection and those carrying the infection from entering our country,” he added. “We have no choice.”

I don’t find this particularly unclear and it’s not because I’m a Republican. Trump is calling the politicization of coronavirus — the idea that his administration is failing to properly address it — a hoax.

Do you think this fact-checker got it right?

Politico’s article was titled “Trump rallies his base to treat coronavirus as a ‘hoax.’” This is false and deliberately so.

If the author were unsure about the interpretation, this would be unusual given the quote, but fair. However, being sure that was the interpretation and being so wrong about it can only be deliberate.

Legum wasn’t happy that Check Your Fact said the article contained “false information,” though:

“Facebook made THE DAILY CALLER an official fact-checking partner,” Legum tweeted Tuesday.

“That gives The Daily Caller the ability to label anything posted on Facebook as ‘false information’ and dramatically reduce its distribution. It’s now using that power to boost Trump.”

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He then showed what would happen if you tried to post the story on Facebook.

Another user had a question: Did he trust Snopes’ ruling that this interpretation was wrong?

Suddenly, he did:

The Snopes fact-check makes it clear that “[d]espite creating some confusion with his remarks, Trump did not call the coronavirus itself a hoax.” This essentially means Politico’s article contained false information.

Nevertheless, the tech journalism community took up Ludlum’s tweet and wondered if there was some legitimate confusion — as well as whether or not Check Your Fact should be a fact-checking source given its connection with the Daily Caller.

It’s little surprise that Vox Media’s The Verge ran a piece called “Facebook fact-checking is becoming a political cudgel” in which the author sounded genuinely (albeit conveniently) confused about whether Trump had called coronavirus a hoax.

TechCrunch doesn’t have quite that slant, but still couldn’t assign someone to the story who seemed to get it.

“It’s hard to tell exactly what Trump means here. He could be calling coronavirus a hoax, concerns about its severity a hoax or Democrats’ criticism of his response a hoax,” Josh Constine wrote. [Emphasis ours.]

In the speech, however, right after he made the claim, the president very specifically referred to cases of coronavirus in the United States and Politico very specifically interpreted it as if he didn’t. (Along with NBC News, who also got dinged in the fact-checking department — but we’re dealing with Leglum’s claim here.)

Picture a person who said this: “Hey, you know, I believe anti-depressants are a hoax perpetrated by the pharmaceutical industry to increase their profits. Nevertheless, I’m taking Zoloft as part of my mental health regimen.” Would you believe they thought the first sentence was accurate?

At least Constine left the part of Trump’s quote about the people with coronavirus in the story (although he used Snopes’ version of the quote, which gets the order a bit wrong). The Verge’s Adi Robertson cut it off before that important piece of context, which isn’t at all misleading.

You can ask whether this was worth flagging as fake news when you consider both Politico and NBC News are generally reputable outlets, if left-leaning. There are plenty of other more problematic articles on coronavirus floating around out there, after all.

That said, the headline that got Leglum up in a snit was demonstrably fallacious and deliberately so.

Legum admitted as much when he said Snopes got it right. To suggest otherwise is to use Check Your Fact’s association with The Daily Caller as, well, a political cudgel.

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C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014.
C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014. Aside from politics, he enjoys spending time with his wife, literature (especially British comic novels and modern Japanese lit), indie rock, coffee, Formula One and football (of both American and world varieties).
Morristown, New Jersey
Catholic University of America
Languages Spoken
English, Spanish
Topics of Expertise
American Politics, World Politics, Culture