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How do we know what politicians say is true?

Aug 30, 2012
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Campaign Trail

How do we know what politicians say is true?

Aug 30, 2012
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Kai Ryssdal: Congressman Paul Ryan’s speech went about almost 40 minutes or so — 3,500 words, plus or minus. Pile that on top of the thousands of hours and millions of words of speeches and press conference and plain old remarks that have been uttered this election season and you know what you’ve got, right? It’s a business opportunity.

Sabri Ben-Achour reports on the rise of the political fact-checker.


Sabri Ben-Achour: Last night, vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan said this:

Paul Ryan: $716 billion, funneled out of Medicare by President Obama.

And recently Senate Majority leader Harry Reid made that Mitt Romney…

Harry Reid: Basically paid no taxes in the prior 12 years.

Statements like these have kept people like Bill Adair pretty busy.

Bill Adair: I would rate that true on the Truth-O-Meter. We’ve seen a real explosion of fact checking in the last few years.

Bill Adair runs fact-checking outfit PolitiFact. He says, by the way, the claims above are either totally false or at best highly problematic. In the last five years, PolitiFact’s staff has grown from two to 36. Another group, Factcheck.org, has grown exponentially too. Why? Well it’s not because politicians are suddenly fibbing even more. There’s just a lot more media outlets reporting more “facts.”

Lucas Graves: There is more political messaging now than ever because there are more ways to reach voters and anybody than ever.

Lucas Graves is a research fellow with the New America Foundation. He says the Internet has made fact-checking a lot easier.

Graves: Both in terms of doing research so that journalists, so that journalists can respond very quickly to statements that politicians make, but also in terms of making this info available to the public and keeping records.

But the question is, is it working? Brooks Jackson started FactCheck.org.

Brooks Jackson: Both sides don’t seem to care, they keep repeating claims that have been shown by fact checkers to be false or grossly misleading.

But, as one fact checker pointed out, they don’t write for politicians, they write for the public.

I’m Sabri Ben-Achour for Marketplace.


Check out a list of some of the popular fact-checking websites out there.

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