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The Washington Post hasn’t stopped fact-checking Biden

April 29, 2021 GMT

CLAIM: The Washington Post has ended fact-checking for President Joe Biden for the remainder of his presidency.

AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. Glenn Kessler, editor and chief writer for The Washington Post’s Fact Checker, tweeted that while the newspaper will not maintain a database of Biden fact checks after his first 100 days in office, it will continue to “rigorously” fact-check the president’s statements.

THE FACTS: A post circulating widely on Facebook this week featured a picture of Biden overlaid with the text, “WASHINGTON POST ENDS FACT CHECKING FOR BIDEN FOR THE REMAINDER OF HIS PRESIDENCY.”

On Twitter, an account posted the claim as breaking news, writing, “JUST IN: The Washington Post’s fact-checker Glenn Kessler announces that the Washington Post will stop fact-checking the Biden administration, says Biden’s “falsehoods” are the fault of “prepared texts vetted by staff.”

But Biden won’t be escaping the Post’s dreaded Pinocchios. These claims misrepresent Kessler’s Monday announcement that the Post will stop maintaining its presidential fact-checking database after Biden’s first 100 days because of the labor and hours it requires.

The database is a list of fact checks of presidential statements that can be filtered by topic or source. The Post reports it has analyzed “every speech, interview, tweet or public statement made by the president” in Biden’s first 100 days. Every claim that “would receive two or more Pinocchios on the Fact Checker scale” — or that included “significant omissions and/or exaggerations” at minimum — was included in the database.

Kessler said his team counted 67 false or misleading claims from Biden in his first 100 days compared to 511 false or misleading claims from former President Donald Trump in his first 100 days. He said his team counted 8,859 claims by Trump in the last 100 days of his presidency, an amount that was not manageable for his team to maintain in database format.

“Maintaining the Trump database over four years required about 400 additional 8-hour days over four years beyond our regular jobs for three people,” Kessler wrote on Twitter. “Biden is off to a relatively slow start but who knows what will happen. We will keep doing fact checks, just not a database.”

Shani George, vice president of communications for the Washington Post, sent The Associated Press a statement echoing Kessler’s point.

“We took on the task of maintaining a database during the previous presidency in response to unique circumstances. That database started as a 100-day project, and we created a companion project for the current president so a comparison could be made,” the statement read. “We are continuing our practice of rigorous, routine fact-checking, which has already identified dozens of false and misleading statements by Biden, and will continue to hold the president accountable for his words.”

To that end, on Wednesday, the team released a fact check of Biden’s address to a joint session of Congress.

The claim that Kessler blamed Biden’s falsehoods on “prepared texts vetted by his staff” is also a mischaracterization. A piece he authored in the Post instead acknowledged that Biden’s low number of recorded falsehoods might partly be explained by the fact that he doesn’t make public statements as often as his predecessor did.

“Biden’s relatively limited number of falsehoods is a function, at least in part, of the fact that his public appearances consist mostly of prepared texts vetted by his staff,” the piece said. “He devotes little time to social media, in contrast to his Twitter-obsessed predecessor, and rarely faces reporters or speaks off the cuff.”

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This is part of The Associated Press’ ongoing effort to fact-check misinformation that is shared widely online, including work with Facebook to identify and reduce the circulation of false stories on the platform.

Here’s more information on Facebook’s fact-checking program: https://www.facebook.com/help/1952307158131536