A weekly round up on what’s happening and what we’re seeing at the TV News Archive by Katie Dahl and Nancy Watzman. Additional research by Robin Chin.
In an era when social media algorithms skew what people see online, the Internet Archive TV News Archive’s collections of on-the-record statements by top political figures serves as a powerful model for how preservation can provide a deep resource for who really said what, when, and where.
Since we launched our Trump Archive in January 2017, and followed in August with the four congressional leaders, Democrat and Republican, as well as key executive branch figures, we’ve collected some 4,534 hours of curated programming and more than 1,300 fact-checks of material on subjects ranging from immigration to the environment to elections.
The 1,340 fact-checks–and counting–represent a subset of the work of partners FactCheck.org, PolitiFact and The Washington Post’s Fact Checker, as we link only to fact-checks that correspond to statements that appear on TV news. Most of the fact-checks–524–come from PolitiFact; 492 are by FactCheck.org, and 324 from The Washington Post’s Fact Checker.
As a library, we’re dedicated to providing a record – sometimes literally, as in the case of 78s! – that can help researchers, journalists, and the public find trustworthy sources for our collective history. These clip collections, along with fact-checks, now largely hand-curated, provide a quick way to find public statements made by elected officials.
The big picture
Given his position at the helm of the government, it is not surprising that Trump garners most of the fact-checking attention. Three out of four, or 1008 of the fact-checks, focus on Trump’s statements. Another 192 relate to the four congressional leaders: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R., Ky.; Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D., N.Y.; House Speaker Paul Ryan, R., Wis.; and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D., Calif. We’ve also logged 140 fact-checks related to key administration figures such as Sean Spicer, Jeff Sessions, and Mike Pence.
The topics covered by fact-checkers run the gamut of national and global policy issues, history, and everything in between. For example, the debate on tax reform is grounded with fact-checks of the historical and global context posited by the president. Fact-checkers have also examined his aides’ claims on the impact of the current reform proposal on the wealthy and on the deficit. They’ve also followed the claims made by House Speaker Paul Ryan, R., Wis., the leading GOP policy voice on tax reform.
Another large set of fact-checks cover health care, going back as far as this claim made in 2010 by Pelosi about job creation under healthcare reform (PolitiFact rated it “Half True.”) The most recent example is the Graham-Cassidy bill that aimed to repeal much of Obamacare. One of the most sharply contested debates about that legislation was whether or not it would require coverage of people with pre-existing conditions. Fact-checkers parsed the he-said he-said debate as it unfolded on TV news, for example examining dueling claims by Schumer and Trump.
The old stuff
The collection of Trump fact checks include a few dating back to 2011, long before his successful presidential campaign. Here he is at the CPAC conference that year claiming no one remembered now-former President Barack Obama from school, part of his campaign to question Obama’s citizenship. (PolitiFact rated: “Pants on Fire!”) And here he is with what FactCheck.org called a “100 percent wrong” claim about the Egyptian people voting to overturn a treaty with Israel.
This fact-check of McConnell dates back to 2009, when PolitiFact rated “false” his claim of how much federal spending occurred under Obama’s watch: “In just one month, the Democrats have spent more than President Bush spent in seven years on the war in Iraq, the war in Afghanistan and Hurricane Katrina combined.”
Meanwhile, this 2010 statement by Schumer, rated “mostly false” by PolitiFact, asserted that the U.S. Supreme Court “decided to overrule the 100-year-old ban on corporate expenditures.” The ban on giving directly to candidates is still in place; however, corporations are free to spend unlimited funds on elections providing they do so separate from a candidate’s official campaign.
Twenty-four million people will be forced off their health insurance, young farmers have to sell the farm to pay estate tax, NATO members owe the United States money, millions of women turn to Planned Parenthood for mammograms, and sanctuary cities lead to higher crime. These are all examples of claims found to be inaccurate or misleading, but that continued or continue to be repeated by public officials.
Whether you lean one political direction or another, there are always surprises from the fact-checkers that can keep all our assumptions in check. For example, if you’re opposed to building a wall on the southern border to keep people from crossing into the U.S., you might guess Trump’s claim that people use catapults to toss drugs over current walls is an exaggeration. In fact, that statement was rated “mostly true” by PolitiFact. Or if you’re conservative, you might be surprised to learn an often repeated quote ascribed to Thomas Jefferson, in this case by Vice President Mike Pence, is in fact falsely attributed to him.
How to find
If you’re looking for the most recent TV news statements with fact-checks, you can see the latest offerings on the TV Archive’s homepage by scrolling down.
You can review whole speeches, scanning for just the fact-checked claims by looking for the fact-check icon on a program timeline. For example, starting in the Trump Archive, you can choose a speech or interview and see if and how many of the statements were checked by reporters.
You can also find the fact-checks in the growing table, also available to download, which includes details on the official making the claim, the topic(s) covered, the url for the corresponding TV news clip, and the link to the fact-checking article.
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