How do you sort out fact from fiction during a political campaign?

The role of fact in a political campaign has been a subject of controversy this year, as illustrated by a Romney staff member’s declaration that “We’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact checkers.” Today’s Question: How do you sort out fact from fiction during a political campaign?

  • Alison

    I just assume that it’s all fiction. Pretty much like I assume all professional athletes are doping and don’t watch any of it.

  • jdre

    Fact checkers and journalists. And a short term memory to handle things like Romney saying he is ok with Obamacare then denying that. But I relied on fact checkers to find that information.

    More important, does the voting public CARE about fact based reality?

  • Phil

    Usually a quick google search will pull up articles with the real story.

  • Lou

    The fact-checking organizations are the best way. The only problem that fact-checking has created is that many journalists have abandoned their role of challenging statements made by politicians and they allow the fact-checkers to do the work of checking the statements for accuracy. Frequently comedian Jon Stewart is the only person that shows the inconsistencies made by politicians whereas the mainstream media lets them go unchallenged.

  • Emery

    Fact checkers are suffering attacks on their impartiality because one party has decided to run a campaign based on lies. This makes the fact checkers all the more important.


    “A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.” Winston Churchill.

  • Gary F

    Mitch Berg just ran a great series on “fact checkers” o his Shot in the Dark . info blog.

    It even covered how the MPR “Poligraph” people are doing.

    A good read.

  • Steve the Cynic

    Often the truth can only be seen in hindsight. Like, 28 years after Reagan and the GOP sold us on their trickle-down snake oil (which I believed in fervently back then), we saw that the result was more prosperity for the already rich, stagnation for everyone esle, and eventually a devastating crash that widened the wealth gap further.

    Apart from the fact checkers, though, a sufficiently skeptical person with some training in critical thinking can easily recognize some to most of the specious logic and post-digestive cattle feed for what it is. The key is to avoid being seduced by one’s own confirmation bias.

  • Jim G


    Reading, a skill I highly value and have taught to thousands, opens doors to information that are closed to those who let the news of the day be reported to them by radio , TV, and other audio news feeds. If you want to find the truth, read as much as you can from as many sources as you can find. Your wonderful brain, will sift through the hyperbolic lies told by bald faced liars who continue to spread their misinformation to as many non-readers as they can reach.

    Reading … can save the country from tyranny. That’s why one of the major parties attacks public education on every front. They don’t want readers for citizens; it encourages thinking and evaluation skills frowned upon by the hierarchy of the entrenched class. Praise the Lord and pass on phonemic and analytic reading skills to your loved ones… for liberty.

  • jon

    There used to be a saying… “Numbers don’t lie.” Some how that changed into “Make the number a lie.”

    I remember second grade homework trying to identify what was a fact and what was an opinion. Getting some of the questions wrong because they were “opinions presented as fact.”

    Now we are in a world of “facts created to support opinions”

    What I’d like to see, is a break down of average lies per day or hour at the RNC vs. the DNC… I think it’d be telling as to which platform doesn’t need to make shit up to support it self.

  • Melina

    I listen to MPR!! 🙂

  • georges

    The “fact-checking journalists” are themselves liars who constantly twist the facts into what favors their side.

    For instance, the Ryan statement. Paul Ryan said that Obama promised to keep the Janesville plant open “for 100 years”, which Obama absolutely did not.

    He never said Obama had closed the plant. But that’s what the fact-checkers dishonestly claimed he said.

    Could those “fact-checkers” be Democrats, using the fact-checking system to promote Obama and denigrate Romney and Ryan? Absolutely. The facts prove it.

  • Craig Huber

    Facts, by themselves, usually don’t have much relevance… context is what gives them meaning. It is in the selective application of context that issues arise.

    For example, let’s assume that the typical headline unemployment number (a little over 8% last month, IIRC) is a “fact”, setting aside for the moment the possible issues re: methods of data collection and calculation, definition of terms, etc.

    Even ignoring all of that, what is the context? We have known for half a century plus years that we were going to come to a point where the baby boomer generation would start leaving the workforce… does that have an impact, and how much? What about the ever-advancing level of automation in our society?

    Our entire evaluation of what this “fact” _means_ is based on what perspective/context we view it in. What we no longer have, IMO, is any general level of agreement on the perspective we should view things from… i.e. facts aren’t the problem, just the way they are disseminated and viewed.

  • Ann

    Most of the issues are complicated. Most reporters, politicians, and writers include information that supports their own point of view. For example, it is obvious that Obama’s claim that the Republicans caused the financial mess is not correct. In recent days, I have written about how the Democrats and events helped to cause the mess. Also, many countries have financial problems. I look at the overall values of the party and the candidate. I am disappointed in both parties. I usually agree with the Republicans, but I am disappointed that Romney and McCain were chosen as candidates. The Democrats have good speakers and debaters, but I usually don’t agree with them.

  • Bill Ireland

    For all people with an open mind, that do not have their mind made up to where they do not want to be “confused by the facts”, fact checking is good and helpful.

    If we only look at anything from only one perspective,

    it is impossible to see the entire picture. Only listening to or reading that which we already believe is a “fast

    track to ignorance”.

  • P. Nielsen

    Refrain from listening to or watching the paid political ads in the media….since the networks are already biased and interested more in revenue than actually reporting news, it’s a waste of time. Public radio and television are a more reliable place to learn things about elections and candidates, but most do not use these outlets as much as network and cable stations. I know who I am going to support and, therefore, do not need any “help” in deciding from these methods. I learned a long time ago to vote the Party and not a particular candidate.

  • Mark

    I try to use my own common sense, careful obsevation of what is going on around us, and listen to MPR News, as Melina stated. My dog enjoys MPR with me, also. :0)

  • jockamo

    If one listens only to MPR, one will get only an extremist lefty biased view.

    The shows on MPR are slanted to the left so drasticly that you would think they get their daily marching orders directly from the White House or MoveOn or Acorn or the Daily Show.

    For example……the show that is on right now. It has been a constant attack by a couple of leftist Democrat activists.

    Sad, but true.

  • GregX

    Mr Gary F … here.. from the current Mitch Berg “dark shot” post

    Quote:> “Of course, the irony springs from the fact that I, being a conservative pundit, bend over backwards to support, or at least be fair to, libertarians and conservatives, ”

    He also had a good laugh when he was recently asked if he back-fact-checked himself.

  • GregX

    jockamo ….you are now and forever more “Jockamo the Homeopath” because for you one particle of liberalism in a trillion, nay in a quadrillion particles is an overdose. Your degree of conservatism would seem acceptable to the Al Haqani network although you might differ on where to apply the extremism.

  • jockamo


    How extreme left a person would have to be…to think MPR has only one part per “quadrillion” of liberalism in its radio shows.

    Additionally, any of the Taliban type organizations are philosopically alligned with the Liberals, the Leftists…..not the Conservatives.

    Both (Taliban and American leftists) want to use the government (or violence, if the government won’t do it) to force people to think and act and live their lives just the way the Taliban/leftists want them to. Conservatives, on the other hand, are perfectly content to let people live according to their own genius.

    You know, like real Americans do.


  • Snaab

    I generally just come to this site and wait for jockomo to regale us with his political smarts. I mean who needs anything else but his “logic” and persuasive skills on any number of topics.

    Just today for instance I learned that Ryan is not lying when he talked about a plant closing – thanks for that pearl of wisdom

    teehee teehee

  • Jerry

    I think that fact-checkers are a valuable source in shuffling through the statements made. But I hope to find primary sources (e.g. newspapers) before that.

  • Leonard

    Bias is inherent in anything, including stats in math, just to a lessen degree. Now as to the media, MPR asks this question because one of their own contributing sources

    ( NPR) received a few million from George Soros to expand their NPR Investigative Journalism depts. Why was that? Soros wants an improved propaganda source to present those stories that only supports his agenda? Yes.

    If NPR, MNBC, CBS and CNN were not so biased toward the Left radical side, then we would never have to wait 4 years for CNN to air a show called, “The Real Obama” And it was all scripted pro Obama mundane things. It didn’t talk about his half brothers in Kenya living in poverty, or his social security fiasco, or why he sealed his passport records, or why he supported the racist New Black Panthers and had marched along side of them in 2008. The tape shows his great smile side by side with a Panther that demanded all whites to be dragged into the streets and shot….nice group to be marching with?

    None of the mainstream media dared to explore his past or his philosophy before or after the election of 2008. IT WAS CLINTON who brought up the question of why Obama had no presented birth certificate, Bill Clinton called Obama ” a fairy tale” But ask most people and you will hear them accuse the Republicans of these actions.

    Ya want to sort fact from fiction, then read sources that demand factual evidence such as O’Reilly show that demands guests support their claims with evidence to be confirmed, not like Debbi Wasserman DNC chair that was caught lying out right, this past week, caught on tape making outrageous statements then she denied all of it. Did NPR or CBS cover those stories? Did NPR ever do a story on Obama’s religions as they did with Romney last month? I rest my case. Avoid pundents and watch FOX NEWS’ real hourly news broadcasts. That’s what most Dem congressmen do.

  • Snaab

    And now I learned that George Soros is funding NPR, much to the consternation of Leonard. I am always amazed at the vitriol towards Soros, I would think that the rightwingnuts would embrace him, not shun him. After all, this is a guy who once made, using the free market, over 1 billion dollars overnight. Where is the love for this type of free market capitalism guys, or is it because he leans left, that billion is somehow outside the boundaries of what the free market should do, or represent.

  • Rich in Duluth

    I use various fact check sites to check specific statements; however, I think it’s more important to know the basic philosophy of the parties and vote for the party. Since elected officials, for the most part, vote as a block along party lines, whether they spin issues during a campaign or not, is of no real consequence.

  • Steve the Cynic

    Shrewd manipulators of public opinion have known since ancient times that if you accuse your opponents of the very thing you’re doing it tends to deflect suspicion from yourself. The ploy works because honest folks charitably assume everyone has about as much integrity as they themselves do. Despotic tyrants know this, and so do playground bullies. That’s why political liars are now accusing the fact checkers of bias.

  • Steve the Cynic

    Leonard, if you were as critical of David Koch, Rupert Murdoch, et al., as you are of George Soros, your complaint about his donations to MPR would ring a lot less hollow. In an ironic tone of voice I ask, “It’s his money; can’t he do what he wants with it?”

  • georges

    Of the 4 national candidates in this years election, Paul Ryan is the most honest of the bunch.

    By far. It isn’t even close.

    Romney is second. Deciding who is third and who is fourth is difficult, as both Obama and Biden lie every single day, multiple times, in their stump speeches.

    The “fact-checker journalists”, after the Ryan speech at the convention (in an article posted right here on the MPR home page), said he lied 5 times. 4 of the things they called lies were because, as they said, Ryan had done the same thing, too. Or, alternatively, they said the same thing was in Ryan’s budget.

    This childish “you did it too!” stuff is immature to say the least, and in no way alters the truth of what Ryan said.

    If you see a neighbor steal your lawn mower out of the back yard, does it make your report of the theft to the police a lie if you don’t tell the cops that when you were 9 you stole a comic book from the drug store? Absolutely not. It has nothing to do with it, and, logically, could not possibly make the report a lie.

    But, the liberal press self-appointed fact-checkers use such cheap and childish tactics to claim the Republicans are lying, but never do the same to the Democrats.

    Shameful and disgusting. Yet, typical and expected.

    The Liberal press is really sad this year that they do not have a Quayle or a Palin to bash. So, they are trying to bash Ryan. Won’t work, fellas. Your liberal slip is showing. Everybody knows you are fake journalists. Get another schtick.

    You could bash Biden. He provides tons of material everyday. But then, he is a Democrat, so bashing him is out of the question…….


  • inuit

    Hence the old saying:

    “If you want to know what the Democrats are up to, just look at what they accuse the Republicans of.”

  • kim

    First, I assume that pretty much all of them are spinning things to suit their own purpose. (I’d saying “spinning” falls short of actually telling an untruth.) I learned a long time ago that, with some people, you can’t believe anything they say without independent confirmation of the truth. I count on the main stream media to point out glaring lies. If it’s a topic I’m interested in, I might do my own fact checking, usually online. It’s a little alarming, how hard it actually is to be SURE of anything outside of my own little corner of the world. I also try to use common sense.

    If someone is lying, it’s important for me to figure out why. Sometimes, we all lie to cover our butts. Sometimes, it’s to avoid hurting someone’s feelings. Lying to manipulate people is a huge red flag for me. I’d sooner vote for someone I know I disagree with, but who it telling the truth in a well reasoned way, than to vote for someone who appears to agree with me, but is lying to get a vote. You know what? If Ron Paul had been the Republican candidate, I might well have voted for him because, although there’s a lot I disagree with him on, I believe he’s honest. (Maybe he’s just the best liar of the bunch.)

  • david

    If you put your own personal greed and bias aside it’s a lot easier to see the truth from the lies. Then read, research and follow the money. No matter the extremist, be it Islamic, capitalist, or Christian, someone somewhere is pushing their view so they can get paid, or not have to pay so much. It’s like the wingnuts whining the most about the price of gas drive ridiculous suvs ridiculous distances. Look who they blame, the president when it’s simple supply and demand. Stop wasting gas and it wouldn’t be so expensive. The evil koch brothers are raking it in, and exporting as much gas as they can to the highest bidder. Building all the wells, refineries and pipeliness possible in the country will not lower the price of gas, it’ll only increase their profits. People want to believe the BS because it’s easier then facing the fact they are the problem.

  • FH

    I think MPR could do more to help in this area. I know the Democrats and Republicans will always skew the data to support their points. However, I have been concerned with MPR’s bias for a while. Below is an email that I sent to MPR last year along with their reply:

    I hope you forward this feedback to your senior executives or programming directors. I am having 2nd thoughts about supporting MPR. I have enjoyed your news stories, but I am feeling a strong bias in how the reporting is taking place. I have always thought of MPR as being less biased, but I am starting to feel a strong bias in one direction. Please let me give some examples:

    • MPR will due “fact or fiction” or challenge statements made by Tim Pawlenty or Michelle Bachman. There is a critical tone to these stories – which is good. However, where are the critical stories or analysis of Al Franken or Mark Dayton? If we are going to cover how many days Pawlenty has traveled outside on MN with the implicit message that he is not doing his job, let’s also discuss Dayton’s poor performance as a Senator.

    • In discussing budget issues, MPR will report the “deficit” to the requested budget. This is a complete misnomer. Well run organizations look at increases over prior year, not what % of a wish list is granted for the year. It sends a different message when someone reports that the public education had to cut 20% from its requested budget vs. the growth of the public education budget is 5% vs. prior year. One gives the impression that the budget is being cut, which it really is not, the other provides real numbers on what is happening to the budget.

    • MPR did some in depth stories on political funding – especially on the new organizations where tracing the funding sources was very difficult. The implications were that the democrats were greatly outgunned and that this type of funding was not right. How come there were no stories on union political contributions – the fact that unions are often the biggest sources of political funding, especially government unions who happened to be paid by taxpayers (is this a good use of taxpayer money)? They definitely stepped up their funding in 2010. Again, where is the balance?

    • MPRs firing of Juan Williams did give public radio a black eye. It seems that being politically correct is the most important thing to certain executives of MPR.

    • I am still waiting for an investigative report on how governmental bodies or unions can be more productive. There have been stories on poorly run companies.

    MPR likes to read all the listener feedback on why they contribute, which is fine. Are you also actively trying to find out how the station can be better and LESS biased?? You are currently in fund raising mode, and I am currently debating whether to contribute or not. I don’t need another CNN or Fox news program, I need a balanced MPR – which I would be happy to fund.


    Dear FH,

    Thank you for your comments, we appreciate you taking the time to share them with us. Just one clarification. MPR did not fire Juan Williamns, National Public Radio terminated him. Just to be clear. Thanks for listening and for writing.


  • Sue de Nim

    What bothers me as much as the lies are the kinds of things people are willing to believe about politicians they disagree with. There are folks who actually believe that Obama has an evil secret plan impose socialism and make slaves of us all. There are folks who actually believe that Romney’s hidden agenda (not merely an unintended consequence of his policy stances) is to destroy the middle class. This has got to change, or we’ll lose our Republic.

  • Leonard

    RE: “Leonard, if you were as critical of David Koch, Rupert Murdoch, et al., as you are of George Soros, your complaint about his donations to MPR would ring a lot less hollow. In an ironic tone of voice I ask, “It’s his money; can’t he do what he wants with it?”

    Posted by Steve the Cynic | September 10, 2012 11:37 AM

    Koch brothers did not collapse the British pound or advocate to over thrown governments. Yes, one can do what ever one wants with one’s own money but not__ if its illegal or designed to wipe out a country we are not at war wirh. Research Soros, the Nazi collaborator that today has no remorse for his actions against other Jews. Go see his interviews and then tell me that HE is the one to hold up as a Democrat supporter???? NPR is a public charity, they use 10% of their funds coming from tax dollars..their.taking Soros money just shows the bias and how NPR is bought out; don’t forget how they treated Juan Williams __fired for not being PC enough.


  • Steve the Cynic

    Now that we know you’re a subscriber to Glenn Beck’s conspiracy theories, Leonard, I can stop paying attention to you altogether.

  • jockamo

    I sometimes ask people to guess how many employees MPR has.

    The guesses usually range between 20 and 100.

    When I tell them it is over 700 and growing, everyone is astonished.

    That’s alot of cousins, brothers, sisters, Democrat party hacks and hanger-ons, etc., for the taxpayer to support.

    How many Taxpayer families does it take to keep all those Democrats in the manner to which they have become accoustomed?

    Tens of thousands. But, it is good for the economy.


  • John

    I assume it’s all lies and most of the time I am right.

  • kennedy

    “…over 700 …”

    A fact among a miasma of opinion. A few other salient facts:

    MPR operates over 40 radio stations.

    MPR produces programs that are distributed nationally, generating revenue.

    Public funding is 10% of MPR revenue, the other 90% comes from donations, underwriting, programming sales, etc.

    Evidently the free market sees value in MPR.

  • Stan

    I’ve used the Tarot (it got Clinton elected), more recently I’ve been using fact-checkers,Google, muscle testing and the nearest oracle at hand.

  • jockamo

    “Evidently the free market sees value in MPR.”

    Exactly my point. That I have been making for decades.

    MPR has a very good product, that a great many people enjoy. It would not disappear, cease to exist, in a free market. Indeed, MPR would thrive.

    Therefore, get MPR off the dole. Get MPR out of the Taxpayers pocket. Set MPR free. It will fly just fine on its own.