Thursday, September 20, 2018

Controversy over Kavanaugh inspires falsehoods

Kavanaugh; Midterm races across the country
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Controversy over Kavanaugh inspires falsehoods 

President Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Sept. 6, 2018. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

The Supreme Court confirmation hearings for Brett Kavanaugh took an unexpected turn when a woman from Kavanaugh's high school years came forward to claim he assaulted her at an alcohol-fueled party.

As I write this, it's not clear whether California researcher Christine Blasey Ford will testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee or not. Her legal team has asked for the FBI to look into the incident.

Which is where our fact-check comes in. President Trump said, in response to a reporter's questions, that it wasn't possible for the FBI to look into the incident: "Well it would seem that the FBI really doesn't do that," adding, "It seems that they don't do that."

Our fact-check found that the FBI does in fact do that, if the president asks. We rated Trump's statement False

Online supporters of Kavanaugh have attacked his accuser and sought ways to discredit her. Bloggers claimed that Kavanaugh's mother presided over foreclosure case against Christine Blasey Ford's parents, which fueled motivation for sexual assault accusation.

But our fact-check showed that the judge did not rule against the parents at all. We rated the claim False

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Your place for midterm fact-checking

PolitiFact is doing more fact-checking of the midterm races than we've ever done before.  We posted fact-checks from races in the following states recently (and these are just a few):

  • Wisconsin: Democratic candidate for governor Tony Evers said Republican Scott Walker refused federal funds and "Wisconsin families now pay nearly 50% more than Minnesotans for the same health care." We rated that Mostly False
  • Missouri: Republican Josh Hawley, a Senate candidate against Claire McCaskill, said millions of people have lost health insurance since 2009. That's Mostly False
  • California: We looked at a he-said-she-said ad about Gil Cisneros, running in the 39th District; we did not issue a rating.
  • West Virginia: Senate candidate Patrick Morrissey said he beat the Obama administration in court and saved coal jobs. We rated that Mostly True
  • New York: Andrew Cuomo bragged about the number of votes he received in the Democratic primary for governor. His brag got a True
  • Michigan: GOP Congressman Mike Bishop said his Democratic challenger Elissa Slotkin "just parachuted into the district to run for Congress" and "admitted that she doesn't know our area." We rated that Half True
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PolitiFact does study abroad

I have some good news to report: PolitiFact reporter Manuela Tobias has won a fellowship to embed with fact-checkers in Argentina. After the midterm elections here, she'll work for a few weeks as part of the team at Chequeado in Buenos Aires, studying how Chequeado does automated fact-checking to detect when politicians are saying the old falsehoods, yet again. We hope to incorporate Chequeado's methods into our own work. Meanwhile, PolitiFact will host a fact-checker from Israel who wants to study how we're covering midterm elections. You can read more about the exchange program at Poynter.org; it's made possible by grants from the International Fact-Checking Network. 

Thanks for reading!

Angie Drobnic Holan
PolitiFact Editor

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