August 18, 2016

Live, “this just in” fact-checking is on the rise, and my Duke colleague Bill Adair, the founder of PolitiFact, makes a strong argument for even more of it.

But what do viewers, listeners and readers think when a daily journalist or TV host spot-checks a statement in a breaking news story or a live interview?

Twitter provided a slew of real-time examples Monday evening in the moments after CNN’s Brianna Keilar live fact-checked a surrogate for Donald Trump’s campaign.

The surrogate, former Republican Congressman Jack Kingston of Georgia, repeated Trump’s claim that he publicly opposed the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 from the get-go. (“no evidence that we could find”), PolitiFact (“still wrong”) and the Washington Post (falsely claimed “for the umpteenth time”), among others, have challenged versions of that statement multiple times over the past year.

Keilar, who was guest hosting that day’s “Situation Room,” immediately pressed the point. She repeatedly asked Kingston to reconcile his and the candidate’s version of events with some of Trump’s far more equivocal quotes from 2003.

The reaction was as quick as the fact check. While the interview was airing and in the minutes that followed, more than 50 people responded, mentioning Keilar either by name or her Twitter handle

Almost all of these tweets were partisan. And most of the comments were positive — though clearly not all.

In fact, the mix of instant reactions to Keilar’s instant fact-checking fell into several categories that would be familiar to any journalist who has ever verified the accuracy of a politician’s statement — from substantive objections and cheering to ad hominem attacks on both the fact-checker and the fact-checkee.

Bash the lying speaker

Bash the biased journalist

(A quick mini-fact check here: CNN’s Virginia Moseley is VP and deputy DC bureau chief — not president. Her husband was deputy Secretary of State. He’s now a Wall Street exec and informal Clinton adviser.)

What about the other side?

Way to be aggressive

So rude!

Yay, fact-checking and journalism (finally!)

Your facts are wrong

The highly partisan reactions cited here do not mean that instant fact-checking is just another part of the political noise machine. Like umpires and referees, most fact-checkers are used to crowds booing and cheering their work. We still have to call the plays as we seem them, even when some reactions are far from civil.

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Mark Stencel (@markstencel) is co-director of the Duke Reporters' Lab, where he studies the spread and impact of political fact-checking. He is NPR's former managing…
Mark Stencel

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