Do instant fact checks work? Here's how viewers reacted in real-time

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. FactCheck.org ("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

https://twitter.com/Tiouririne/status/765311041383370753

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

https://twitter.com/BodyPolitic55/status/765310670891921408

https://twitter.com/Patterson_B/status/765310962350092288

https://twitter.com/MatthewBoedy/status/765311186527215616

https://twitter.com/hinterlandg/status/765311279871455232

https://twitter.com/Hadeetweetdy/status/765311630687154176

Bash the biased journalist

https://twitter.com/GrandmaStine66/status/765311688354562048

(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.)

https://twitter.com/prince_essence/status/765312117578862593

https://twitter.com/DcLarson_/status/765313611745013760

https://twitter.com/jacob00001/status/765314774271787008

What about the other side?

https://twitter.com/notbuyingthat54/status/765310440842952705

https://twitter.com/notbuyingthat54/status/765311036794736640

https://twitter.com/DRedwingsfan40/status/765311444741136384

https://twitter.com/cshoremuscle/status/765312324316061696

https://twitter.com/political6820/status/765312917646422016

https://twitter.com/Gilligan123Mark/status/765313801717682176

https://twitter.com/Fiercely_/status/765314059788963840

Way to be aggressive

https://twitter.com/nicholasbohac/status/765310958327599104

https://twitter.com/BruceGamsey/status/765311056268890113

https://twitter.com/alexbeech/status/765311080755294209

https://twitter.com/Are2row/status/765311494632251392

https://twitter.com/Astrosfollower/status/765311565793034240

https://twitter.com/michaelkohler03/status/765311620490760192

https://twitter.com/sunnyinsfla/status/765311687834632192

https://twitter.com/logicalwaysgood/status/765312666466455552

So rude!

https://twitter.com/DRedwingsfan40/status/765310597663690752

https://twitter.com/GoatellaHooker/status/765311122505211904

https://twitter.com/Schminga/status/765312199258615808

https://twitter.com/VibeCole/status/765313419771772929

Yay, fact-checking and journalism (finally!)

https://twitter.com/mdd3222/status/765310598913658880

https://twitter.com/DuffySavoy/status/765310669977628672

https://twitter.com/JackTarClay/status/765310901939412993

https://twitter.com/SputnikAZ/status/765311090188128256

https://twitter.com/lesliermyers/status/765311245268373504

https://twitter.com/korig12/status/765311344295890944

https://twitter.com/DuffySavoy/status/765311505222950913

https://twitter.com/randyslovacek/status/765311627474329600

https://twitter.com/JWalkerII/status/765312012091990016

https://twitter.com/rcontry/status/765312415038705664

https://twitter.com/johnshewchuk/status/765312694438154240

https://twitter.com/Merlin333/status/765313299529379840

Your facts are wrong

https://twitter.com/Nomedialies/status/765310727674556417

https://twitter.com/bdevil89/status/765310965810237440

https://twitter.com/KSantal/status/765311119250509824

https://twitter.com/political6820/status/765312691174907904

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.

  • Mark Stencel

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

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