Archive for the 'fake news' Category

Is fake news in the eye of the beholder, as Colorado political reporter claims?

Thursday, January 4th, 2018

In a blog post about Colorado’s 2017 Fake News Awards, which I bestowed last month to a group of Democratic and Republican officials, ColoradoPolitics reporter Dan Njegomir wrote that fake is “in the eye of the beholder.

But aren’t there objective ways a journalist can identify fake news? Like fact checking?

I emailed Njegomir and told him his eye-of-the-beholder view runs contrary to a tenant of journalism (and civility), which is that many facts, but not all, can be proven true (or false). And fact checks can be reported by journalists (and even liberal bloggers like me).

“I in fact agree with you that the news media have a responsibility to sift fact from fiction and put things in perspective,” Njegomir responded. “My point in observing that fake news is in the eye of the beholder is that the expression itself has been so overused and widely appropriated as to have no objective value. So, it can mean whatever you want. If you don’t like my news, it’s ‘fake.’ Same if I don’t like yours. Rarely does the accuser attempt to assess the actual veracity of the news report. ‘Fake news’ has become an all-purpose pejorative, kind of like ‘Nazi.’ But where it took ‘Nazi’ generations to achieve its all-purpose, ever-morphable meaning, it took ‘fake news’ less than a year.”

I’m one of the those people who accuses others of spreading fake news, and though I’m accused of being fake news myself, I honestly try to assess veracity.  But, alas, many who toss out the “fake news” salvo, like Trump, don’t care about the facts.

So Njegomir has a point that the term “fake news” is abused and lacks a precise definition.

But it’s still broadly understood as information from a news outlet that’s false.

As such, a discussion about whether something is “fake news” provides a framework for old-fashioned fact checking that’s less likely to put people to sleep than a discussion about “fact checking” itself, even though a fact checker and a fake-news cop are one and the same. They use research tools to prove truth or fakeness.

And the effort to spotlight and fight the spread of fake news has collateral benefits, like emphasizing the value of real journalism and the role of reporters as the arbiters of truth in civic discourse.

Bottom line, “fake” isn’t in the eye of the beholder. We should take advantage of people’s interest in fake news and argue about whether something is actually fake. And sometimes we can agree with each other.

Colorado Fake News Awards 2017

Thursday, December 21st, 2017

Maybe we can’t stop Trump from promoting fake news, but we can at least try to stop our own leaders from spreading it. That’s the BigMedia Blog’s goal in bestowing Colorado’s first annual Fake News Awards to lawmakers and public figures.

Crusader for a Fact-Free Colorado! Award — State Sen. Ray Scott

It’s bad enough that State Sen. Ray Scott (R-Grand Junction) called the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel “Fake News,” but doing so while 1) promoting Sentinel articles he agreed with and 2) refusing to remove actual fake news from his own Facebook page earns Scott the award of Crusader for a Fact-Free Colorado. Scott refused to remove from his Facebook page a fake news item titled, “WikiLeaks CONFIRMS Hillary Sold Weapons to ISIS…Then Drops Another BOMBSHELL! Breaking News.” He also refused to delete a tweet with this ridiculous (and fake) quote from Ronald Reagan about Trump: “For the life of me, and I’ll never know how to explain it, when I met that young man, I felt like I was the one shaking hands with a president.” And that’s not all! Just for good measure, Scott recently promoted an ad designed to look like news (sponsored content) from Grand Junction Sentinel.

Who the Fuck Cares about the Facts? Award — State Rep. Patrick Neville and Casper Stockham

Sometimes we ask people to remove fake news, once determined to be false by outside fact checkers, and lawmakers ignore us (e.g., former State Rep. Shawn Mitchell, former State Sen. Laura Woods (R-Arvada). Other lawmakers talk about it with us in a civil manner and we agree to disagree (former GOP State Rep. Gordon Klingenschmitt of CO SpringsRepublican State Sen. Tim Neville of Littleton) And still, others say, essentially, who cares if it’s false? Take, for example, Republican State House Minority Leader Patrick Neville. Told about a falsehood on his Facebook page, he tweeted that we should “stop being such a #snowflake. End the #fakeoutrage #growup #moveoutofmomsbasement.” Meanwhile, the fake news remains on his Facebook page. A similar who-the-fuck-cares attitude toward the facts was revealed by failed GOP congressional candidate Casper Stockham, who posted a falsehood about a Muslim Target cashier refusing to sell pork, even though Stockham himself wrote that the meme is “probably not true.” It wasn’t. But there it sits on his Facebook page to this day.

Warriors Against the Fake News Darkness Awards

It’s been a depressing year on the fake news beat, but there’s hope on the home front. A growing number of Colorado officials are removing fake news, once they are alerted to the fact that it’s rotting on their social media feeds. Yay for these current and former lawmakers from both parties, who posted fake news and then removed it: State Rep. Polly Lawrence (R-Roxborough Park), State Rep. Susan Lontine (D-Denver), former State Rep. Marsha Looper (R-Calhan), U.S. Rep. Jared Polis (D-Denver), former State Rep. Kit Roupe (R-Calhan), Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Tancredo, Former Democratic Mayor of Denver Wellington Webb, and Elbert County School Board Member Scott WillsJoshua Hosler, Chair of the El Paso County Republican Party, also gets credit for removing fake news from his Facebook page, once he was alerted to it.

Let Me Deceive You — State Rep. Dave Williams

Despite the fact that immigrants are much less likely to commit crimes than the rest of the U.S. population, you’d think they were responsible for 83 percent of crimes committed on American soil if you only got your news from the Facebook timeline of state Rep. Dave Williams (R-Colo. Springs). Williams, who is a strong opponent of sanctuary city policies and even pushed a bill that would have punished politicians who enact them, almost exclusively highlights crime committed by immigrants. The only exceptions, making up 17 percent of crime-related posts on his timeline over the past 14 months, are an accusation that Hillary Clinton broke the law, a few posts expressing condolences after mass shootings, some promotion of his law to crack down on squatters, and an erroneous claim that an Antifa member stabbed an innocent man. Williams’ vastly disproportionate focus on immigrant crime deceives his Facebook followers into believing that undocumented immigrants are dangerous, when in reality, they’re more likely to be law-abiding citizens, and may actually cause crime to decline in their communities.

Mr. Congeniality Award — State House Candidate Raymond Garcia 

A failed GOP candidate for Colorado’s House of Representatives, Raymond Garcia’s offensive, inaccurate, and downright cringe-worthy Facebook timeline earns him the satirical title of Mr. Congeniality. His social media activity often reveals bigotry, like when he called Harvey Milk a pedophile and suggested that black people should feel guilty for slavery. He also repeatedly attacks Hillary Clinton, whom he refers to as “Hitlery”, and once even posted a poorly photoshopped image of her in which Donald Trump appears to grope her with the caption “OMG this is perfect!!!” What a charming fellow!

The “Earth Is Nearly in Its 21st Year Without Global Warming” Fake News Award — State Sen. Tim Neville

Global warming is a big priority for us fake news cops, so naturally we were alarmed when we saw State Sen. Tim Neville (R-Littleton) spreading fake news headlined, “Satellites: Earth Is Nearly in Its 21st Year Without Global Warming.” The linked article cites satellite data allegedly showing a “prolonged hiatus” in global warming. The mainstream scientific community, as reported by, has found no hiatus in global warming on Earth. Yet, Neville has refused to remove the falsehood from his Facebook page.

Madeleine Schmidt contributed to this post.

Looper deletes fake news from her Facebook page

Friday, December 15th, 2017

Earlier this year, former State Rep. Marsha Looper told me she’d consider removing a fake-news item from her Facebook page, if she could confirm my determination that it was a falsehood.

To her great credit, she did so. It’s gone from her Facebook page.

The fake meme depicted wild exaggerations and falsehoods about a rape that did not occur in Idaho.

Looper, who left office in 2012 and now sells real estate, should get high praise from all of us, on every side of the aisle, for doing her part to fight the truth-free trend that’s threatening to undermine rationality in the public square.

And it’s not just Looper who has the integrity to own a mistake and remove fake news after posting it. A growing number of officials are taking a bipartisan stand for truth.

Former Colorado lawmaker refuses to remove factual error on Facebook page

Sunday, November 26th, 2017

Former Colorado State Sen. Shawn Mitchell, a Republican, is refusing my request to correct an error on his Facebook page.

Mitchell stated on Facebook that “an Antifa dude” opened fire in a church. In fact, the shooter had no connections to Antifa, as has been widely documented by, Snopes, which called the allegation “fake news,” and other fact checkers.

Mitchell wrote on Facebook Nov. 5:

I am so sick of the blind, morally twisted pygmies who feed us news.
An Antifa dude shoots up a church. A liberal neighbor assaults, batters, and seriously injures a conservative senator. A deranged Bernie supporter shoots up a Republican baseball practice.
Does anyone notice a pattern here? Yet, in all of this, the media is unwavering that conservatives are the dangerous ones, just one brain twitch away from enslaving women, minorities, and shooting adversaries.

Mitchell is worried about the “twisted pygmies who feed us news,” and he posts this obvious falsehood?

Mitchell did not respond to my polite request that he clear up this factual error on his Facebook page.

Former Denver Mayor Webb shows integrity in removing fake news from his Facebook page

Wednesday, November 15th, 2017

webb fake news 11-17Former Denver Mayor Wellington Webb gets serious praise for removing fake news from his Facebook page, which falsely quoted Trump as saying:

“If I were to run, I’d run as a Republican. They’re the dumbest group of voters in the country. They believe anything on Fox News. I could lie and they’d still eat it up. I bet my numbers would be terrific.”

Webb not only removed the post, which had received hundreds of “likes” and “shares,” but he left a note on his Facebook page copping to his mistake and apologizing.

What more could you want from a community leader?

For this, I officially dub him a Warrior Against the Fact-Free World.

It’s great to remove fake news in silence, but Webb went further by acknowledging his error and thus showed by his example how we can all fight fake news. Anyone can make a mistake and post fake news, no matter how hard we try not to. Webb’s action encourages others to act responsibly if they’re in the same boat.

Contrast how Webb handled the situation with the many Colorado officials who refuse to remove fake news, defined as social-media post that looks like news and has been proven false by, Politifact, Snopes or a credible news outlet.

Current or former lawmakers who’ve refused to remove fake news include former State Rep. Gordon Klingenschmitt of Colorado Springs, State Sen. Tim Neville of Littleton, State House Republican Leader Patrick Neville of Castle Rock,  State Rep. Ray Scott of Grand Junction, and former State Sen. Laura Woods of Arvada (most recently here). They are all Republicans.

On the positive side, a growing number of officials, from former Republican Congressman Tom Tancredo on the right to Webb on the left, have readily removed fake-news, once they become aware of the rot on their social-media feeds. Yay for that.

Why hasn’t Patrick Neville removed fake news from his Facebook Page?

Tuesday, October 17th, 2017

neville patrick on kaepernick saying he'd stand for anthem if he could play againUPDATE: On Twitter Oct. 18, Neville responded to this post with, “Fake news, trying to call out fake news. Classic. I continue to believe “values have no price”. Why should I remove my opinion? #copolitics”


“BREAKING: Quarterback Colin Kaepernick tells CBS he’ll stand during the national anthem if given chance to play football in NFL again.”

If I were Colorado State Rep. Patrick Neville (R-Littleton), I would have shared that news, delivered via Facebook by the Associated Press, on my Facebook page.

I mean, it was reported by CBS and and validated by AP, both credible news outlets.

And, in fact, Neville shared it on his Facebook page, with the comment, “Values have no price.”

But it turns out Kaepernick never said this.

Snopes now says it’s not true, and so does CBS itself, which corrected its own report.

So it’s 100 percent fake news, if you define it, as I do, as false information, packaged as news, that’s been deemed false by, Politifact, Snopes, or a credible news outlet.

So, if I were Neville, I’d delete it from my Facebook page, if a progressive blogger alerted me to the problem with calls and an email. I’d explain what happened, because, as the Republican leader in the Colorado House, I’d want to set a good example and show my commitment to fact-based discourse.

But despite my outreach to Neville beginning last week, the fake news post remains on his Facebook page. I wish I knew why he hasn’t removed it. Maybe he didn’t get my messages? Seems like he and I would agree on this one.

In deleting fake news from her Facebook page, and owning her mistake, state representative is model for all lawmakers

Saturday, August 26th, 2017

At a time when the president of our country sets an example as a liar who refuses to correct his own brazen falsehoods, Colorado State Rep. Susan Lontine (D-Denver) should be considered a hero for deleting a fake news item that she shared on Facebook earlier this month–and taking public responsibility for the mistake.

After deleting the post, which showed Trump’s parents in KKK garb, Lontine explained on her Facebook page that she holds herself “accountable to not spread fake news of any kind.” She also thanked “those who held me accountable.”

In removing her post, deemed “false” by Snopes, Lontine joins two other Colorado lawmakers who’ve done the right thing and removed fake news from their Facebook pages after being alerted to its fakeness.

In December, without commenting, two Colorado Republicans removed fake news from their Facebook pages (State Rep. Polly Lawrence of Roxborough Park and former State Rep. Kit Roupe of Colorado Springs). Two other Republicans said they would not remove it (former State Rep. Gordon Klingenschmitt of Colorado Springs and State Sen. Tim Neville of Littleton) And two did not respond to my request that it be deleted (State Rep. Ray Scott of Grand Junction and former State Sen. Laura Woods of Arvada). Earlier this year, U.S. Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO) removed a tweet without comment.

Lontine, however, did more than just delete the post. She owned the mistake.

As far as I know, she’s the first Colorado lawmaker to delete fake news and then acknowledge it on Facebook, as stipulated by the Fake News Pledge, which Lontine and other lawmakers have signed. Here’s Lontine’s Facebook post on the matter:

Folks, yesterday I posted a picture of President Trump and his parents that looked like his parents were wearing KKK outfits.

Turns out, the picture was photoshopped to look like that. I posted it without checking its origin or veracity. I posted it because it confirmed my biases. I hold myself accountable to not spread fake news of any kind and thanks to those who held me accountable.

The response to Lontine’s correction on Facebook has been positive.

“This is why we love and trust you… you are always honest” wrote one commenter.

Lontine is a model for all lawmakers. She did exactly what all of us want and what the country badly needs at this moment. She’s showing us that anyone can make a mistake, even our leaders, and it’s honorable to make corrections. In response, we owe her our admiration–especially against the backdrop of Trump’s brazen lying.

For those of you who think I’m praising Lontine too much: Normally, you might be right. This should be leadership-101 behavior.  But it shows how far our political discourse has fallen that a politician deserves such high praise for the simple act of correcting herself on Facebook. Yes, we’ve hit that low point. Now we need a wave of lawmakers to act responsibly and correct themselves, if they spread fake news. Imagine if all politicians, including Trump, would do so.

Can conservatives and progressives trust journalism for the sake of fighting “fake news?”

Friday, May 19th, 2017

To fight fake news in a bipartisan way, Republicans and Democrats need to find it in themselves to trust professional journalism, while reserving verification rights.

We need to agree that the role of journalists is to enforce truthfulness as a basic ground rule for civic discourse, while advocates reserve the right, of course, to disagree with the conclusions of journalists.

So it kills me that conservatives, like Colorado State Sen. Tim Neville (R-Littleton), won’t accept respected journalistic fact checkers as arbiters of fake news.

But maybe there’s a road to compromise in liberty advocate Ari Armstrong’s thoughtful definition of fake news that he articulated last month–much of which I agree with.

Armstrong and I diverge from the thinking of most journalists on the definition of fake news, because we both define fake news based on the content of the news story, not its source. In other words, we both agree that a fake news story could come from the Washington Post, Brietbart,,, or

If you define fake this way, you allow conservatives, who might hate the Washington Post, and progressives, who might hate Breitbart, to agree on a starting point to discuss how to address the fake news problem. So I accept the idea that any outlet could produce fake news partly for sake of compromise with conservatives.

But how could someone like me, who has such respect for journalism, possibly agree that the New York Times could be a potential source of fake news? Because, as Armstrong points out, a credible news outlet like the Times will go to great length not to make errors and to correct them quickly. So if it makes a mistake, and produces a fake news item, its fake news will likely be ephemeral fake news.

But even if we accept that any news source can produce fake news, we need a practical way for liberals and conservatives to agree on a definition of fake news.

This definition has to rely on arbiters, rather than an individual’s own case-by-case assessment, as proposed by State Sen. Tim Neville (R-Littleton) and, in part, by liberty-advocate Ari Armstrong, because just like in any competition, partisans need referees to judge the game, in this case, to assess the facts.

That’s why it’s so unfortunate that most conservatives won’t name journalistic entities that can help us referee the facts. By doing this, they are rejecting the role of professional journalism in society.

Both Armstrong and Neville have rejected the Fake News Pledge, which is a promise not to post fake news on Facebook. It defines fake news as a story “deemed false or inaccurate by Snopes, Politifact,, or by a respected news outlet.” It also must “packaged to look somehow like news.”

That definition could snag an article from the Times, but as a practical matter, it’s unlikely that a fact checker like will find a factual error in a New York Times article before the Times corrects the error.

So I think the Fake News Pledge’s simple definition should work for conservatives and progressives.

But who’s optimistic? With Donald Trump’s constant berating of mainstream media as “fake news,” how could Trump followers ever accept journalists as arbiters of facts, especially given that everyday Republicans in America don’t seem to. The Pew Research Center reported this month:

Today, in the early days of the Trump administration, roughly nine-in-ten Democrats (89%) say news media criticism keeps leaders in line (sometimes called the news media’s “watchdog role”), while only about four-in-ten Republicans (42%) say the same.

That’s not encouraging for the prospects of Republicans accepting the Fake News Pledge and the role of journalist fact checkers as arbiters of fakeness. And it’s bad news, no matter how you look at it.

Bennet defends journalism, saying Trump has “hard time” distinguishing between reality and “somebody shooting their mouth off on the internet”

Thursday, May 11th, 2017

Colorado’s Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet took the fight against fake news to the floor of the U.S. Senate yesterday, saying Trump resorts to “talking about ‘fake news’ when he doesn’t like [journalists’] reporting” and that Trump has a “hard time” distinguishing between “something that is real” and “somebody shooting their mouth off on the internet.”

Bennet did not suggest, as I would have done, that Trump sign the Fake News Pledge for elected officials, but it’s great to a politician stand up for journalists, who are almost as unpopular as politicians themselves. Which is exactly why Trump attack them.

Bennet made the fake news remark as part of a blistering attack on Trump, focused on his firing of FBI Director James Comey but touching on Trump’s overall disrespect for American institutions of government.

Watch Bennet here.

And here are his comments on journalism and fake news:

Bennet (at 5:30): And [the American people] remember his attacks on the free press as well, when he doesn’t like their reporting and his resorting to talking about ‘fake news’ when he doesn’t like their reporting. Mr. President, I have had to talk to so many high school students. and middle school students in Colorado over the last four or five months about this whole question of fake news and what the importance is of edited content to our society–and again to the rule of law. The importance that middle school students and high school students place on edited content on curated content, their ability to distinguish between something that is science or something that is real, something that is edited versus somebody shooting their mouth off on the internet. The president has a hard time making that distinction as well.

Woods posts fake news on Facebook

Friday, May 5th, 2017

woods trey gowdy 5-17Despite the example set by Trump, it seems that public figures in Colorado are being more careful about posting fake news on their Facebook pages than they were prior to the last election.

And to their credit, some officials in Colorado are removing fake news, if they are convinced it’s inaccurate.

But former State Rep. Laura Woods (R-Westminster), who lost her state senate seat in November, apparently hasn’t gotten the memo about how fake news rots civic discourse, not to mention representative government.

She apparently posted this fake news item, provided to me by a source, last week, headlined, “Trey Gowdy Breaks Silence After 2 of His Investigators Were Found Tortured and Killed-Proud Patriots.”

Woods apparently commented, “OM gosh…The Clintons’ trail of dead bodies is unbelievable. Hopefully Attorney General Sessions will take them down.”

It appears that Woods refused to remove the fake news, even after a someone on her Facebook feed pointed out that it was debunked by Snopes.

Woods doesn’t return my calls, but I invite her to sign the Fake News Pledge for Citizens here.

But it appears she may have found her own way to deal with Fake News, with a site offering right-wing radio host Mark Levin, right-wing columnist Michelle Malkin, and others:

woods alt news site