Each week, AllSides delivers a brief summary of notable fact checks and adjacent coverage across the media spectrum.
Fact Check From the Left
On Friday September 22, President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, and Rep. Maxwell Frost (D-FL) announced the creation of a new Office of Gun Violence Prevention, which V.P. Harris will oversee. Giving a speech about its creation, the president remarked on recent mass shootings, suggesting he’d been to the site of every one.
What exactly Biden meant by his words, “I’ve been to every mass shooting,” is unclear. Even the definition of a mass shooting is a bit ambiguous, and USA Today’s fact checking team pointed this out in a recent fact check, which found the president’s claim, regardless of interpretation, to be false.
USA Today said since the beginning of Biden’s presidency, there have been 24 “public shootings with four or more victims.” Its assessment deviates from the total mass shootings count reported by the Gun Violence Archive, a resource often referenced by media sources from the left and center. The GVA defines a mass shooting as one where four or more people are injured or killed, not counting the shooter. At the time of publishing, USA Today noted the GVA had reported over 500 mass shootings since the beginning of 2023. USA Today noted these distinctions in its article.
Fact Check From the Right
A fact check explored widely across the spectrum this week was former President Donald Trump’s claim that offshore wind turbines near South Carolina are contributing to the record number of whale deaths the Atlantic U.S. has seen so far in 2023.
Trump said the Biden administration was “trying to bludgeon” South Carolina’s maritime industry with proposed boat speed limit rules aimed at protecting whales, and that as president, he would cancel the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s proposed rule change.
Trump is right that there has been an uptick in whale deaths as of late. So far in 2023, the NOAA has reported that on the Atlantic coast, 34 Humpback whales have died, and 7 North Atlantic right whales have died, been injured or become ill during the same period. The uptick in deaths dates back to 2016 and 2017, when the NOAA declared Unusual Mortality Events for Humpbacks and right whales, respectively. (Washington Examiner seems to confuse a few of the NOAA’s statistics in its analysis. AllSides has reached out for clarification.)
However, the Washington Examiner says Trump isn’t the only politician who has voiced concern over the deaths. Earlier this year, when seven Humpbacks washed ashore in 5 weeks near Brigantine, NJ, Republican state Senator Vince Polistina called for the suspension of all work related to the development of offshore wind until the cause of the seventh whale’s death was determined.
Republicans aren’t the only politicians raising the issue. In March, a bipartisan group of House lawmakers approved an amendment that called for the federal Government Accountability Office to independently investigate environmental review processes for the development of offshore wind along the East Coast because of the recent uptick in whale and dolphin deaths.
Democrats have also been concerned about possible correlations between offshore wind turbines and animal deaths, citing fear of species’ extinction as a motivator. Also in March, a group of five Democratic Senators, including Cory Booker and Bob Menendez of New Jersey, called on the NOAA to release more information surrounding the uptick in whale deaths.
Although it presented a lot of context, the Washington Examiner did not issue a verdict for Trump’s claim. BBC Fact Check (Center bias), who also fact checked the claim, did not issue a verdict either, but said, “There is no evidence to back Mr. Trump's suggestion that offshore wind turbines are killing whales.” BBC also the quoted NOAA as saying there are "no known links" between the uptick in whale deaths and offshore wind development, but that doesn’t mean there are no effects on marine ecosystems.
Fact Check From the Center
A widely circulated image of Sen. John Fetterman (D-PA) showed the senator without tattoos on his arms, implying that the senator, who notably suffered from ailments like stroke and depression, has been using a body double.
The pictures that show Fetterman’s arms without tattoos were cut from a recent video taken by NBC News (Lean Left bias) journalist Liz Brown-Kaiser, in which the senator reacted to Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s (R-CA) plans to move forward with an impeachment against President Biden.
Reuters linked the original video posted by Brown-Kaiser which shows that Fetterman’s tattoos are clearly visible on other frames of the video and that the photo which showed his arms without tattoos, and was viewed almost three million times on Twitter, simply shows a frame where his tattoos are obscured by the angle at which he is holding them. Because of this, Reuters rated the claim as misleading.
Why We’re Watching the Fact Checkers
Whether the product of a carefully coordinated propaganda campaign or an innocent mistake by a journalist or social media user, misinformation is inevitable. Because of this, many fact checkers have popped up as their own entities, like Snopes (Lean Left bias), or as part of an existing outlet, like National Review (Right bias).
Fact checkers aim to get to the bottom of claims that may or may not be true. But sometimes, they themselves become part of the problem, such as by only fact checking one side, drawing subjective conclusions about what the facts mean, or showing bias by downplaying or playing up certain facts.
At AllSides, we’ve highlighted the types of bias fact checkers are most prone to, and developed the AllSides Fact Check Bias Chart™ so readers can easily identify bias and similarities in fact checking coverage.
Andy Gorel is a News Curator at AllSides. He has a bias of Center.
This piece was reviewed by Joseph Ratliff, Daily News Editor (Lean Left bias) and Johnathon Held, Bias Analyst (Lean Right bias).