According to the old saying, everyone is entitled to their own opinions, but not to their own facts. But with all the vitriol in political discourse these days, it’s harder than ever to distinguish facts from fiction – even for those who try. In recent weeks, organizations like PolitiFact, FactCheck.org and The Fact Checker have been hit with a torrent of criticism.
Conservative critics argue that so-called fact checkers are actually liberals trying to control the political discourse. And when PolitiFact awarded its “Lie of the Year” trophy to Democratic claims that the GOP “killed” Medicare, lefties seemed to take it as a personal attack.
If you ask Glenn Kessler, who writes The Fact Checker column for the Washington Post, there’s little difference between how much Democrats and Republicans twist the truth. They all do it, to serve their own political purposes.
So, fact checkers may be imperfect, but are they an essential part of our political process? Are they really impartial seekers of the truth? Or peddlers of partisan fiction? Who’s guilty of the tallest tales – Republicans or Democrats? And what are the biggest Pinocchios of 2011?
David Folkenflik, Media Correspondent for NPR News
Brooks Jackson, Director of FactCheck.org, a project of the University of Pennsylvania's Annenberg Public Policy Center, University of Pennsylvania