The Fact Checker’s crash course for the 2018 elections


All 47 of our fact checks that dealt with candidates or campaign ads in 2018 are now in one place — right here.

Yes, it’s a wonder we still have time to fact-check politicians not named Donald Trump, he of the 6,420 false or misleading claims. But it’s not just the president who is flooding the airwaves with misinformation. The 2018 campaign season has featured a bunch of Trump-like TV ads, nativist rhetoric and scurrilous statistics from candidates, super PACs and other groups.

Of the 47 fact checks, 21 received Four Pinocchios. Twelve got Three Pinocchios, and seven got Two Pinocchios. We threw in two fact checks that got One Pinocchio and five with no ratings.

There are phony ads linking Democrats to terrorism with no evidence, an ad falsely accusing Republican leaders of plotting to end Medicare and Social Security, and an ad in New Jersey that links a sitting senator to underage prostitutes with no evidence. Some Republican candidates are even lying to voters about how many Pinocchios we gave to their opponents. (Is nothing sacred anymore?)

For those who want the facts before Election Day, we’ve summarized and linked to all 47 fact checks, starting with the Four Pinocchio claims.

Four Pinocchios

  • At least seven Republicans in House races are deceiving voters about our work, running ads that falsely say we gave Four Pinocchios to a Democrat’s claim about coverage guarantees for preexisting conditions in the Affordable Care Act. Worse, these GOP campaigns refused to take it back when we alerted them. The offenders are Reps. Dave Brat (Va.), Rodney Davis (Ill.), Jeff Denham (Calif.), John Faso (N.Y.), Mike Kelly (Pa.), Erik Paulsen (Minn.) and Peter J. Roskam (Ill.).
  • Brat mangled another one of our fact checks to defend himself on preexisting conditions during a debate.
  • Our wooden mascot also was abused by the Congressional Leadership Fund, a Republican super PAC attacking a Democratic candidate for the House in California by twisting our words on health care.
  • A bunch of Republicans and the Congressional Leadership Fund falsely depicted some Democrats as supporting Sen. Bernie Sanders’s Medicare-for-all plan.
  • The Congressional Leadership Fund might be this year’s MVP in terms of Pinocchios. Here are six attack ads it ran against Democrats, each of them loaded with false or misleading claims or fearmongering about Muslims and African Americans.
  • Brat, by the way, got another Four Pinocchios for promising the “honest truth” in a TV ad filled with deceptions on health care.
  • Under indictment, Rep. Duncan D. Hunter Jr. (R-Calif.) ran one of the most anti-Muslim ads in recent memory, linking his Palestinian Mexican American opponent, Ammar Campa-Najjar, to terrorists even though he’s a Christian who was cleared by the FBI to work in the Obama administration.
  • No, McConnell doesn’t traffic cocaine on the high seas. But “Cocaine Mitch” is an inspired nickname nonetheless.
  • Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) cited classified information that he said showed Russia had access to Florida county voter registration databases and could purge voters from the rolls this year. He provided no evidence and was flatly contradicted by the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security and every county and state election supervisor in Florida.
  • Do Democrats have a “plan” to cut Medicare spending by $800 billion? Nope, but the Congressional Leadership Fund might end up with 800 Pinocchios by the end of this list.
  • Rep. Claudia Tenney (R-N.Y.) wondered on the radio why no one was reporting that Trump’s tax cuts had paid for themselves in six months. Maybe because she was totally wrong, mistaking overall economic gains for tax collections.
  • Rep. Kevin Cramer (R), running for Senate in North Dakota, set up a “fact-checking” website promoting a false claim that congressional estimates did not factor in the economic growth expected from Trump’s tax cut.
  • DNC Vice Chairman Keith Ellison, running for attorney general of Minnesota, has repeatedly denied any association with Louis Farrakhan, the leader of the Nation of Islam known for anti-Semitic remarks. There are holes in Ellison’s story and several documented links to Farrakhan.
  • Some Democrats are attacking Republicans on health care by taking estimates of people with preexisting conditions in the individual market and applying them to the entire insurance industry. We gave these claims Two or Four Pinocchios, depending on how these Democrats framed their attacks.
  • Did Hillary Clinton collude with the Russians to get dirt on Trump and feed it to the FBI? Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) seems to think so, but no. The answer is no.
  • Sanders said 40 percent of guns are sold without a background check. It’s a zombie claim that relies on a small survey, which is more than 20 years old, that upon close inspection actually shows 14 percent to 22 percent of guns were sold this way. (Newer research indicates it’s closer to 13 percent.)

Three Pinocchios

Two Pinocchios

One Pinocchio


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