The Washington Post reported that the former president told 30,573 lies during his four years in office, with more than half being in the final year. Fact checking the 45th president emerged as a premier occupation or fascination during the Reign of the Big Lie, with several media sources competing to count or challenge utterances from the White House. While some entered the field along the way, USA Today’s (USAT) late entry has propelled it to continue fact checking. USAT is one of the sprawling media conglomerates in the news business directing its various enterprises from a headquarters in Tysons Corner, Virginia.
Most consumers and readers appreciate the definition of a fact as a thing that is true or something that has occurred or has been proven correct. Proven, of course, means, among other things, indisputable, generally accepted, readily demonstrated, e.g., two plus two equals four. In criminal law, an accessory before the fact is someone behind the scenes or one aiding and abetting a perpetrator to commit a crime or help another person commit it. The fact in that definition is the crime itself.
Why is USA Today endeavoring to fact check sometimes arcane claims appearing only on social media?
USAT appears to have created a futuristic facet in fact checking, in which the fact, or crime, is accepted as proven before most learn of the event. Thus the description of vetting the facts before the fact. A sampling of some of USAT’s efforts are offered for readers to judge for themselves the relativity and verisimilitude of the undertaking. Ratings of importance to humankind are invited. It may be important to know that many of the claims that USAT has evaluated are made upon social media only, not elsewhere. It raises the question, why is USAT endeavoring to fact check sometimes arcane claims appearing only on social media?
The justification, in its own words, by the media giant rationalized its engagement in a statement on January 13, 2020:
I’m USA TODAY editor-in-chief Nicole Carrol. When people ask me my mission as a journalist, I give the same answer every time: To spread truth.
Misinformation, distortions and outright lies are a significant problem for our country.
Professional journalists must lead the way with credible, transparent reporting of the facts. In addition, we need to correct and stop the spread of significant misinformation.
To that end, we have created a page at USA TODAY to collect the fact checking our journalists across the USA TODAY Network do every day.
The claim that Bluetooth got its name from Viking King Harald “Bluetooth” Gormsson is TRUE, based on our research. An Intel representative suggested the name based on the reasoning that Harald united Scandinavia and Bluetooth wanted to unite mobile PCs and cellphones to communicate. But Harald reportedly got his “Bluetooth” nickname from a dark, dead tooth, not from eating an extreme amount of blueberries, as claimed in the meme.
The claim that Ted Cruz tweeted, “I’ll believe in climate change when Texas freezes over” is FALSE, based on our research. There is no evidence of the tweet on his Twitter pages or archived versions of them, and his office confirmed that it is fabricated. Cruz has made statements questioning climate change.
An image posted to FaceBook claiming to show a blue owl from the Philippines is ALTERED based on our research. The original version of the image shows an owl with brown feathers and yellow eyes, not blue feathers and pink eyes. The authentic photo shows a Guatemalan Pygmy-Owl, not a Philippine or Madagascar owl, as claimed by users.
The claim that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is worth more than $196 million while working on a $193,000 salary is FALSE. Financial disclosures show that Pelosi’s net worth isn’t close to $196 million, and the salary used in the post is wrong. Pelosi earns $223,500 a year as speaker and is worth about $106 million, using the method the Center for Responsive Politics outlines for calculating net worth of Congress members.
The claim that nursing homes and orphanages were combined in Canada is FALSE, based on our research. While there are reports of kids from child care facilities spending time with seniors at nursing homes, there is no evidence of orphanages and long-term care facilities merging in Canada.
The claim that “homework” spelled backward translates to “child abuse” in Latin is FALSE, based on our research. “Krowemoh” does not exist in the Latin language and the letter W is not part of the Latin alphabet.
The image of a group of evangelicals praying over a gold statue of former President Donald Trump is ALTERED. The image has been doctored from an original to substitute the statue for Trump. The original photo was taken on Jan. 3, 2020, at a rally in Miami, while the Conservative Political Action Conference, where the altered image purports to have been taken, was in late February 2021.
The claim that purring is the sound of a cat’s heartbeat and it speeds up when you pet the animal because it senses you’re close enough to be attacked is FALSE, based on our research. Experts and studies state cats purr to express emotions including happiness, stress, hunger and self-healing. It is also FALSE to claim that the only emotion a cat feels is contempt as scientists agree that cats feel negative and positive emotions.
This short sampling may well whet your appetite to pursue further the campaign of USAT to bring truth to society. Surely, some will be grateful that the accumulation and verification of facts, before and after the fact, represents progress in the human experience. Bluetooth sorted; Philippine and Guatemalan owls finally distinguished; Pelosi’s mega wealth nailed; children and seniors not combined in Canada; backwards or forward, homework is homework; no false gods for evangelicals; purring is what we all thought it is.
On the other hand, USAT may be facing the famous reality posed by Jack Nicholson in the movie A Few Good Men: You can’t handle the truth. VoxFairfax is of the opinion that there is not a sufficient supply of pulp paper for USAT to spread all the truth all the time as a daily ritual. Meow! Spelled backwards might be woe is me.