AUSTIN (KXAN) — During an intense exchange on Meet the Press this weekend, host Chuck Todd questioned Kellyanne Conway, counselor to the President about the administration’s first press conference which, according to Todd, were filled with falsehoods. Conway referred to them as “alternative facts,” a statement that has nearly gone viral.
KXAN’s Shannon Wolfson talks with Gardner Selby, the editor of Politifact Texas to discuss how his organization goes about checking facts.
Wolfson: Explain to me how you fact check.
Selby: Well, we start with factual claims. Seems like a silly idea, but first you have to determine if a statement is both factual and checkable. And the third element that goes into everything we do: is it curious, does it make you wonder?That’s where readers help us all the time by nudging us a little bit. Just a few minutes ago I got a nudge from somebody saying that the White House switchboard is shut down! You know what I did? I called the switchboard. It’s not shut down, but it’s a little more complicated than that. It looks like a comment line is no longer recording comments from people who call in.
Wolfson: How does average Joe Citizen determine on a daily basis: number 1, where to get factual information; and number two, what is true and what is not?
Selby: Besides the obvious answer: go to a fact checking site. Besides those, go to the original data source! You’d be amazed, using google or maybe making a phone call to the appropriate member of Congress–you have a member of Congress after all. How quickly you can get to original data and check for yourself, see the original presentation of the data and then once you absorb that, try to evaluate that information, see if there’s anything missing.
Wolfson: What do you think when you hear someone in an administration say that there are alternative facts?
Selby: I love the phrase! I’ve never heard it before. I guess we’ve never heard it before this Sunday. We heard it from somebody at the White House, KellyAnn Conway, but I don’t even know what that means: alternative facts. But once you start breaking it down, we’ve got to hope there are essential facts you can pin down. There might be alternative views on facts, there might be a sorting out where you decide some facts are more important than others and someone else says ‘no these other facts are more important.’ You can debate that, I suppose.