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Tipsheet

Is This WaPo's Worst Fact-Check Yet?

Gerald Herbert

Questionable fact-checks that are almost certainly partisan in nature are nothing new from The Washington Post's Glenn Kessler. They may as well be par for the course at this point. That doesn't mean he doesn't have the ability to stun once in a while though, as he did when it comes to a fact-check on Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg indicting former and potentially future President Donald Trump.

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"The incendiary claim that George Soros ‘funded’ Alvin Bragg," read the headline. Though it was published and updated on April 1, it does not appear to have been an April Fool's Day joke, as Kessler doubled down. In response to reaction over Twitter, and even being slapped with a message for added context that actually fact-checked the fact-checker, Kessler remained stubborn. 

Kessler's fact-check took issues with claims from Trump that Bragg is "handpicked and funded by George Soros," though it's worth reminding that Trump is hardly the only person to raise such a connection when highlighting the DA's--and others like him--soft-on-crime positions. Though Kessler is fact-checking Trump's specific remarks, he goes on to acknowledge that others have picked up on it, though it could very well be to throw the party as a whole under the bus. 

As the fact-check claims:

But the intense focus on Soros is misplaced. Soros never directly funded Bragg, but instead contributed to a group that supported Bragg and other liberal candidates seeking to be prosecutors.

Moreover, the repeated mention of Soros plays into antisemitic conspiracy theories that Soros, a Hungarian American Holocaust survivor, is a wealthy puppet-master who works behind the scenes to manipulate elections and further his goals. The Anti-Defamation League found in 2018 that Soros figures in a significant number of antisemitic tweets.

The Trump campaign defended Trump’s focus on Soros. “It’s not antisemitic to point out Soros funded/supported Bragg,” said spokesman Steven Cheung. “What world are you living in?”

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Kessler goes on to point to the Color of Change, and how they donated to Bragg, with the group having received funding from Soros:

Bragg was endorsed on May 8 of that year by the political arm of Color of Change, a progressive criminal justice group. In a statement that highlighted Bragg as the only Black candidate in the race, Color of Change said it planned to spend “over one million dollars” on an independent expenditure campaign for Bragg, such as sending “eight robust waves of direct mail throughout Manhattan in May” and then more direct mail in June highlighting early voting.

On May 14, Soros sent $1 million to Color of Change, federal election records show.

While that appears like careful coordination, both Soros and Color of Change say the two events are unrelated. Color of Change says it makes decisions on whom to endorse without input from its donors.

...

Whether Color of Change’s money made a difference is open to question. Campaigns prefer direct infusions of money. No coordination is permitted between a campaign and an independent organization, so independent contributions can detract from a campaign’s messaging strategy or target people with direct mail that the campaign has already reached. In other words, Color of Change’s $420,000 cannot necessarily be viewed as adding almost 20 percent to Bragg’s coffers in the primary. It could have been helpful — or it may have been wasted.

In any case, there is no evidence Soros has influence over Bragg.

“George has never met, spoken with or otherwise communicated with Alvin Bragg,” Vachon said. The Bragg adviser confirmed the two men have never met or communicated.

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The biggest beef that Kessler has with people, and the subject of the context message, has to do with the excerpt above. 

One of the context messages indicates that "Soros donated $1 million to the Color of Change PAC, the largest individual donation it received in the 2022 election cycle, days after it endorsed Bragg for district attorney and pledged more than $1 million in spending to support his candidacy," citing a CNBC article

Kessler went on to give the claims "Three Pinocchios," which means "[s]ignificant factual error and/or obvious contradictions" or could mean "mostly false." This is despite how he admits the connection is valid. 

"Republicans are being slippery here. Claiming Soros 'funded' Bragg is simply false, but many rely on the more ambiguous phrase of 'backed,' which is technically correct by several degrees of separation. But it’s still misleading and worthy of Three Pinocchios," Kessler wrote, before going into a rant about how the focus is an "incendiary" one and supposedly anti-Semitic because Soros is immune from criticism due to being Jewish.


Our friends at Twitchy highlighted some of the best reactions to Kessler's fact-check and his subsequent tweets, which included none other than Twitter CEO Elon Musk.

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Since then, Kessler has also retweeted the American Jewish Committee (AJC), which took issue with a statement from Trump referring to Soros as a "puppet master." He also retweeted criticism of Musk, who, as Matt covered earlier, mocked The New York Times for refusing to pay for their verification status. 



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