Is Glenn Beck trying to discredit fact-checker websites?
On his Monday radio show, after repeating guilt-by-association claims by the Obama-obsessedWorldNetDaily reporter Aaron Klein that President Obama is linked to the Gaza flotilla through Bill Ayers, Glenn Beck and his crew took aim at fact-checking websites such as Snopes.com and FactCheck.org.
Beck asked of Snopes, “Aren’t they originally funded with [George] Soros money?” Nope -- it started in 1996 as a list of urban myths and legends by amateur folklorists David and Barbara Mikkelson and evolved into fact-checking. As The New York Times reported earlier this year, the Mikkelsons still run the website, which is self-supporting through advertising. Further, the idea that the Mikkelsons are driven by liberal ideology has been debunked by FactCheck.org, which noted that Barbara Mikkelson is a Canadian citizen, while David Mikkelson is a political independent who was previously a registered Republican and has no public record of having made political donations.
Speaking of FactCheck.org, guess who Beck moved onto next?
PAT GRAY (co-host): Because you go through the same thing with FactCheck. They’re through the Annenberg Foundation, which is, you know --
BECK: Which is Obama, right?
GRAY: Which is Obama.
Strike two. From FactCheck.org’s FAQ:
None, aside from benefiting at different times from the charity of the late publisher Walter Annenberg. We are a project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania and get funding from the Annenberg Foundation, created by Walter Annenberg in 1989. Ayers was one of three Chicago educators who applied for a grant from the Annenberg Foundation in 1995, which was one of 5,200 grants the foundation made during its first 15 years. That $49 million grant, plus additional funds raised locally, funded the Chicago Annenberg Challenge, which sought to improve Chicago public schools. Obama was selected by Chicago officials (not Ayers) to chair the board set up to administer Annenberg Challenge funds, and he headed it until 1999. FactCheck.org came into being in late 2003. For other details see our Oct. 10, 2008, article about Obama and Ayers, which includes a sidebar: "FactCheck.org and the 'Annenberg Challenge.' "
From the sidebar in the October 2008 FactCheck item on Obama and Ayers:
Contrary to suggestions we've seen in some conservative blogs, there is no connection between the Chicago Annenberg Challenge and FactCheck.org, save for the fact that both received funding from the Annenberg Foundation. The foundation supports a wide variety of charitable causes -- a total of 5,200 grants during its first 15 years of operation. It was founded in 1989 by Walter H. Annenberg, a newspaper and magazine publisher who died in 2002.
FactCheck.org is funded by, and is a project of, the Annenberg Public Policy Center, which was established by the Annenberg Foundation with a $20 million endowment in 1993. The Annenberg Foundation also made additional grants to support our work. We also receive funding from the Flora Family Foundation to help support our educational offshoot, FactCheckED.org. We receive no other outside funding.
FactCheck.org came into being in late 2003. Director Brooks Jackson states: "Our mission is to be as neutral and nonpartisan as humanly possible. Annenberg supports that, and nobody at the Annenberg Foundation has ever tried to influence anything we've written."
For the record, the Annenberg Foundation's president and chairman is Leonore Annenberg, the founder's widow. Public records show she's given $2,300 to the McCain campaign, which announced on Oct. 8, that she has endorsed him for president.
The funny thing is, even as Beck and Gray were attempting to discredit Snopes and FactCheck by repeating false claims about who is purportedly behind them, they admitted they use and like the websites. Sidekick “Stu” Burguiere said that “both organizations, you can look at and find that the vast majority of the stuff they have on there is pretty well researched.” And even Beck conceded: “We use Snopes here. It’s a very -- seeming a very credible organization.”
If Beck and his crew have no problems with the veracity of Snopes and FactCheck, why are they spreading falsehoods about who's behind these websites? Is it to create doubt about them when they go after claims made by Beck? Snopes and FactCheck have indeed fact-checked Beck on occasion, as has PolitiFact.com, operated by the St. Petersburg Times.
This feels a bit like a pre-emptive defense they can haul out should the occasion arise whenever they are caught peddling some egregiously false claim -- like, say, that fact-checking websites have secret connections to people Beck despises.