MINNEAPOLIS — Analysis of Fox News suggests that the TV news network is a leader in lying to the American public, beating out CNN and MSNBC for the amount of falsehoods broadcasted.
The analysis comes from Punditfact, a partnership between the Tampa Bay Times and Politifact.com, which maintains scorecards on the accuracy of major TV news networks. As of January, about 60 percent of facts reported by Fox News were false.
Criticizing the accuracy of Fox News is not a new pursuit — comedians like Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert built substantial portions of their career out of spotlighting the network’s lies and misdirection. Stewart is so well-known as an opponent that he made headlines in March for admitting Fox had actually been correct in one, specific instance.
Fox News’ falsehoods gained particular notoriety in the wake of Islamic-extremist terrorist attacks in Europe earlier this year, when Fox began claiming that neighborhoods and even entire cities were off-limits to non-Muslims. Fans of Fox continue to repeat the claim, even though it’s been debunked by everyone from local residents of these regions to British Prime Minister David Cameron. The controversy gave rise to the Twitter hashtag #foxnewsfacts, which is still popular today.
U.S. has conducted air strikes.
U.S. does not conduct air strikes.
— Bipartisan Report (@Bipartisanism) May 8, 2015
Fox News’ penchant for inaccuracy has give rise to popular urban legends, debunked by Snopes.com, suggesting that Fox won the right to lie in court — a claim based on a court case that involved a local Fox affiliate — and that the network was banned in Canada for lying.
Punditfact divides Fox’s on-air falsehoods into categories, from claims that are mostly false (21 percent), those that were completely false (31 percent), and the most blatant lies, which are termed “Pants On Fire” (9 percent).
But Fox News is not the only network blurring the lines between fact and fiction. A combined scorecard for MSNBC and NBC shows that Punditfact found 44 percent of the news broadcast by those networks was at least “mostly false” or worse. CNN got the best grades on their scorecard, with 80 percent of their reports deemed at least “half true.”
Punditfact began maintaining these scorecards in 2014, and their January analysis shows that MSNBC and CNN are improving their truthfulness score with time. Fox, however, is not improving — in fact, it’s getting worse.
Punditfact warns that these scorecards are based only on analysis of selected claims, not a statistically accurate survey: “We use our news judgment to pick the facts we’re going to check, so we certainly don’t fact-check everything. And we don’t fact-check the five network groups evenly.”
Even so, the Punditfact score cards show that while it is a myth that courts upheld Fox News’ right to lie, it can hardly be considered a reliable news outfit. Despite this fact, Fox routinely ranks as the top TV news network in terms of viewership, based on Nielsen statistics, causing irreparable harm to public perception of events.
In March, Jon Stewart compared this effect to blindness caused by a solar eclipse.
“It’s recommended you only watch Fox through a tiny pinhole poked in a piece of cardboard,” quipped Stewart. “You can’t look directly at Fox. It will indelibly burn your soul!”