Thursday, March 4, 2021

Editor who won't do corrections makes correction request (Updated)

Here and at Zebra Fact Check we have documented obvious errors pointed out to PolitiFact that PolitiFact simply declines to fix.

How delicious, then, when we heard that PolitiFact Editor-in-Chief Angie Drobnic Holan requested corrections of the conservative publication the Federalist. And royally botched at least one of them.

The Federalist noted PolitiFact had done little to fact check Democratic Party politicians in the new Biden administration, and PolitiFact apparently objected.

The Federalist's Tristan Justice told the story on Feb. 20, 2021:

“Your report is wrong in multiple ways,” Holan wrote in a Friday email. “For one, we published three fact-checks on Feb. 16, so our last check on Biden was the day before your report was published. The link you use in the story shows that. Please issue a correction ASAP.”

Holan followed up two hours later, demanding an update.

The link embedded in the initial post to Biden’s fact-checks on the PolitiFact website, however, which remains unchanged, shows PolitiFact published three fact-checks after the story was published in The Federalist, of statements made on Feb. 16, including Biden’s remarks on vaccines. Contrary to Holan’s assertion, these fact-checks were published on Feb. 17 and 18, following the Federalist article.

The Federalist story included an image backing up Justice's description, which we independently verified. It looks like Holan probably mistook the date the claims were made as the publish date. When PolitiFact revamped its website about a year ago, it moved the claim date up to the top of the article and the publish date down and to the left to accompany the writer's byline.

Old way:

The old layout had the date of the claim in the box up top and the publish date next to the author's byline, down at the bottom of the header section.

New way:

With the new layout the claim date moved all the way up to the top, under the source of the claim. The publish date moved, along with the writer's byline, to the left margin. And shrank.

It looks like Holan believed the claim dates were the publish dates. It's not the kind of mistake an organization wants to see from its editor-in-chief.

We asked Holan for an explanation but received no reply.

It's worth pointing out that Holan claimed there were a number of errors in the Federalist article. We also asked her about those, after we asked Justice, the Federalist writer, about them. If Holan found legitimate problems with the Federalist story then Justice should not have buried the fact.

But as for Justice's allegation that Holan was mistaken with the first part of her correction request, the Internet Archive record from Feb. 17, 2021 shows no fact checks featuring Joe Biden published on Feb. 16, 2021.

Update March 5, 2021: A commenter has correctly noted that this post could benefit from added context. We inserted a short new paragraph in the three slot and added the link to the Federalist story that was always intended to be there. We appreciate comments that help us improve our work.


  1. I think this post needs context (no pun intended). Your point about Holan's mistake comes through eventually, but it would be helpful to have a link to the Federalist article you're quoting. I have no idea from reading this whether (let alone why) it is even relevant when PF published the fact-checks in question.

  2. tizzo, that's a good point. It is always our intent to provide the links to the original version of quotations such as that from the Federalist. As mentioned on our "About" page, we do this blog using precious moments of free time. The limited time, unfortunately, leads to higher numbers of errors like this one.


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