On April 15th the BBC published an online article which incorrectly asserted that Palmer Report had “falsely suggested that President Trump profited from the US missile strikes in Syria,” which it based on a fact check Snopes. Today the BBC has informed Palmer Report that it made a mistake, and that it has now removed the incorrect claim about Palmer Report. Furthermore, the BBC has removed the link to the faulty Snopes fact check entirely.
This does not come as a surprise. On April 7th, Palmer Report correctly reported that Donald Trump owns stock in Raytheon, the company which makes Tomahawk missiles (link). We based this conclusion by combining a 2015 report from Business Insider confirming that he owned Raytheon stock at the time (link) and the fact that there’s no evidence he’s since sold the stock, as the sale of a stock leaves a paper trail and there is no such paper trail.
Snopes then published a “fact check” of our article which presented essentially no new evidence of its own, but nonetheless assigned us an “Unproven” rating, based on nothing more than the notion that it’s theoretically possible Trump may have sold the stock and that no one knows about it. In other words, our article was correct, and Snopes invented a hypothetical technicality as an excuse to weigh in on it. We’re still confused as to what an “Unproven” rating is supposed to mean, and why a fact checking outlet would bother to weigh in on a news outlet’s reporting just to state that it doesn’t know anything.
Today the BBC wrote to Palmer Report to inform us that the link to the Snopes fact check article in question had been removed entirely. In the original version of the BBC article, the incorrect claim about Palmer Report and the Snopes link were in the fourth sentence, which you can still view on archive.org (link). In the newly revised version of the BBC article, the fourth sentence has been deleted entirely, along with a note at the bottom explaining that the sentence has been deleted (link).
We’re confused as to why this keeps happening. So far this year Snopes has published fact checks on articles from hundreds of news outlets, and some of those outlets are routinely slapped with “False” ratings. In contrast Palmer Report is a respected news outlet whose articles are regularly posted and shared by everyone from cable news hosts to members of the U.S. Congress (see our About page). Yet each time Snopes staffers conduct an interview with a reporter, they make sure the reporter ends up focusing on Palmer Report instead of on the news outlets that Snopes itself has rated as being far less accurate.
This happened when Snopes spoke to the BBC last week, and it also happened when Snopes spoke with The Atlantic in February. The author of The Atlantic article has since privately apologized to Palmer Report three different times for his own failure to follow basic journalistic guidelines, but has yet to revise his article accordingly, a matter we’re still pursuing.
Further, the interviews that Snopes is conducting with these news outlets tend to center around the “fake news” phenomenon. And yet Snopes consistently pushes Palmer Report front and center in these interviews, despite the fact that Snopes keeps its own running list of “fake news” sites and Palmer Report is not on it (link). So why would Snopes even be mentioning Palmer Report in these interviews about fake news? Why isn’t Snopes instead pushing any of the sites that it classifies as fake news?
We don’t know precisely why Snopes keeps doing this. But its overzealousness in trying to cast Palmer Report in a negative light during these interviews has been so misleading that it’s now resulted in The Atlantic privately apologizing and the BBC publicly issuing a correction. For the sake of its own reputation, we call on Snopes to stop inappropriately inserting Palmer Report into interviews about fake news. We also call on Snopes to do a better job in its fact checking and move on from publishing faulty, misleading, pointless “fact check” articles that do nothing other than cast baseless theoretical aspersions on solid reporting, backed up by nothing more than a meaningless “Unproven” rating. Meanwhile the most respected fact check outlets, PolitiFact and FactCheck.org, have never once taken issue with any Palmer Report article – and we’re proud of that fact.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report