Fact-checking Fox, MSNBC and CNN: PunditFact's network scorecards

Our network scorecards measure the accuracy of claims by pundits for each major television network. (AP File)
Our network scorecards measure the accuracy of claims by pundits for each major television network. (AP File)

Want to see how a particular cable channel or network is performing on PunditFact’s Truth-O-Meter?

Now you can.

Each of the news networks that we routinely follow -- ABC, CBS, Fox, MSNBC and CNN -- has a scorecard that breaks down that network’s performance on the Truth-O-Meter. The scorecard tallies each statement we fact-check on that network and groups the rulings by percentage.

What does that mean?

Right now, you can look at the MSNBC file, which also includes NBC, and see how that network’s pundits and on-air talent stand. For instance, currently 45 percent of the claims we’ve checked from NBC and MSNBC pundits and on-air personalities have been rated Mostly False, False or Pants on Fire.

At Fox and Fox News Channel, that same number is now 58 percent. At CNN, it’s 22 percent.

The comparisons are interesting, but be cautious about using them to draw broad conclusions. 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. CBS, for instance, doesn’t have a cable network equivalent, so we haven’t fact-checked pundits and CBS personalities as much.

The ABC scorecard, meanwhile, includes fact-checks that were part of a 2010 partnership between PolitiFact and ABC’s Sunday news show This Week.

What do our scorecards measure?

They only include statements made on that network by a pundit or a host or paid staffer. That means they do not include statements made by elected leaders, candidates or party officials. We feel it’s difficult to hold a network accountable for the comments of a politician.

Also, if a Fox News host appears on NBC and makes a claim that we fact-check, that rating would appear on the NBC page, not the Fox one. In this case, it’s about the network that aired the content, not the person who said it.

Since we launched our network scorecards, we’ve heard from plenty of you. Some have wondered why we don’t include NPR or PBS or even Comedy Central in our rankings. The fact is, with a staff of three, focusing on the five major television news networks keeps us plenty busy.

Some of you also have asked why we include statements of conservative pundits on MSNBC in MSNBC’s rankings and liberal pundits speaking on Fox News in Fox’s rankings. The thought we hear is that doing so doesn’t present a true measure of the network.

We, however, believe in measuring the overall veracity of a network -- and think MSNBC and Fox News should be held accountable for what pundits they put on air.

You can read more about our network scorecards in our Q&A.

Aaron Sharockman is the editor of PunditFact.com.