Exclusive — House Republicans Press Fact Checkers over Biden’s Updated ‘Recession’ Definition 

President Joe Biden speaks during a briefing from NASA officials about the first images from the Webb Space Telescope, the highest-resolution images of the infrared universe ever captured, in the South Court Auditorium on the White House complex, Monday, July 11, 2022, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
AP Photo/Evan Vucci

House Republicans are demanding answers from The Poynter Institute, one of the nation’s most impactful “fact-checkers,” over President Joe Biden’s definition of a “recession,” according to a letter exclusively obtained by Breitbart News.

Although a standard definition of an economic recession is two consecutive fiscal quarters with negative GDP growth, Biden has argued that the term should not apply to the current U.S. economy.

In a White House blog post last week, the Biden administration offered a new “holistic” definition of an economic recession.

The White House wrote:

What is a recession? While some maintain that two consecutive quarters of falling real GDP constitute a recession, that is neither the official definition nor the way economists evaluate the state of the business cycle.

Instead, both official determinations of recessions and economists’ assessment of economic activity are based on a holistic look at the data—including the labor market, consumer and business spending, industrial production, and incomes.

After Biden determined the country is not in a recession in light of his preferred definition, fact-checking websites ran with Biden’s declaration and began “fact-checking” those who used the traditional two-quarters of negative growth definition.

PolitiFact, which has a fact-checking partnership with Facebook and Instagram parent company Meta, rated the claim that Biden changed the recession definition as “false” and tagged posts that pointed this out as “false” or “misinformation.”

In a letter to PolitiFact’s parent company Poynter Institute, House Republicans on the Energy and Commerce Committee, led by ranking member Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), demanded answers about how the company conducts its fact-checking and if it has colluded with the Biden administration.

President Joe Biden speaks in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington, DC, on Thursday, July 28, 2022. The drumbeat of recession grew louder after the US economy shrank for a second straight quarter, as decades-high inflation undercut consumer spending and Federal Reserve interest-rate hikes stymied businesses and housing. (Oliver Contreras/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

The House Republicans argued, “it is essential that Poynter be transparent and accountable in its process and address any potential conflicts of interest.”

The letter pointed out other examples of social media sites “fact-checking” stories as false that were ultimately proven true. For example, they pointed out that social media websites banned the New York Post and tagged its reporting of Hunter Biden’s laptop as “Russian disinformation,” despite having zero evidence to back up their false labels.

The letter also pointed to reports earlier in the year that Biden’s administration was using federal funds to buy crackpipes for “safe smoking kits,” being labeled false by these fact-checkers, despite it being proven true.

“More recently, PolitiFact incorrectly labeled third-party content that challenges the Biden administration’s definition of a recession as ‘false information,’” the letter said.

McMorris Rodgers even noted that former President Bill Clinton (D) defined a recession by the traditional two consecutive quarters definition.

The letter argued that PolitiFact’s actions run contrary to Poynter’s core principles, which state that “nonpartisan and transparent fact checking can be a powerful instrument in accountability journalism.”

“Our country is founded on the battle of ideas and having a robust discussion about the state of our nation,” the letter said. “Holding our government accountable through fact-based journalism, including by questioning claims from the White House, is foundational to our democracy.”

The letter continued:

Yet fact checkers weighing in on active debate by labeling views contrary to the Biden administration or that would be actively damaging to the Democrats’ electoral goals as “false information” blindly accepts claims made by the administration as truth and harms the credibility of any dissenting voices.

Not only does this seem to violate Poynter’s core principles, but it creates an echo chamber of misleading information to participants in active debate, the opposite of Poynter’s and fact checkers’ stated purpose.

The letter asked the Poynter Institute for answers about who develops its fact-checking standards, how its fact-checkers are certified, and whether any of their fact-checkers have communicated with the Biden administration about the updated recession definition.

House Republicans also pressed the Poynter Instate to provide their definition of misinformation and whether users have the ability to challenge a fact-checker’s accreditation if they inaccurately flag content.

In addition to Rep. McMorris Rodgers, Reps. Fred Upton (R-MI), Robert Latta (R-OH), Brett Guthrie (R-KY), David McKinley (R-WV), H. Morgan Griffith (R-VA), and Gus Bilirakis (R-FL) signed the letter.

Jordan Dixon-Hamilton is a reporter for Breitbart News. Write to him at jdixonhamilton@breitbart.com or follow him on Twitter. 


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