Daniel Dale is known as CNN’s “fact-checker extraordinaire.” According to the outlet, Dale is “a reporter in CNN’s Washington Bureau, where he fact-checks political claims.”
“During the 2020 election cycle, he fact-checked President Trump, Democratic presidential candidates, and other lawmakers,” the bio continues. “Prior to joining CNN in 2019, Dale spent over a decade at the Toronto Star, including as Washington Bureau Chief from 2015 to 2019, where he was the first journalist to fact-check every false statement from President Donald Trump.”
Ironically, this needs context.
While CNN may claim that Dale “fact-checked President Trump, Democratic presidential candidates, and other lawmakers,” he clearly focused on Trump and his campaign until the election was complete. According to Mediaite, in a piece titled “What Ever Happened to Daniel Dale? CNN Fact-Checker Has Disappeared From Air Post-Trump,” Dale has “appeared or been mentioned on the network more than once every other day on average” since joining the network in June of 2019.
Throughout 2020, Daniel Dale was an almost constant feature in CNN’s election coverage. While he claimed to provide bipartisan and objective “fact-checking” resources, his objective was arguably the same as much of the broader “fact-checking” apparatus — to target Republicans and defend Democrats.
One such obvious example was provided by Dale after the first presidential debate. Speaking with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer — who decried Trump’s “slew of false statements” — Dale’s bias was clear. After describing Trump as a “serial liar” and condemning his “avalanche of lying,” Dale made the demonstrably false argument that “Biden, conversely, made at least a couple of false or misleading claims but, honestly, he was largely accurate.”
“We had an avalanche of lying from President Trump.”
CNN’s Daniel Dale breaks down the fact check of the first presidential debate of the 2020 election between President Trump and Democratic candidate Joe Biden. https://t.co/OyXvJf69k5 pic.twitter.com/xQHYqY5HLL
— CNN (@CNN) September 30, 2020
“Largely accurate.” “Misleading.” “Missing context.” Subjective and subtle language is Daniel Dale’s toolbox. For Trump, it’s an “avalanche of lying.” For Biden, he’s “largely accurate,” despite The Daily Wire listing at least 14 false claims made by Biden during that same debate. These falsehoods included the “very fine people” lie, that the accusations against Hunter Biden were “totally discredited,” and that Biden never threatened to withhold aid from Ukraine.
After achieving the “fact-checking” community’s apparent goal — to elect a Democrat — Dale has now served his purpose, and seems to have been filed for storage.
“[Dale’s] exposure dropped sharply after November 4, and according to the TV Eyes media monitoring database, since President Joe Biden’s inauguration on January 20, Dale has only appeared on the network once. And that appearance, last Friday, was to fact-check Donald Trump’s lawyers,” Mediaite added.
While Dale has been relegated to the news wasteland of CNN’s written media, his blatant partisanship has continued. Looking at Dale’s posts since Trump’s last day in office, try to notice a difference between his “fact-checking” of Republicans and Democrats:
- Dale: Reflections on four weird years fact checking every word from Donald Trump.
- Fact check: True to form, Trump makes multiple false claims in his final comments in office.
- Fact check: 11 false claims Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene has tweeted in the last month
- Fact check: Biden falsely claims journalists had all said his vaccination goal was impossible to meet
- Fact-checking 7 statistical claims from Biden’s (quite factual) economic speech
- Fact check: Jim Jordan falsely claims Biden ordered the release of all undocumented immigrants
- This Biden clip is being used against him. Here are the facts
- Fact check: No, Biden didn’t say that signing lots of executive orders makes you a dictator
- Fact check: Progressive Super PAC falsely claims Marco Rubio refuses to condemn Capitol attack
- Fact check: Trump’s official response to impeachment includes obvious lies
- Fact check: South Dakota governor ignores poor health numbers to claim state’s pandemic performance has been ‘better than virtually every other state’
- Fact check: Breaking down Capitol accusations made against and made by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
- The facts behind AOC’s story of the Capitol riot
- Fact check: How Trump’s lawyers twisted the facts in their anti-impeachment filing
- Trump’s lawyer blows up one of Trump’s biggest lies
- Fact check: Claim about an insurrectionist trying to send a Pelosi laptop to Russia hasn’t been proven
- ‘Insultingly misleading’: Dale on Trump lawyer’s claim
- Fact check: Trump lawyers make multiple false claims in impeachment defense
- Fact check: Trump lawyer closes impeachment defense with a barrage of dishonesty
- Fact check: Biden makes at least four false statistical claims at CNN town hall
- Biden used 3 key stats to make a point. Except they weren’t true
- Fact check: ‘When Texas freezes over’ tweet is a fake, not from Ted Cruz
- CNN fact-checker: Biden lies less than Trump, but he’s not perfect
In terms of raw numbers, despite Biden’s administration starting one day after the first article on this list, Dale’s focus has remained on the Republican Party or Trump and his team. Eleven of his “fact-checks” overtly criticized Trump or the GOP in some way, with only six openly referencing Democrats in the context of sharing falsehoods.
Moreover, the tone and language used differs by political affiliation. For Trump, it was “four weird years.” “True to form, Trump makes multiple false claims.” “Obvious lies.” “Twisted the facts.” “Blows up one of Trump’s biggest lies.” “Insultingly misleading.” “Barrage of dishonesty.”
Compare this to any “fact-check” relating to a Democrat. “Biden falsely claims.” “7 statistical claims from Biden’s (quite factual) economic speech.” “Breaking down Capitol accusations made against and made by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.” “The facts behind AOC’s story of the Capitol riot.” “Biden makes at least four false statistical claims.” “Except they weren’t true.” “Biden lies less than Trump, but he’s not perfect.” The language is careful, muted, even apologetic.
Others are seemingly written to actively defend Democrats, adding intent to editorialize factual information, such as “This Biden clip is being used against him. Here are the facts.” Another example was Dale’s backfilling of context to defend Biden.
“These Biden critics are taking his ‘dictator’ remark out of context. Biden explicitly campaigned on signing various executive orders, including those to rescind some of then-President Donald Trump’s own executive orders, and he didn’t say in October that signing a large number of orders means a president is a dictator. Rather, after Biden rejected the idea of using an executive order to raise taxes on corporations and wealthy people, he said there are ‘things you can’t do by executive order unless you’re a dictator.’ In other words, Biden was saying what he had said before and has said since — that executive orders are unconstitutional for some particular purposes.”
For fact-checkers, context is their favorite tool of adjustment. Accurate quotes don’t mean what they appear to mean when context is added or, more accurately, created.
Dale encapsulates the fundamental problem with the current methods of “fact-checkers.” When Republicans are the target, no detail is too small, no subjective assumption too unsupported, no editorialization too unsubstantiated to achieve the ultimate goal. When Democrats are the occasional target, context is added, wording is blurred, and comparisons are made to lessen their impact. “Biden lies less than Trump, but he’s not perfect” is one unbelievable example.
The entire focus of fact-checkers should be binary truth. Something is correct, or something is false. By apologizing for Biden’s repeated lies as “he’s not perfect” tells you everything you need to know. As does Dale’s sudden banishment from our television screens.
For fact-checkers, it’s not about the facts. They’re just a tool for the Democratic party. Expect Dale to now languish offscreen, and to only make a miraculous return to the forefront of CNN programming when the next inconvenient Republican makes their mark.