Glenn Kessler (journalist)
July 6, 1959|
Cincinnati, Ohio, U.S.
|Education||Brown University (BA); Columbia University (MA)|
|Notable credit(s)||The Washington Post|
Kessler is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the author of The Confidante: Condoleezza Rice and the Creation of the Bush Legacy. The book, which revealed new details on the making of Bush administration’s foreign policy, was described as "brilliantly reported" by The New York Times Book Review and generated news articles and reviews in two dozen countries around the world.
Kessler's reporting played a role in two foreign policy controversies during the presidency of George W. Bush. He was called to testify in the trial of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, in which he was questioned about a 2003 telephone conversation with Libby in which the name of Valerie Plame, a CIA operative, might have been discussed. (Libby recalled they had discussed Plame; Kessler said they did not.) Meanwhile, a 2004 telephone conversation between Kessler and Steve J. Rosen, a senior official at American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), was at the core of the AIPAC leaking case. The federal government recorded the call and made it the centerpiece of its 2005 indictment of Rosen and an alleged co-conspirator; the charges were dropped in 2009.
The Wall Street Journal called Kessler "one of the most aggressive journalists on the State Department beat." The Atlantic Monthly, in a 2007 profile of Rice, said that "week after week, Kessler asks the best questions, and the most questions, at the secretary’s press conferences."  Kessler, a specialist on nuclear proliferation (especially in Iran and North Korea) and the Middle East, wrote the first article on the North Korea nuclear facility being built in Syria that was destroyed by Israeli jets. He was immediately attacked for spreading neoconservative propaganda but his reporting turned out to be correct and apologies were later offered. In a lengthy article, Kessler also revealed the Bush administration's internal decision-making that led to the Iraq war. He traveled with three different Secretaries of State – Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice and Hillary Clinton – and for several years wrote a blog about his experiences on those trips. An article he wrote on apparent tensions between Rice and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld during a 2006 trip to Iraq was later denounced by Rumsfeld as "just fairly typical Washington Post stuff."
Kessler joined The Washington Post in 1998 as the national business editor and later served as economic policy reporter. Kessler also was a reporter with Newsday for eleven years, covering the White House, politics, the United States Congress, airline safety and Wall Street. His investigative articles on airline safety led to the indictments of airline executives and federal officials for fraud, prompted congressional hearings into safety issues and spurred the federal government to impose new safety rules for DC-9 jets and begin regular inspections of foreign airlines. He won the Premier Award from the Aviation Space Writers Association and the investigative reporting award from the Society of the Silurians.
Washington Post Fact Checker blog
In his Washington Post "Fact Checker" blog, Kessler rates statements by politicians, usually on a range of one to four Pinocchios—with one Pinocchio for minor shading of the facts and four Pinocchios for outright lies. If the statement is truthful, the person will get a rare "Geppetto." Kessler has a new blog post at least five times a week; one column appears every week in the Sunday print edition of The Washington Post. Kessler's team includes another reporter and a video producer, who also write fact checks edited by Kessler.
Kessler is considered one of the pioneers in political fact checking, a movement that inspired about 100 fact-checking organizations in nearly 40 countries, according to a tally by the Duke Reporters’ Lab. In 1996, while at Newsday, "Kessler wrote what may have been the first lengthy fact-check story in a major American newspaper, a preemptive guide to a debate between Bill Clinton and Bob Dole aimed at helping viewers evaluate the claims they were about to hear." He documented the growth of fact checking around the world in an article for Foreign Affairs magazine, written after training journalists in Morocco.
Kessler gave Four Pinocchios to Mitt Romney for claiming President Obama went on an "apology tour" overseas, but he also has regularly given as many as Four Pinocchios to Democrats for attacks on the House Republican plan for Medicare.
A columnist for The Wall Street Journal attacked the whole idea of awarding Pinocchios as akin to movie-reviewing, saying "the ‘fact check’ is opinion journalism or criticism, masquerading as straight news. The conservative Power Line political blog devoted three articles to critiquing one of Kessler’s articles, calling him a "liberal reporter," and asserting that "these ‘fact-checkers’ nearly always turn out to be liberal apologists who don a false mantle of objectivity in order to advance the cause of the Democratic Party." Kessler’s awarding of Four Pinocchios to GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain for comments he made on Margaret Sanger and the founding of Planned Parenthood was also criticized by opponents of abortion. Yet Power Line also said that Kessler's extensive review of Democratic charges that Romney was a "flip-flopper" turned out to be "admirably fair-minded."
The liberal blog Talking Points Memo took Kessler to task for giving Four Pinocchios to a Democratic web petition on Medicare, saying the errors he allegedly made "were not just small misses, but big belly flop misses." The Obama White House issued a statement titled "Fact Checking the Fact Checker" after Kessler gave Obama Three Pinocchios for statements he made on the auto industry bailout. The Democratic National Committee released a statement denouncing "Kessler’s hyperbolic, over the top fact check of the DNC’s assertion that Mitt Romney supports private Social Security accounts."
In 2013, Glenn Kessler launched an iOS app, titled GlennKessler for iOS, for his column on the App Store. The app was created by his son, Hugo Kessler. It contained his newest articles and general biographical information. The app was updated with a new design for iOS 7 in the fall of 2013. In 2014, he released a redesigned version of the app for the iPad and added a Pinocchio Game based on his column and a multitude of video interviews.
In November 2014, after Rudy Giuliani said 93% of black murder victims were murdered by other blacks, The Washington Post said his statement was accurate, but then they gave it two Pinocchios anyway. This was because Giuliani omitted to mention that 84% of whites are murdered by other whites; in other words, the great majority of murder victims are killed by someone of their own race. Giuliani was given the two Pinoccios for ignoring context, and singling out blacks, as if their intra-racial murder rate was some sort of anomaly, when it isn't.
The National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) in 2015 awarded Kessler its Media Literate Media award, presented every two years, for his work on "The Fact Checker." The honor "recognizes people, programs, initiatives, or organizations in mainstream media that have raised the visibility of media literacy education or media literacy."
In 2015, Kessler exposed a series of false and misleading statistics about sex trafficking, which led politicians and advocacy groups to stop making those claims.
During the 2016 presidential campaign, the comic strip Doonesbury highlighted the vast disparity in Pinocchios given to Donald Trump versus Clinton. Kessler also appeared in a segment of The Daily Show about fact-checking Trump. "In terms of fact checking, Hillary Clinton is like playing chess with a real pro," he told Jordan Klepper. "Fact-checking Donald Trump is like playing checkers, with somebody who’s not very good at it. It’s pretty boring. His facts are so easily disproved there’s no joy in hunt."
Kessler, who is unrelated to the organizer of the infamous Unite the Right rally, did a fact check on Donald Trump's claim that counter-demonstrators lacked a permit, and found his claim to be "false" in a four pinocchio rating. A municipal spokeswoman noted that the counter-protestors did have a permit for two other nearby parks and "counterprotesters did not need permits to protest that rally" in Emancipation Park.
Kessler was instrumental in convincing Google to begin elevating fact checks in its search results, after pitching a Google executive on the idea "over a couple of Spanish espressos" during a conference in Valencia, Spain. The discussion led to the creation of Claim Review, as defined by schema.org, and the increased visibility of fact checks in Google News and Google search results.
Shortly after President Trump took the oath of office, Kessler announced a 100-day project to list every false and misleading statement made by the president. Kessler's team counted 492 untruths in the first 100 days, or an average of 4.9 per day. In response to reader requests, Kessler decided to keep it going for Trump's first year and then his entire presidency. As of August 1, 2018, Kessler and his colleagues had counted 4,229 untruths, or an average of nearly 7.6 a day. The database has drawn nationwide attention and been the subject of research by academicians. "Kessler is doing the poet’s work. Honor him," wrote New York Times columnist Roger Cohen. "The database he compiles with his colleagues Salvador Rizzo and Meg Kelly, listing every one of Trump’s untruths, will become a reference, a talisman."
In August 2018, Kessler came under fire for his coverage of a Mercatus Center study on the perceived costs of Senator Bernie Sanders's Medicare for All plan. Kessler made minor corrections to his fact check, which originally stated the Sanders's claims of $2.1 trillion in 10-year National Health Expenditure savings were untrue, but did not change his Three-Pinocchio rating; other fact-checking organizations agreed with his conclusions.
Kessler lives in McLean, Virginia, with his wife, Cynthia Rich. They have three children: Andre, Hugo, and Mara Kessler.
Kessler is a great-grandson of Jean Baptiste August Kessler, who was largely responsible for the growth and development of the Royal Dutch Shell (Shell Oil Company) and a grandson of Geldolph Adriaan Kessler, who helped create the Dutch steel industry. He was born in Cincinnati, where his father, Adriaan Kessler, was an executive at Procter & Gamble, and he attended high school there and in Lexington, Kentucky. Kessler's mother, Else Bolotin, was a psychologist who in Lexington "helped women in that era of feminist awakening confront a society dominated by men." Both of his parents were Dutch, and immigrated to the United States after marriage.
In an interview with Brian Lamb broadcast on C-SPAN, Kessler said he had decided he wanted to be journalist when he was only in fifth grade, after he created a neighborhood newspaper. "Even though it was a newsletter for only a few blocks in the neighborhood, I grandly called it the 'Cincinnati Fact,'" he said.
- 2007: The Confidante: Condoleezza Rice and the Creation of the Bush Legacy
- Dobbs, Michael. "The Rise of Political Fact-Checking". New America Foundation. p. 1. Retrieved March 10, 2012. "The Washington Post Fact Checker blog run by Glenn Kessler now receives about one million page views a month, with the audience for individual posts ranging from 25,000 to 400,000 views."
- Kessler, Glenn. "The Fact Checker website". Voices.washingtonpost.com. Retrieved January 3, 2012.
- Lewis, Anthony (November 25, 2007). "The New York Times 25 November 2007 – The Enabler By Anthony Lewis". The New York Times. Retrieved January 3, 2012.
- Leonnig, Carol D.; Goldstein, Amy (February 13, 2007). "The Washington Post 13 February 2007 – Journalists Testify That Libby Never Mentioned CIA Officer". The Washington Post. Retrieved January 3, 2012.
- Stewart 2011, pp. 245
- Kurtz, Howard (November 12, 2005). "The Washington Post 12 November 2005 – Media Tangled in Lobbyist Case". The Washington Post. Retrieved January 3, 2012.
- "The Wall Street Journal -- The Striver". December 22, 2007. Retrieved January 3, 2012.
- "The Atlantic Monthly June 2007 – Grand Illusions". The Atlantic Monthly. June 2007. Retrieved January 3, 2012.
- Kessler, Glenn (September 13, 2007). "The Washington Post 13 September 2007 – N. Korea, Syria May Be at Work on Nuclear Facility". The Washington Post. Retrieved January 3, 2012.
- "Foreign Policy magazine – Passport blog 14 September 2007 – North Korea-Syria nuclear ties: deja vu all over again?". Blog.foreignpolicy.com. Retrieved January 3, 2012.
- "Foreign Policy magazine – Passport blog 29 April 2008 – Syria nuke disclosure: why now?". Passport.foreignpolicy.com. Retrieved January 3, 2012.
- The Washington Post January 12, 2003 – U.S. Decision On Iraq Has Puzzling Past
- "The Washington Post – Archive of the On The Plane blog". Blog.washingtonpost.com. Archived from the original on September 6, 2011. Retrieved January 3, 2012.
- Kessler, Glenn (April 28, 2006). "The Washington Post 27 April 2006 – Rice, Rumsfeld in Separate Orbits in Baghdad". The Washington Post. Retrieved January 3, 2012.
- "U.S. Department of Defense News Transcript 28 April 2006 – Radio Interview with Secretary Rumsfeld on the Laura Ingraham Show". Defense.gov. Retrieved January 3, 2012.
- 1997 Pulitzer Prize in spot news reporting (TWA Flight 800); 1992 Pulitzer Prize in spot news reporting (Manhattan subway derailment)
- "Guide to Washington Post Fact Checker Rating Scale". Voices.washingtonpost.com. December 29, 2011. Retrieved January 3, 2012.
- Graves 2016, pp. 34–36
- "Mark Stencel, "Global fact-checking up 50% in past year"". February 16, 2016. Retrieved June 19, 2016.
- "Stephanie Grace, "Just the Facts," Brown Alumni Monthly". January–February 2018. Retrieved February 16, 2018.
- "Glenn Kessler, "Just the Facts: Politics and the New Journalism," Foreign Affairs". January 6, 2015. Retrieved June 19, 2016.
- ""Study: PolitiFact twice as critical of GOP compared to WaPo's Fact Check column," The Washington Examiner, October 22, 2012". The Washington Examiner. Retrieved October 30, 2012.
- Kessler, Glenn (February 22, 2011). "Glenn Kessler, "Obama's 'Apology Tour," Feb. 22, 2011". Voices.washingtonpost.com. Retrieved January 3, 2012.
- "Glenn Kessler, "Is McConnell Holding Debt Ceiling Hike Hostage to Ryan Medicare Plan?" June 13, 2011". The Washington Post. June 13, 2011. Retrieved January 3, 2012.
- Taranto, James (October 7, 2008). "The 'Fact Checking' Fad". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved January 3, 2012.
- "John Hinderaker, "Who Checks the Fact Checkers?" Sept. 20, 2011". Powerlineblog.com. September 20, 2011. Retrieved January 3, 2012.
- Mollie (November 2, 2011). "Mollie Ziegler Hemingway, "Fine Line Between Racial Pioneer and Eugenicist," Nov. 2, 2011". Getreligion.org. Retrieved January 3, 2012.
- "John Hinderaker, "Is Mitt Romney a Flip-Flopper?" Dec. 1, 2011". Powerlineblog.com. December 1, 2011. Retrieved January 21, 2012.
- Brian Beutler June 14, 2011, 3:01 pm (June 14, 2011). "Brian Beutler, "Three Most Common Mistakes Made By So-Called Fact Checkers When Assessing GOP's Medicare Plan," June 14, 2011". Tpmdc.talkingpointsmemo.com. Retrieved January 3, 2012.
- Dan Pfeiffer (June 7, 2011). "White House blog, "Fact Checking the Fact Checker," June 7, 2011". Whitehouse.gov. Retrieved January 3, 2012.
- "DNC news release, "The Only Thing That is Ridiculous is this Kessler Fact Check," October 6, 2011". The Washington Post. October 7, 2011. Retrieved January 3, 2012.
- "Glenn Kessler's app information page". April 17, 2013. Retrieved May 17, 2014.
- "Hugo Kessler". April 17, 2013. Retrieved May 17, 2014.
- "Video of GlennKessler for iOS 3.0". April 1, 2014. Retrieved May 17, 2014.
- Giuliani’s claim that 93 percent of black murder victims are killed by other blacks, The Washington Post, November 25, 2014
- "NAMLE 2015 Award Winners". June 26, 2015. Retrieved September 4, 2015.
- "Glenn Kessler, "The Biggest Pinocchios of 2015"". washingtonpost.com. December 14, 2015. Retrieved June 19, 2016.
- "Doonesbury, Sept. 25, 2016". Retrieved October 23, 2016.
- "Glenn Kessler on Fact-Checking the Presidential Debates". September 26, 2016. Retrieved October 23, 2016.
- "President Trump's false claim that counter-demonstrators lacked a permit". The Washington Post. August 16, 2017. Archived from the original on August 17, 2017.
- "Fact Checking: One Year Into the Fact Check Markup, and Just Getting Started". October 5, 2017. Retrieved June 25, 2018.
- "Google Search - Claim Review". Retrieved June 25, 2018.
- "Google expands 'fact check' info in news searches". April 7, 2017. Retrieved June 25, 2018.
- "Google expands its fact-checking efforts by partnering with the International Fact-Checking Network". October 26, 2017. Retrieved June 25, 2018.
- "Glenn Kessler, "100 days of Trump claims"". washingtonpost.com. February 21, 2016. Retrieved August 18, 2018.
- "Glenn Kessler, "100 days of Trump claims"". washingtonpost.com. April 30, 2017. Retrieved August 18, 2018.
- "Glenn Kessler, "President Trump has made 4,229 false or misleading claims in 558 days"". washingtonpost.com. August 1, 2018. Retrieved August 18, 2018.
- "Bella DePaulo, "How President Trump's Lies Are Different From Other People's"". www.psychologytoday.com. December 9, 2017. Retrieved August 18, 2018.
- "Roger Cohen, "Trump's Nemesis in the Age of Pinocchio"". nytimes.com. August 10, 2018. Retrieved August 18, 2018.
- "Fact checkers have a Medicare-for-all problem". 2018-08-21. Retrieved 2018-08-21.
- "Jake Tapper's Faulty Medicare for All Fact-Check". Retrieved 2018-08-21.
- "The Washington Post Keeps Publishing False Claims About Medicare for All". Retrieved 2018-08-21.
- "New York Times 19 September 1988 – Cynthia Rich and Glenn Kessler marry". The New York Times. September 19, 1988. Retrieved January 3, 2012.
- Eblen, Tom (August 15, 2015). "Tom Eblen: Faced with old age and death, psychologist never stopped living". The Lexington Herald-Leader. Retrieved September 18, 2016.
- Kessler, Glenn (January 25, 2018). "A White House chart on 'chain migration' has numbers that add up, but it lacks context". The Washington Post. Retrieved January 29, 2018.
- "Q&A: Glenn Kessler, "The Fact Checker" Columnist, The Washington Post, broadcast Jan. 15, 2012". Retrieved December 1, 2014.
- Stewart, James B. (2011). Tangled Webs: How False Statements are Undermining America: From Martha Stewart to Bernie Madoff. Penguin Press. ISBN 1-59420-269-9.
- Graves, Lucas (2016). Deciding What's True: The Rise of Political Fact-Checking in American Journalism. Columbia University Press. ISBN 0-23117-507-8.