Glenn Kessler (journalist)

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Glenn Kessler
Born (1959-07-06) July 6, 1959 (age 61)
EducationBrown University (BA); Columbia University (MA)
Notable credit(s)
The Washington Post

Glenn Kessler (born July 6, 1959) is an American diplomatic correspondent who writes columns and helms the "Fact Checker" feature for The Washington Post.[1]


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 previously unknown 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.[2]

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.[3] (Libby recalled they had discussed Plame; Kessler said they did not.[4]) 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.[5] 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."[6] The Atlantic, in a 2007 profile of Condoleezza Rice, said that "week after week, Kessler asks the best questions, and the most questions, at the secretary’s press conferences." [7] 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.[8] He was immediately attacked for spreading neoconservative propaganda[9] but his reporting turned out to be correct and apologies were later offered.[10] In a lengthy article, Kessler also revealed the Bush administration's internal decision-making that led to the Iraq war.[11] 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.[12] An article he wrote on apparent tensions between Rice and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld during a 2006 trip to Iraq[13] was later denounced by Rumsfeld as "just fairly typical Washington Post stuff."[14]

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.

At Newsday, Kessler shared in two Pulitzer Prizes given for spot news reporting.[15]

Washington Post Fact Checker[edit]

In the Washington Post "Fact Checker," 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.[16] 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,[17] a movement that inspired about 100 fact-checking organizations in nearly 40 countries, according to a tally by the Duke Reporters’ Lab.[18] 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."[19] He documented the growth of fact checking around the world in an article for Foreign Affairs magazine, written after training journalists in Morocco.[20]

In a 2012 study of fact checkers, the Center for Media and Public Affairs at George Mason University concluded that Kessler "splits almost evenly between the two parties."[21]

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."[22] 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."[23] 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.[24] 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."[25]

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."[26] 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.[27] 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."[28]

In 2013, Kessler launched an iOS app, titled GlennKessler for iOS, for his column on the App Store.[29] The app was created by his son, Hugo Kessler.[30] 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.[31]

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.[32]

Kessler 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."[33]

Kessler was instrumental[34] 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.[35] The discussion led to the creation of Claim Review, as defined by,[36] and the increased visibility of fact checks in Google News[37] and Google search results.[38]

Shortly after Trump became President, Kessler announced a 100-day project to list every false and misleading statement made by Trump while in office.[39] Kessler's team counted 492 untruths in the first 100 days, or an average of 4.9 per day.[40] In response to reader requests, Kessler decided to keep it going for Trump's first year and then his entire presidency. As of January 20, 2020, Trump's three-year anniversary, Kessler and his colleagues had counted 16,241 untruths, or an average of 15 a day.[41] Trump "averaged six such claims a day in 2017, nearly 16 a day in 2018 and more than 22 a day in 2019," Kessler wrote, noting that "in a single year, the president said more than the total number of false or misleading claims he had made in the previous two years." The database has drawn nationwide attention and been the subject of research by academicians.[42][43][44] "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."[45]

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.[46][47] Kessler released corrections to his fact check, which stated the Sanders's claims of $2.1 trillion in 10-year National Health Expenditure savings were cherry-picked.[48] Kessler did not change his Three-Pinocchio rating[49] and his findings were affirmed by other fact-checking organizations, including PolitiFact,[50][51] and the Associated Press.[52]

After addressing the Kentucky legislature in 2019 on behalf of its ethics commission, Kessler was named a Kentucky Colonel, the state's highest honor, for his contributions to the nation. Kessler noted on Twitter[53] that he had awarded Four Pinocchios to the two people who had signed the declaration: Gov. Matt Bevin and Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes.

The Washington Post on April 22, 2020 announced[54] that Kessler and his team had written a book, "Donald Trump and His Assault on Truth: The President's Falsehoods, Misleading Claims and Flat-Out Lies," to be published June 2 by Scribner. "More than a catalogue of false claims, Donald Trump and His Assault on Truth is a necessary guide to understanding the motives behind the president’s falsehoods," the announcement said. Kirkus Reviews, in a starred review, called the book "an extremely valuable chronicle."[55] The book appeared on Publisher Weekly's top ten best-seller list.[56]

Awards and honors[edit]

Personal life[edit]

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.[59] 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."[60] Both of his parents were Dutch, and immigrated to the United States after marriage.[61]

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.[62]

Kessler is a 1981 graduate of Brown University and received a Masters of International Affairs in 1983 from the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University.


  • The Confidante: Condoleezza Rice and the Creation of the Bush Legacy New York : Saint Martin's Press, 2007. ISBN 9780312363802
  • Donald Trump and His Assault on Truth: The President's Falsehoods, Misleading Claims and Flat-Out Lies New York : Scribner, 2020. ISBN 9781982151072


  1. ^ Kessler, Glenn. "The Fact Checker website". Retrieved January 3, 2012.
  2. ^ 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.
  3. ^ 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.
  4. ^ Stewart 2011, pp. 245
  5. ^ Kurtz, Howard (November 12, 2005). "The Washington Post 12 November 2005 – Media Tangled in Lobbyist Case". The Washington Post. Retrieved January 3, 2012.
  6. ^ "The Wall Street Journal -- The Striver". December 22, 2007. Retrieved January 3, 2012.
  7. ^ "The Atlantic Monthly June 2007 – Grand Illusions". The Atlantic Monthly. June 2007. Retrieved January 3, 2012.
  8. ^ 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.
  9. ^ "Foreign Policy magazine – Passport blog 14 September 2007 – North Korea-Syria nuclear ties: deja vu all over again?". Retrieved January 3, 2012.
  10. ^ "Foreign Policy magazine – Passport blog 29 April 2008 – Syria nuke disclosure: why now?". Archived from the original on July 24, 2012. Retrieved January 3, 2012.
  11. ^ The Washington Post January 12, 2003 – U.S. Decision On Iraq Has Puzzling Past
  12. ^ "The Washington Post – Archive of the On The Plane blog". Archived from the original on September 6, 2011. Retrieved January 3, 2012.
  13. ^ Kessler, Glenn (April 28, 2006). "The Washington Post 27 April 2006 – Rice, Rumsfeld in Separate Orbits in Baghdad". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on November 11, 2012. Retrieved January 3, 2012.
  14. ^ "U.S. Department of Defense News Transcript 28 April 2006 – Radio Interview with Secretary Rumsfeld on the Laura Ingraham Show". Retrieved January 3, 2012.
  15. ^ 1997 Pulitzer Prize in spot news reporting (TWA Flight 800); 1992 Pulitzer Prize in spot news reporting (Manhattan subway derailment)
  16. ^ "Guide to Washington Post Fact Checker Rating Scale". December 29, 2011. Retrieved January 3, 2012.
  17. ^ Graves 2016, pp. 34–36
  18. ^ "Mark Stencel, "Global fact-checking up 50% in past year"". February 16, 2016. Retrieved June 19, 2016.
  19. ^ "Stephanie Grace, "Just the Facts," Brown Alumni Monthly". January–February 2018. Retrieved February 16, 2018.
  20. ^ "Glenn Kessler, "Just the Facts: Politics and the New Journalism," Foreign Affairs". January 6, 2015. Retrieved June 19, 2016.
  21. ^ ""Study: PolitiFact twice as critical of GOP compared to WaPo's Fact Check column," The Washington Examiner, October 22, 2012". The Washington Examiner. October 22, 2012. Retrieved October 30, 2012.
  22. ^ Taranto, James (October 7, 2008). "The 'Fact Checking' Fad". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved January 3, 2012.
  23. ^ "John Hinderaker, "Who Checks the Fact Checkers?" Sept. 20, 2011". September 20, 2011. Retrieved January 3, 2012.
  24. ^ Mollie (November 2, 2011). "Mollie Ziegler Hemingway, "Fine Line Between Racial Pioneer and Eugenicist," Nov. 2, 2011". Retrieved January 3, 2012.
  25. ^ "John Hinderaker, "Is Mitt Romney a Flip-Flopper?" Dec. 1, 2011". December 1, 2011. Retrieved January 21, 2012.
  26. ^ Brian Beutler (June 14, 2011). "Brian Beutler, "Three Most Common Mistakes Made By So-Called Fact Checkers When Assessing GOP's Medicare Plan," June 14, 2011". Retrieved January 3, 2012.
  27. ^ Dan Pfeiffer (June 7, 2011). "White House blog, "Fact Checking the Fact Checker," June 7, 2011". Retrieved January 3, 2012.
  28. ^ "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.
  29. ^ "Glenn Kessler's app information page". April 17, 2013. Retrieved May 17, 2014.
  30. ^ "Hugo Kessler". April 17, 2013. Retrieved May 17, 2014.
  31. ^ "Video of GlennKessler for iOS 3.0". April 1, 2014. Retrieved May 17, 2014.
  32. ^ "Glenn Kessler, "The Biggest Pinocchios of 2015"". December 14, 2015. Retrieved June 19, 2016.
  33. ^ "Glenn Kessler on Fact-Checking the Presidential Debates". September 26, 2016. Retrieved October 23, 2016.
  34. ^ "Who created ClaimReview?". Retrieved June 25, 2020.
  35. ^ "Fact Checking: One Year Into the Fact Check Markup, and Just Getting Started". October 5, 2017. Retrieved June 25, 2018.
  36. ^ "Google Search - Claim Review". Retrieved June 25, 2018.
  37. ^ "Google expands 'fact check' info in news searches". April 7, 2017. Retrieved June 25, 2018.
  38. ^ "Google expands its fact-checking efforts by partnering with the International Fact-Checking Network". October 26, 2017. Retrieved June 25, 2018.
  39. ^ "Glenn Kessler, "100 days of Trump claims"". February 21, 2016. Retrieved August 18, 2018.
  40. ^ "Glenn Kessler, "100 days of Trump claims"". April 30, 2017. Retrieved August 18, 2018.
  41. ^ "Glenn Kessler, "President Trump made 16,241 false or misleading claims in his first three years"". January 20, 2020. Retrieved February 24, 2019.
  42. ^ "Bella DePaulo, "How President Trump's Lies Are Different From Other People's"". December 9, 2017. Retrieved August 18, 2018.
  43. ^ "Tali Sharot and Neil Garrett, "Trump's lying seems to be getting worse. Psychology suggests there's a reason why."". May 23, 2018. Retrieved August 18, 2018.
  44. ^ Sophie van der Zee; Poppe, Ronald; Havrileck, Alice; Baillon, Aurelien (November 5, 2018). "Sophie Van Der Zee, Ronald Poppe, Alice Havrileck and Aurélien Baillon, "A personal model of trumpery: Deception detection in a real-world highstakes setting"". arXiv:1811.01938 [cs.CL].
  45. ^ "Roger Cohen, "Trump's Nemesis in the Age of Pinocchio"". August 10, 2018. Retrieved August 18, 2018.
  46. ^ "Fact checkers have a Medicare-for-all problem". August 21, 2018. Retrieved August 21, 2018.
  47. ^ "Jake Tapper's Faulty Medicare for All Fact-Check". Retrieved August 21, 2018.
  48. ^ "The Washington Post Keeps Publishing False Claims About Medicare for All". Retrieved August 21, 2018.
  49. ^ "Democrats seize on cherry-picked claim that 'Medicare-for-all' would save $2 trillion". August 7, 2018. Retrieved October 25, 2018.
  50. ^ "Did conservative study show big savings for Bernie Sanders' Medicare for All plan?". August 3, 2018. Retrieved October 25, 2018.
  51. ^ "The Cost of 'Medicare-for-All'". August 10, 2018. Retrieved October 25, 2018.
  52. ^ "AP FACT CHECK: Sanders spins savings in Medicare plan". August 8, 2018. Retrieved October 25, 2018.
  53. ^ "@GlennKesslerWP tweet". January 9, 2019. Retrieved January 26, 2019.
  54. ^ ""Donald Trump and His Assault on Truth: The President's Falsehoods, Misleading Claims and Flat-Out Lies" to be published by Scribner". April 22, 2020. Retrieved April 25, 2020.
  55. ^ ""Donald Trump and His Assault on Truth: The President's Falsehoods, Misleading Claims and Flat-Out Lies"". April 29, 2020. Retrieved June 25, 2020.
  56. ^ "@GlennKesslerWP tweet". June 13, 2019. Retrieved June 25, 2019.
  57. ^ "Jason Zengerle is the winner of the Toner Prize for Excellence in Political Reporting". March 25, 1988. Retrieved April 19, 2019.
  58. ^ "NAMLE 2015 Award Winners". June 26, 2015. Retrieved September 4, 2015.
  59. ^ "New York Times 19 September 1988 – Cynthia Rich and Glenn Kessler marry". The New York Times. September 19, 1988. Retrieved January 3, 2012.
  60. ^ 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.
  61. ^ 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.
  62. ^ "Q&A: Glenn Kessler, "The Fact Checker" Columnist, The Washington Post, broadcast Jan. 15, 2012". Retrieved December 1, 2014.


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