Glenn Kessler (journalist)

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Glenn Kessler
Born (1959-07-06) July 6, 1959 (age 58)
Cincinnati, Ohio, U.S.
Education Brown University (BA); Columbia University (MA)
Occupation Journalist
Notable credit(s) The Washington Post

Glenn Kessler (born July 6, 1959) is a veteran diplomatic correspondent who writes the popular[1] "Fact Checker" blog for The Washington Post.[2]


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.[3]

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.[4] (Libby recalled they had discussed Plame; Kessler said they did not.[5]) 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.[6] 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."[7] 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." [8] 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.[9] He was immediately attacked for spreading neoconservative propaganda[10] but his reporting turned out to be correct and apologies were later offered.[11] In a lengthy article, Kessler also revealed the Bush administration's internal decision-making that led to the Iraq war.[12] 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.[13] An article he wrote on apparent tensions between Rice and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld during a 2006 trip to Iraq[14] was later denounced by Rumsfeld as "just fairly typical Washington Post stuff."[15]

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.[16]

Washington Post Fact Checker blog[edit]

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.[17] 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 is considered one of the pioneers in political fact checking,[18] a movement that inspired about 100 fact-checking organizations in nearly 40 countries, according to a tally by the Duke Reporters’ Lab.[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]

Kessler gave Four Pinocchios to Mitt Romney for claiming President Obama went on an “apology tour” overseas,[22] but he also has regularly given as many as Four Pinocchios to Democrats for attacks on the House Republican plan for Medicare.[23]

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.[24] 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.”[25] 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.[26] 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."[27]

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.”[28] 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.[29] 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.”[30]

In 2013, Glenn Kessler launched an iOS app, titled GlennKessler for iOS, for his column on the App Store.[31] The app was created by his son, Hugo Kessler.[32] 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.[33]

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.[34]

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."[35]

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.[36]

During the 2016 presidential campaign, the comic strip Doonesbury highlighted the vast disparity in Pinocchios given to Donald Trump versus Clinton.[37] 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.”[38]

Kessler, who most likely 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.[39] 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.[39]

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.[40] 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."[41]

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.[42]

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.


  • 2007: The Confidante: Condoleezza Rice and the Creation of the Bush Legacy


  1. ^ 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."
  2. ^ Kessler, Glenn. "The Fact Checker website". Retrieved January 3, 2012. 
  3. ^ 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. 
  4. ^ 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. 
  5. ^ Stewart 2011, pp. 245
  6. ^ Kurtz, Howard (November 12, 2005). "The Washington Post 12 November 2005 – Media Tangled in Lobbyist Case". The Washington Post. Retrieved January 3, 2012. 
  7. ^ "The Wall Street Journal -- The Striver". December 22, 2007. Retrieved January 3, 2012. 
  8. ^ "The Atlantic Monthly June 2007 – Grand Illusions". The Atlantic Monthly. June 2007. Retrieved January 3, 2012. 
  9. ^ 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. 
  10. ^ "Foreign Policy magazine – Passport blog 14 September 2007 – North Korea-Syria nuclear ties: deja vu all over again?". Retrieved January 3, 2012. 
  11. ^ "Foreign Policy magazine – Passport blog 29 April 2008 – Syria nuke disclosure: why now?". Retrieved January 3, 2012. 
  12. ^ The Washington Post January 12, 2003 – U.S. Decision On Iraq Has Puzzling Past
  13. ^ "The Washington Post – Archive of the On The Plane blog". Archived from the original on September 6, 2011. Retrieved January 3, 2012. 
  14. ^ 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. 
  15. ^ "U.S. Department of Defense News Transcript 28 April 2006 – Radio Interview with Secretary Rumsfeld on the Laura Ingraham Show". Retrieved January 3, 2012. 
  16. ^ 1997 Pulitzer Prize in spot news reporting (TWA Flight 800); 1992 Pulitzer Prize in spot news reporting (Manhattan subway derailment)
  17. ^ "Guide to Washington Post Fact Checker Rating Scale". December 29, 2011. Retrieved January 3, 2012. 
  18. ^ Graves 2016, pp. 34–36
  19. ^ "Mark Stencel, "Global fact-checking up 50% in past year"". February 16, 2016. Retrieved June 19, 2016. 
  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. Retrieved October 30, 2012. 
  22. ^ Kessler, Glenn (February 22, 2011). "Glenn Kessler, "Obama's 'Apology Tour," Feb. 22, 2011". Retrieved January 3, 2012. 
  23. ^ "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. 
  24. ^ Taranto, James (October 7, 2008). "The 'Fact Checking' Fad". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved January 3, 2012. 
  25. ^ "John Hinderaker, "Who Checks the Fact Checkers?" Sept. 20, 2011". September 20, 2011. Retrieved January 3, 2012. 
  26. ^ Mollie (November 2, 2011). "Mollie Ziegler Hemingway, "Fine Line Between Racial Pioneer and Eugenicist," Nov. 2, 2011". Retrieved January 3, 2012. 
  27. ^ "John Hinderaker, "Is Mitt Romney a Flip-Flopper?" Dec. 1, 2011". December 1, 2011. Retrieved January 21, 2012. 
  28. ^ 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". Retrieved January 3, 2012. 
  29. ^ Dan Pfeiffer (June 7, 2011). "White House blog, "Fact Checking the Fact Checker," June 7, 2011". Retrieved January 3, 2012. 
  30. ^ "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. 
  31. ^ "Glenn Kessler's app information page". April 17, 2013. Retrieved May 17, 2014. 
  32. ^ "Hugo Kessler". April 17, 2013. Retrieved May 17, 2014. 
  33. ^ "Video of GlennKessler for iOS 3.0". April 1, 2014. Retrieved May 17, 2014. 
  34. ^ Giuliani’s claim that 93 percent of black murder victims are killed by other blacks, The Washington Post, November 25, 2014
  35. ^ "NAMLE 2015 Award Winners". June 26, 2015. Retrieved September 4, 2015. 
  36. ^ "Glenn Kessler, “The Biggest Pinocchios of 2015"". December 14, 2015. Retrieved June 19, 2016. 
  37. ^ "Doonesbury, Sept. 25, 2016". Retrieved October 23, 2016. 
  38. ^ "Glenn Kessler on Fact-Checking the Presidential Debates". September 26, 2016. Retrieved October 23, 2016. 
  39. ^ a b "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. 
  40. ^ "New York Times 19 September 1988 – Cynthia Rich and Glenn Kessler marry". The New York Times. September 19, 1988. Retrieved January 3, 2012. 
  41. ^ 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. 
  42. ^ "Q&A: Glenn Kessler, "The Fact Checker" Columnist, The Washington Post, broadcast Jan. 15, 2012". Retrieved December 1, 2014. 


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