Glenn Kessler (journalist)

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Glenn Kessler
GlennKessler1 (cropped).jpg
Born (1959-07-06) July 6, 1959 (age 62)
EducationBrown University (BA); Columbia University (MA)
Notable credit(s)
The Washington Post

Glenn Kessler (born July 6, 1959) is a former American diplomatic correspondent who since 2011 has helmed 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]

Kessler once described what he called a "hare-brained scheme" to get hired by a major newspaper. "I had received my masters degree in international affairs at Columbia University, but nobody was going to hire me straight away to cover foreign policy," he said in a 2019 graduation speech to McLean High School. "However, I noticed that business journalism was then a growth area in the industry. I figured that I could get an expertise in a certain business subject, at a trade publication, and then a major newspaper would hire me to cover that subject. In retrospect, it sounds like a hare-brained scheme, but it actually worked. I started covering Wall Street for a business newsletter, and within three years I was hired to cover Wall Street by Newsday, then one of the ten biggest newspapers in the country."[16]

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.[17] If the statement is truthful, the person will get a rare "Geppetto." Kessler has a new fact check 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, who took charge of the Fact Checker feature in January 2011, is considered one of the pioneers in political fact checking,[18] a movement that inspired nearly 300 fact-checking organizations in 83 countries, according to a tally by the Duke Reporters’ Lab.[19] 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."[20] He documented the growth of fact checking around the world in an article for Foreign Affairs magazine, written after training journalists in Morocco.[21]

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."[22]

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."[23] 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."[24] 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.[25] 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."[26]

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."[27] 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.[28] 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."[29]

In 2013, Kessler launched an iOS app, titled GlennKessler for iOS, for his column on the App Store.[30] The app was created by his son, Hugo Kessler.[31] 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.[32]

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.[33]

During the 2016 presidential campaign, the comic strip Doonesbury highlighted the vast disparity in Pinocchios given to Donald Trump versus Clinton.[34] 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."[35]

Kessler was instrumental[36] 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.[37] The discussion led to the creation of Claim Review, as defined by,[38] and the increased visibility of fact checks in Google News[39] and Google search results.[40]

Shortly after Trump became President, Kessler announced a 100-day project to list every false and misleading statement made by Trump while in office.[41] Kessler's team counted 492 untruths in the first 100 days, or an average of 4.9 per day.[42] In response to reader requests, Kessler decided to keep it going for Trump's first year and then his entire presidency. By January 20, 2021, the end of Trump's four-year term, Kessler and his colleagues had counted 30,573 untruths, or an average of 21 a day.[43] "Trump averaged about six claims a day in his first year as president, 16 claims day in his second year, 22 claims day in his third year – and 39 claims a day in his final year." Kessler wrote. "Put another way, it took him 27 months to reach 10,000 claims and another 14 months to reach 20,000. He then exceeded the 30,000 mark less than five months later." The database has drawn nationwide attention and been the subject of research by academicians.[44][45][46] "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."[47]

Because of the Trump database, Kessler and the Fact Checker Team were nominated in 2020 by the Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute at New York University for inclusion in a list of the Top Ten Works of Journalism of the Decade. “A rigorously reported and continually updated list of false statements by the president, numbering more than 19,000 by June 2020. The project is a sterling example of what journalists should do – holding the powerful accountable by using reporting and facts,” the nomination said.[48]

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.[49][50] 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.[51] Kessler did not change his Three-Pinocchio rating[52] and his findings were affirmed by other fact-checking organizations, including PolitiFact,[53][54] and the Associated Press.[55]

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[56] 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.

Kessler has been criticized "for applying bizarrely specific standards to statements and sometimes calling obviously true statements 'misleading' if he doesn’t like what they imply."[57] For example, when Bernie Sanders said that “millions” of Americans were working more than one job, Kessler cited Bureau of Labor Statistics data showing that nearly 8 million people held more than one job, but rated Sanders’s statement as "misleading" because these 8 million people were just 5 percent of Americans with jobs.[57] (Kessler responded to the criticism: "Since there was some Twitter outrage about this assessment, please note that this is a summary of a previous fact check, in which we said Sanders had the 'most accurate sound bite' on this issue among Democrats running for president."[58] He then provided a link to the original column.)[59]

The Washington Post on April 22, 2020 announced[60] 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."[61] The book appeared on Publisher Weekly's top ten best-seller list.[62]

In February of 2021, Kessler was criticised by socialist magazine Jacobin for an article he wrote in which he rated a statement by Senator Bernie Sanders, in which Sanders had declared that the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 had only benefited the wealthy, as three pinocchios. Jacobin criticised Kessler for what they perceived as him ignoring data in his article, and accused him of writing it in order to benefit Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, who owns The Washington Post.[63]

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.[66] 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."[67] Both of his parents were Dutch, and immigrated to the United States after marriage.[68]

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.[69]

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 978-0312363802
  • Donald Trump and His Assault on Truth: The President's Falsehoods, Misleading Claims and Flat-Out Lies New York : Scribner, 2020. ISBN 978-1982151072


  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. Archived from the original on February 14, 2011. Retrieved January 3, 2012.
  6. ^ "The Striver". The Wall Street Journal. 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. ^ "Graduation speech to McLean High School, June 3, 2019". June 3, 2019. Retrieved November 24, 2020.
  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 (June 22, 2020). "Annual census finds nearly 300 fact-checking projects around the world". Retrieved August 20, 2020.
  20. ^ Stephanie Grace (January–February 2018). "Just the Facts". Brown Alumni Monthly. Retrieved February 16, 2018.
  21. ^ Glenn Kessler (January 6, 2015). "Just the Facts: Politics and the New Journalism". Foreign Affairs. Retrieved June 19, 2016.
  22. ^ "Study: PolitiFact twice as critical of GOP compared to WaPo's Fact Check column". The Washington Examiner. October 22, 2012. Retrieved October 30, 2012.
  23. ^ Taranto, James (October 7, 2008). "The 'Fact Checking' Fad". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved January 3, 2012.
  24. ^ "Who Checks the Fact Checkers?". September 20, 2011. Retrieved January 3, 2012.
  25. ^ Mollie (November 2, 2011). "Fine Line Between Racial Pioneer and Eugenicist". Retrieved January 3, 2012.
  26. ^ John Hinderaker (December 1, 2011). "Is Mitt Romney a Flip-Flopper?". Retrieved January 21, 2012.
  27. ^ Brian Beutler (June 14, 2011). "Three Most Common Mistakes Made By So-Called Fact Checkers When Assessing GOP's Medicare Plan". Retrieved January 3, 2012.
  28. ^ Dan Pfeiffer (June 7, 2011). "Fact Checking the Fact Checker". Retrieved January 3, 2012 – via National Archives – White House blog.
  29. ^ "DNC news release, 'The Only Thing That is Ridiculous is this Kessler Fact Check'". The Washington Post. October 6, 2011. Retrieved January 3, 2012.
  30. ^ "Glenn Kessler's app information page". April 17, 2013. Retrieved May 17, 2014.
  31. ^ "Hugo Kessler". April 17, 2013. Retrieved May 17, 2014.
  32. ^ "Video of GlennKessler for iOS 3.0". April 1, 2014. Retrieved May 17, 2014.
  33. ^ Glenn Kessler (December 14, 2015). "The Biggest Pinocchios of 2015". Retrieved June 19, 2016.
  34. ^ "Doonesbury by Garry Trudeau for September 25, 2016". Archived from the original on March 21, 2018. Retrieved November 4, 2020.
  35. ^ "Glenn Kessler on Fact-Checking the Presidential Debates". September 26, 2016. Retrieved October 23, 2016.
  36. ^ "Who created ClaimReview?". Retrieved June 25, 2020.
  37. ^ "Fact Checking: One Year Into the Fact Check Markup, and Just Getting Started". October 5, 2017. Retrieved June 25, 2018.
  38. ^ "Google Search – Claim Review". Retrieved June 25, 2018.
  39. ^ "Google expands 'fact check' info in news searches". April 7, 2017. Retrieved June 25, 2018.
  40. ^ "Google expands its fact-checking efforts by partnering with the International Fact-Checking Network". October 26, 2017. Retrieved June 25, 2018.
  41. ^ Glenn Kessler (February 21, 2016). "100 days of Trump claims". Retrieved August 18, 2018.
  42. ^ Glenn Kessler (April 30, 2017). "100 days of Trump claims". Retrieved August 18, 2018.
  43. ^ Glenn Kessler (January 23, 2021). "Trump made 30,573 false or misleading claims as president. Nearly half came in his final year". Retrieved January 25, 2021.
  44. ^ Bella DePaulo (December 9, 2017). "How President Trump's Lies Are Different From Other People's". Retrieved August 18, 2018.
  45. ^ Tali Sharot and Neil Garrett (May 23, 2018). "Trump's lying seems to be getting worse. Psychology suggests there's a reason why". Retrieved August 18, 2018.
  46. ^ van der Zee, Sophie; Poppe, Ronald; Havrileck, Alice; Baillon, Aurelien (November 5, 2018). "A personal model of trumpery: Deception detection in a real-world highstakes setting". arXiv:1811.01938.
  47. ^ Roger Cohen (August 10, 2018). "Trump's Nemesis in the Age of Pinocchio". Retrieved August 18, 2018.
  48. ^ "Top Ten Works of Journalism of the Decade: Nominees". October 14, 2020. Retrieved October 23, 2020.
  49. ^ "Fact checkers have a Medicare-for-all problem". August 21, 2018. Retrieved August 21, 2018.
  50. ^ "Jake Tapper's Faulty Medicare for All Fact-Check". Retrieved August 21, 2018.
  51. ^ "The Washington Post Keeps Publishing False Claims About Medicare for All". Retrieved August 21, 2018.
  52. ^ "Democrats seize on cherry-picked claim that 'Medicare-for-all' would save $2 trillion". August 7, 2018. Retrieved October 25, 2018.
  53. ^ "Did conservative study show big savings for Bernie Sanders' Medicare for All plan?". August 3, 2018. Retrieved October 25, 2018.
  54. ^ "The Cost of 'Medicare-for-All'". August 10, 2018. Retrieved October 25, 2018.
  55. ^ "AP Fact Check: Sanders spins savings in Medicare plan". August 8, 2018. Retrieved October 25, 2018.
  56. ^ "@GlennKesslerWP tweet". January 9, 2019. Retrieved January 26, 2019.
  57. ^ a b Fenwick, Cody (June 27, 2019), This botched fact-check accused Bernie Sanders of being 'misleading' for when he was 100 percent correct, AlterNet, retrieved June 29, 2019
  58. ^ Kessler, Glenn (June 26, 2019). "A guide to fact checks of candidates seeking the Democratic nomination". Retrieved April 10, 2021.
  59. ^ Kessler, Glenn (March 19, 2019). "How Democrats are putting a bad spin on good economic news". Retrieved April 10, 2021.
  60. ^ "'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.
  61. ^ "Donald Trump and His Assault on Truth: The President's Falsehoods, Misleading Claims and Flat-Out Lies". April 29, 2020. Retrieved June 25, 2020.
  62. ^ "@GlennKesslerWP tweet". June 13, 2019. Retrieved June 25, 2019.
  63. ^ Sirota, David; Perez, Andrew (February 2, 2021). "The Washington Post Deserves 324 Billion Pinocchios for Its Attacks on Bernie Sanders". Jacobin. Retrieved February 5, 2021.
  64. ^ "Jason Zengerle is the winner of the Toner Prize for Excellence in Political Reporting". March 25, 1988. Retrieved April 19, 2019.
  65. ^ "NAMLE 2015 Award Winners". June 26, 2015. Retrieved September 4, 2015.
  66. ^ "Cynthia Rich and Glenn Kessler marry". The New York Times. September 19, 1988. Retrieved January 3, 2012.
  67. ^ 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.
  68. ^ 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.
  69. ^ "Q&A: Glenn Kessler, "The Fact Checker" Columnist, The Washington Post, broadcast Jan. 15, 2012". Retrieved December 1, 2014.


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