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Why does America not have an information facts checker to ensure that the information that is being relayed to American voters is accurate? The American voters are expecting that what the president says is as accurate as possible. Known outright lies should be punishable by someone who was elected to represent the voters with the utmost integrity and honesty.

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    We do for costs of proposals! It's called the Congressional Budget Office. cbo.gov
    – Carduus
    Jan 13, 2020 at 17:33
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    Because in America, you're free to say anything, even things that are definitively false, as long as you're not calling for violence on people. Therefore, spreading misinformation isn't punishable unless it's in a court or congress proceeding.
    – user29681
    Jan 13, 2020 at 17:42
  • @Carduus but it does not fact check President's statements
    – Up-In-Air
    Jan 13, 2020 at 17:47
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    Re "The American voters are expecting that what the president says is as accurate as possible." This is an absurdly false statement. While the partisans of a particular President (or other elected official) may choose to believe, or pretend to believe, for political reasons, opponents disbelieve for the same reasons. The rest of us just automatically assume that they're probably lying.
    – jamesqf
    Jan 13, 2020 at 18:29
  • To paraphrase from Star Trek, "Everything I told you was true... Especially the lies."
    – hszmv
    Jan 13, 2020 at 19:19

3 Answers 3

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I'm assuming that you're asking about a federal watchdog for the President. If that's the case, then the question then becomes: Who watches the watchmen?

If someone is in charge of fact checking the President, then who fact-checks the fact-checkers to ensure that the fact-checkers aren't pushing an agenda to make the President appear dishonest? On top of that, how do you account for mistakes when the President miss-speaks, or for misinterpretation of their intentions when saying something? A President might say something like, "100% of criminals in this case possessed an illegal substance and had murdered someone" when what they intended to say was "100% of the criminals in this case who were in possession of an illegal substance had murdered someone." Is that a lie, or a miss-spoken word?

It's very difficult to put a concrete definition on lying in this situation. What if the President was pretty sure that the thing they were saying was true at the time, but they were relying on bad intel, or just had a faulty memory? Does that trigger some form of punishment?

Furthering that goal-- what happens if and when the fact checkers are in cahoots with the President on a lie? Now that lie appears to have even more credibility!

Finally, the real reason we don't have any sort of watchdog at the Federal level for this is: We have them at the private level! They're the independent media, and their freedom of speech to call out the President is protected by the first amendment to the Constitution! That's how and why we have dozens of news outlets ranging from CNN to the Wall Street journal, and covering all of the political spectrum. If one is dishonest, it's not very advantageous for the rest to join in on the same lie.

There can certainly be more partisan interpretations of what's being said-- such as the time that conservative outlets stated that Obama had visited 57 Islamic States while more liberal outlets stated that it was a slip of the tongue during a campaign speech, combining two thoughts. In those instances, we need to trust in people to dig deeper and draw a reasonable conclusion. Not everyone will, but it's impossible to legislate some level of skepticism for a claim in this country.

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    "57 Islamic States"? that's a new one...
    – dandavis
    Jan 13, 2020 at 18:22
  • The "Obama is a Muslim terrorist" campaign was a wild and racist ride. In the interest of fairness, I should probably pull out the "Donald Trump is illiterate" piece that started circulating around 2016, though I feel like that one didn't gain nearly as much traction as the 57 states thing did. The main goal was just to showcase an example of bad-faith criticism where there's a clear explanation, but an agenda-pushing claim to the contrary. Jan 13, 2020 at 18:29
  • You can also have partisan fact checkers in the other direction as well, who say everything the president says is a lie, even when its not. I personally think this is more likely because anger generates clicks.
    – Ryan_L
    Jan 13, 2020 at 18:32
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    @dandavis I disagree. With 4 news outlets, there were only 4 organizations to be corralled if someone wanted to pass something along that was untrue. Look at the Vietnam War; there were regular reports by some outlets that more Viet Cong had been killed than there were people in the country. With more news outlets, including international ones, it's not feasible for the government to push a false narrative with the support of the media. There are certainly illegitimate news outlets, but that's why you check for corroboration before believing a story. Jan 13, 2020 at 21:04
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    @NegativeFriction I think DanDavis' point is more about fragmentation of coverage and echo chambers. With so many outlets it is possible to see many pieces of 'independent coverage of the same issue without stepping outside your bubble. The multiple reports make it credible, whereas when there were only 4 outlets you would not get that repetition.
    – Jontia
    Jan 13, 2020 at 22:34
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Who should fact check, if it's the Federal government then it would be Trumps News, White-house stands behind his statements. There are other media houses - fair journalism that call out Trumps lies with facts, but how can you trust them, they could be partisan. Although, I will quote one source which claims to be nonpartisan and nonprofit. Check this factcheck.org

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there are multiple groups that act as fact checkers. None of these are official government bodies. First, as another person said, who would watch the watchers? How would you make sure there is no bias in the fact checkers? Much of what is said by politicians as simple as 1+1=2, thus even in fact checking there will be grey areas. Washington Post uses a scale to try to capture this. True, but misleading, mostly false, etc, etc.

As for punishment, in theory voters will hold a president to account, and/or congress will. As we see in practice, right now that is not working. A myriad of fact checking services has logged every lie of the current president, and his core voters have not changed at all. But, that is democracy. If enough people do not care about honesty, integrity, and old fashioned values like these (purposeful irony) then they are no longer qualities that matter in the president.

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