- After Lead Stories fact checked a story by The National Pulse they published an article accusing us of bias in favor of the Democrats after first quietly correcting their story.
- Several of the accusations are blatantly false, for example that Lead Stories Co-Founder and Chairman Perry Sanders would be a "devout Democrat". He is a registered Independent who has donated to Democratic, Republican and Libertarian campaigns.
- The story conveniently ignored the fact that one of our other co-founders, John C. Goede is a registered Republican.
- The remaining two founders who actually make the editorial decisions (Alan Duke and Maarten Schenk) never donated and are not registered voters.
- Other claims in the story were highly misleading and omit crucial information.
On June 17, 2020, Lead Stories fact-checked an article from The National Pulse titled "EXCLUSIVE: Black Lives Matter Website, 'Defund The Police' Donations Go to 'Act Blue', The 'Biden For President' Campaign's Top Source of Donations" that claimed to be an "exclusive" but merely repeated insinuations made earlier by several other people days before.
The story misleadingly claimed donations for Black Lives Matters went "to" payment processor ActBlue and implied that the Joe Biden campaign would profit from it. Similar claims were debunked by PolitiFact, FactCheck.org, The Associated Press and The Columbus Dispatch.
As part of Lead Stories work under Facebook's Partnership with Third-Party Fact Checkers we gave the story a rating of "Partly False." Under the guidelines of the program, that rating is reserved for content where:
The claim(s) of the content are a mix of accurate and inaccurate, or the primary claim is misleading or incomplete.
In this case our determination was that the story was misleading because it implied the donations were not going to Black Lives Matter but to ActBlue and from there to other recipients.
Note that being rated does not remove or delete a story from Facebook. Rating causes a label to be added to the link or post in question with additional information. But the link or post itself remains available.
Publishers are given the option to dispute a rating or to issue a correction by contacting fact-checkers via the email addresses publicly listed in the guidelines. Lead Stories also lists this email address on its contact page, along with instructions on how to submit an appeal or a correction.
The National Pulse chose to ignore the guidelines and the instructions and instead directly called our Editor-in-Chief Alan Duke on his cellphone. Alan was driving at the time and asked if they could send him and email or call back later.
Shortly after this Raheem Kassam, editor-in-chief of The National Pulse, sent following tweets:
Alan Duke didn't want to speak, and urged me to email him to "start the appeals process".-- Raheem Kassam (@RaheemKassam) June 17, 2020
He then hung up.
Why should I appeal to some guy I've never heard of, at some website I've never heard of, to appeal a story that I know to be factually accurate?
The National Pulse never contacted us with a formal appeals notice nor did they add a correction notice to the story. They just silently changed the headline and kept in the implication that the Biden campaign might profit from the donations. Lead Stories did reach out to him via phone later to ask if he still wanted to appeal but the call went to voicemail.
On June 18 they then published an article titled "EXCLUSIVE: Facebook's Fact-Checker 'Lead Stories' is Staffed by Exclusively Democrat Party Donors, CNN Staffers, And 'Defeat Trump' Activists." They never contacted us before publishing it.
It contained several untrue or misleading statements that we wish to respond to:
The National Pulse stands by its reporting, and upon contacting Lead Stories' Editor-in-Chief Alan Duke by telephone, were told he would not discuss the matter, and that the only way to appeal was by e-mail. No e-mail address was given.
The email address was right on the same contact page where they presumably found Alan's phone number.
In a clear cut example of the lack of transparency from the "fact checkers," when National Pulse Editor-in-Chief Raheem Kassam attempted to connect with company co-founder Alan Duke, a near 20-year CNN entertainment reporter, Duke refused to speak about the matter.
He did not refuse, he offered to talk later when he wasn't driving or to handle it via email.
Lead Stories Chairman and founder Perry Sanders is a devout Democrat, donating over $10,000 to political campaigns - every penny going to Democratic candidates.
Perry Sanders is a registered Independent who has financially supported and voted for Republicans, Libertarians and Democrats, including a $10,000 donation to John Suthers, current mayor of Colorado Springs and former Republican attorney general of Colorado.
The platform's Managing Editor Eric Ferkenhoff is a journalist with experience at The New York Times who currently lectures at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Hussman School of Journalism and Media. He's implied President Trump is a "white nationalist" while attacking his "decision-making" capabilities on Twitter.
Retweeting an article from The Hill that says Trump (who was not president yet at the time) first retweeted and then deleted a tweet from a "white nationalist" account is not the same as implying Trump is a "white nationalist". In fact, it is quite the opposite: if he was one he would presumably not have deleted the tweet. Also, Eric made that retweet years before he worked for Lead Stories.
Staffed by Exclusively Democrat Party Donors CNN Staffers, And 'Defeat Trump' Activists
Three of our staff members (and one co-founder) have indeed donated to Democratic campaigns in the past. Eleven have not donated to anyone. Two of our co-founders have donated to Republicans. Two (including one co-founder) are registered Republicans.
If a one-time donation of $22.50 in 2017 to a group named "Swing Left" is enough to label someone a "Defeat Trump" activist then we do indeed have one on staff.
Several of our staffers have worked previously at CNN, including Editor-in-Chief Alan Duke and we make no excuses for that. When looking for new employees it is only natural to reach out to unemployed former colleagues.
But the article conveniently omits Alan's later stint at American Media, Inc. (also known as AMI), publisher of National Enquirer and Radar Online, run by David Pecker, a close friend and donor of Donald Trump. Duke was their national correspondent leading the investigation into Jeffrey Epstein and his ties to Bill Clinton. Alexis Tereszcuk, one other of the "former CNN employees" named by The National Pulse, also worked at AMI later.
Lead Stories Chairman and Co-Founder Perry Sanders offered following statement:
I am the initial primary funder of Lead Stories. I am a partial subject of this false article. I am not only NOT a long time registered Democrat, I have for many decades been registered as an Independent.
The story is also false saying I only support Democrats. I have both financially supported and voted for Republicans, Libertarians and Democrats. Indeed, the largest single political contribution I have ever made was $10,000 and it was to a very conservative Republican running against a very popular Democrat.
If the people who ran this false story involving me had done any investigation whatsoever, they would realize that my donation was the largest of this person's campaign and was written about in the very conservative Gazette Newspaper in Colorado Springs.
So it was both public record I made the donation and drew media attention and I caught plenty of grief from liberals for making it. I support the candidate and frankly could care less about a candidate's party affiliation, as anyone who knows me at all knows.
My fiscal policy views are likely right of all but the most conservative Republicans. The program Fixtheusa.us, that I created years ago and have pitched to Republicans and democrats alike, is as conservative an idea as one could possibly come up with to encourage entrepreneurship and have job creation through entrepreneurship be what helps with unemployment.
I started Stop The Hypocrisy over 20 years ago when it was not so popular to take a stand regarding legalization of pot and putting real criminals in jail for life without benefit of parole. So from end to end, the characterization of me is false and this short narrative is 100% inaccurate.
All this being said, Lead Stories, that I mainly funded, is supposed to have zero political bias, and any accusations that it has such bias will be fully examined by me personally and that will NEVER be tolerated. Are we perfect? Likely not. Are we as an organization biased? We better not be!!
The two sole funders of Lead Stories, me and my Republican business partner, will never intentionally allow that to happen. It flies in the face of everything we stand for in this particular venture. We have regular calls with the 4 principals to ensure that what we do is of the highest standards and has zero left or right wing bias. It does not go with our stated agenda.
Lead Stories denies any accusations of bias. We fact check claims made by and against people and groups on both sides of the political spectrum. You can check for yourself in our Red Feed (if you only want to see fact checks Republicans will like) and in our Blue Feed (if you prefer the Democratic viewpoint). Of course you can also check our main feed if you want to see all our fact checks.