PolitiFact Slaps ‘False’ Rating On Babylon Bee Joke About Pete Buttigieg

News & Politics

The professional fact-checking industry has run into problems with The Babylon Bee before and some have responded better than others. Some outlets, like Snopes and USA Today, have a “satire” label. For PolitiFact, on the other hand, a satirical joke about Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg is no laughing matter as it rated a Wednesday Bee article about him “false.”

A Friday PolitiFact headline read, “Satirical headline about Pete Buttigieg and the Key Bridge taken out of context.”

Ciara O’Rourke added more details, “A recent Facebook post shared a headline from a satire website but not everyone got the joke.”

She continued, ‘“Buttigieg praises cargo ship for helping dismantle racism in American roads,’ the headline said alongside photos of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and the cargo ship that crashed into Baltimore’s Francis Scott Key Bridge.”

The post “was flagged as part of Meta’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed,” meaning that the account that shared the Bee’s image is now considered the same threat to truth as those who think Donald Trump and Joe Biden are dead

Incredibly, the Facebook post that was flagged clearly includes a box that urges people to “read the article at BabylonBee.com.”

Not only did O’Rourke flag the Facebook user, she also joke-checked the Bee itself, “Comments Buttigieg made in 2021 are being taken out of context since the Key Bridge’s collapse. PolitiFact debunked another social media post that claimed the transportation secretary blamed the bridge’s collapse on ‘racism.’”

O’Rourke explained that “Rather, in a 2021 interview, Buttigieg said racism has sometimes factored into highway planning and construction.”

Yes, that’s the joke. It is a callback to Buttigieg’s earlier comments and the perception that the secretary of Transportation is actually the secretary of Woke Transportation. Satire, whether its from The Babylon Bee or The Onion, relies on readers being sophisticated enough to understand unmentioned facts or memories, like the roads comment, to comprehend the point of the joke. If the Bee mentioned the roads comment, it wouldn’t be satire, it would just be another anti-Buttigieg editorial.

O’Rourke concludes by proclaiming that “We rate claims that Buttigieg actually praised a cargo ship for helping to dismantle racism in American roads False.”

If PolitiFact wants to point out that people fall for satirical headlines, it should create a satire label. In response to criticism, Snopes finally made the change five years ago. There’s no reason for PolitiFact to still be treating satire as if it is on the same level as unironic claims.

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