Tuesday 26 January 2021

#hasthebbcfactcheckedthisyet (starring Mike Wendling)

Here's an interesting exchange (h/t Guest Who at Biased BBC):

BBC Trending: "Fake news has real consequences". Listen to our summary of the last year or so with Mike Wendling and Marianna Spring [linking to BBC Radio 4 - A Year of Misinformation].  

Tooth2Power: Just read this quote: “Watching the BBC News Channel earlier and the anchor reported that Trump was leaving office with the lowest approval ratings of any US President ever. She quoted a figure of 34%. This is a blatant lie.” #hasthebbcfactcheckedthisyet

Mike Wendling (BBC Trending, replying to Tooth2Power): You'd have to give me the exact citation. However, this is broadly in line with a number of public opinion surveys. As you might expect, some have the number higher, some lower.

Mike Wendling - not only the boss of BBC Trending but also the head honcho at the BBC's disinformation unit - linked his reply to an ongoing tracker from FiveThirtyEight (Nate Silver's famous polling company), presumably in support of his point.

But, bizarrely, when you click on his link it shows that Donald Trump is now at 38.6% and has only ever dipped to 38% in recent years. 

In fact, he's never been at 34% in the long-term poll tracker Mike Wendling linked to, so I'm not sure quite why Mike thought that helped his argument. 

Of course, it's easy to show the boss of BBC Trending undermining his own case - and his disinformation-checking unit's reputation too - with a slipshod link, but what about Mike's own demand on Tooth2Power - because Tooth2Power, it seems, HAS to provide the BBC man with "the exact citation"?

Well, the discussion is still going on:

Tooth2Power: I don’t have to give you anything. And given the citation is from another source I am seeking confirmation upon, and is from the same office as you, maybe you would be so kind as to check if and who said it. And then the surveys you refer to - to assess why this ‘broad’ number chosen. 

Mike Wendling: I was only trying to answer your question. The News Channel broadcasts 24 hours a day so you'll understand I can't watch all programme to find something that you say was broadcast "earlier". Among those surveys I'm sure you'll find a credible source with the exact number. Or did you not really want an answer to your question, and were rather trying to score some sort of political point? In which case I can't help you.


Weirdly enough, I found one example of the famous citation on the BBC News Channel very easily - and without either licence fee funding or a team of researchers:
BBC News Channel (20 Jan, 11:44 am) - Joanna Gosling: Bryan, as we're hearing, the Biden/Harris administration will undo so much of what Trump did through executive order. Also, obviously, Democrats control both houses of Congress and Trump is going out with the lowest rating of any outgoing president according to the polling, 34%. Is he now going to be consigned to history politically? Could he ever come back within the Republican party?

I thought I'd butt in and pass that on to both Mike and Tooth2Power

To help Mike Wendling out even more, I think I know where the divine Joanna (we Craigs are known for fancying Joanna Gosling) - or her scriptwriters - got that from. Brian Klaas, author of The Despot's Apprentice: Donald Trump's Attack on Democracy, was on BBC Breakfast at 7:17 am and used that very helpful statistic. I'm guessing someone at the BBC picked up on it, liked it, and ran with it as The figure. 


Update 27/1 - It looks as if Mike Wendling, having been given the citation he was asking for, decided to ignore it and take offence instead.

Tooth2Power replied today to Marianna Spring's Radio 4 plug:

Tooth2Power: Can’t wait. But to be accurate, even BBC Radio 4 alone has been doing it a lot more than just a year.

Mike Wendling, having fallen silent, returned to the fray:

Mike Wendling: You go from what appears to be a legit question to outright accusations w/o any evidence or substance. Good bye. 

And Tooth2Power then replied to both me - and Mike Wendling. 

Tooth2Power: No problem here. If possibly elsewhere. Seems things have reached a natural break somehow. Have they for you? Thank you for the facts requested. It was all getting interesting. Then someone seems to have decided it needs stopping. One supposes in that trusted, transparent BBC way.

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