PolitiFact mocked but stands by fact-check of AOC ‘parking lot’ photo-op

(Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

A fact-checking website touted its “editorial independence” in defending an article that attempted to debunk claims that a photo of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in tears near a border detention facility was staged.

Despite being mocked online for its article countering the photo-op claims, PolitiFact’s editor told Fox News Tuesday that they “stand by our fact-check” and because they are “nonpartisan,” they do not “take policy positions, so we never publish fact-checks to advance political points.”

PolitiFact was standing by an article published Monday, titled “No, this isn’t a photo of Alexandria Ocasio Cortez crying over a parking lot,” written by Ciara O’Rourke and Duke University student Stefanie Pousoulides, responding to criticism that the photos of Ocasio-Cortez were not, in fact, staged.

Ocasio-Cortez posted the photos herself in June, one year after they were taken.

The photos in question, taken near a border detention facility in Tornillo, Texas before her primary race in 2018, were posted by photographer Ivan Pierre Aguirre to his Twitter account earlier this year. But questions arose about what the freshman congresswoman was actually looking at since the photos only showed her emotional reactions.

“Critics pounced, posting to social media that the congresswoman was crying over nothing more than a parking lot,” the PolitiFact article maintained, though Ocasio-Cortez “was just beyond the toll plaza for the Tornillo facility, and … standing on a road that led to the Tornillo tent complex, which was in the line of her gaze, as she stood at the fence.”

PolitiFact reportedly spoke with Aguirre and other photographers and reviewed images in determining that it was “false” to claim the New York Democrat was crying in front of an “empty parking lot.”

“It isn’t a parking lot,” Aguirre told the outlet. “It’s the road leading to the camp.”

“We work hard to present accurate, authoritative information to readers of all political opinions and viewpoints,” Angie Drobnic Holan, the editor of PolitiFact, told Fox News, dismissing the critics who mocked the outlet Tuesday, accusing the site of intentionally giving the story a “false” rating.

“Readers may sometimes disagree with a specific rating or report, but they gain knowledge from the report itself, and they understand that over the long term our mission is guided by editorial independence,” Holan said.

“Our fact-check does not describe the protest scene merely as ‘an empty road,’ she added. “Rather, the road is part of a larger site that our fact-check fully documents and explains. We include both detailed description and photographic documentation of the site, which the original posts did not. We stand by our fact-check and consider it part of the important work we do debunking misinformation on the Internet.”

But commentators were not buying the fact-checking website’s narrative on Tuesday and called out the distinction it was making between an empty road and a parking lot.

Frieda Powers

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