Fact-checking network’s independent certifier flirts with man who brutally attacked Republican Sen. Rand Paul

On Monday, one of the individuals tasked with approving fact-checker status for the outlets Facebook uses to moderate its content, tweeted “where have you gone” to the man convicted of attacking Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) in 2017 and breaking several of the senator’s ribs.

Michael Wagner tweeted, and then deleted, “Where have you gone, Rand Paul’s neighbor, a nation turns its lonely eyes to you.”


Wagner shared the tweet in response to a video shared by Paul in which the senator called on Americans to resist new COVID-19 related lockdowns.

Wisconsin Right Now first reported on Wagner’s tweet, noting Wagner is a UW-Madison journalism professor. Zebra Fact Check writer Bryan White subsequently noted Wagner is also tasked with validating fact-checker statuses for outlets at the International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN).

IFCN is an important fact-checking organization as Facebook has outsourced to IFCN the responsibility to determine who should be able to fact-check, and by extension, censor or cause the removal of content appearing on the social media platform. The IFCN is also an arm of the Poynter Institute.

As someone tasked with reviewing applications for fact-checker status, Wagner approved fact-checker applications for the Washington Post Fact Checker, USA Today, Reuters, FactCheck.org and the Poynter Institute’s own fact-checking organization, PolitiFact.

Of note, IFCN’s code of principles states, in its very first principle, that fact-checkers should keep “a commitment to non-partisanship and fairness.”

The MetaFact Group reached out to IFCN for comment on Wagner’s tweet about Paul’s neighbor, but the organization has not responded to multiple requests for comment.

Wisconsin Right Now noted other past politically charged tweets by Wagner. The outlet wrote, Wagner once tweeted “Tucker Carlson and his show are dangers to the republic.” Wagner called Carlson a “menace to society” in another tweet. In May, he wrote without explanation, “Just googling when the last time was a member of Congress killed another member of Congress. No reason.” He has called people who take different views from him on topics like Simone Biles “monsters.”

Michael wagner

On Monday, Wagner deleted his tweet about Paul’s neighbor,  and said “I deleted a tweet that could be read as encouraging violence. I didn’t mean it that way, but I should know better than to say anything that could be misconstrued in a violent direction. I apologize for that.”

Wagner did not clarify what it is that he did mean by his original tweet about Paul, onl that he didn’t mean to be interpreted as encouraging violence. Wagner has since place his Twitter account in locked and protected mode, with his old tweets no longer visible.



2 thoughts on “Fact-checking network’s independent certifier flirts with man who brutally attacked Republican Sen. Rand Paul”

  1. “The IFCN is also an arm of the Poynter Institute.”

    The Poynter Institute owns PolitiFact, also.

    So the Poynter Institute is effectively in charge of accountability for Poynter-owned PolitiFact.

    What could be more ethical?

    “the organization has not responded to multiple requests for comment.”

    And at the same time, the IFCN calls on fact-checking organizations to “commit to transparency.”


    Website design note: Descriptions of box-ticking options (in black) are very hard to read against the blue background.

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