One downside to the internet is that a lot of false information, or “fake news” as President Trump prefers to call it, can flow hither and yon and it’s difficult to suss out the truth. Fact-checker websites popped up in an effort to help separate fact from fiction. Is Mark Zuckerberg going to give a lot of money to someone who shares a post? Is that story about someone stealing your kidney legit? The fact-checkers will let you know.

The problem is, what do we do when the fact-checkers can’t be trusted?

All of the sites are bad about it, but they tend to be subtle.

Hoax-Alert, however, made no attempt to do so. In a post written by Alan Duke, the site’s editor-in-chief who boasts a previous 26-year stint at CNN, the post seeks to “debunk” a story written at The Federalist Papers regarding a comment by Beto O’Rourke.

Did Beto O’Rourke say in the Democratic debate “Hell, yes,” Democrats are coming for your hand guns? No, that’s not true: The former Texas congressman did say if elected president, he would push to make illegal AR-15s, AK-47 and other weapons “designed to kill people on a battlefield.” He would make it mandatory that current owners of those weapons would have to sell them to the federal government. Contrary to what some articles were claiming after the September 12, 2019, debate in Houston, O’Rourke did not mention government confiscation of hand guns.

The false claim originated from an article (archived here) published by TheFederalistPapers.org barely an hour after the debate ended on September 12m 2019 under the title “O’Rourke: ‘Hell Yes’ Democrats Are Coming For Your Guns”. It opened:

Now, The Federalist Papers does use that as a headline. However, the body of the post actually talks about one particular type of gun, that being the AR-15s.

To be clear, O’Rourke did say he was coming for them.

Check the video, starting at about the 1:11 mark:

He’s coming for our guns.

However, Duke has decided to play very disingenuously with this post. He spends much of his fact-check arguing that O’Rourke has said nothing about coming for handguns, a point never brought up. He knows this.

Instead, he’s attacking the headline as being the entire body of the piece.

Headlines are meant to attract readers. There’s a reason for click-bait, after all. So, The Federalist Papers writes a post and titles it about O’Rourke saying, “Hell yes,” he was coming for our guns. After all, he did. He’s coming after our AR-15s, which makes up the lion’s share of some people’s collections, if we’re perfectly honest.

It did the job.

Duke, however, isn’t trying to say the headline is misleading. He’s arguing against a point that literally no one is trying to make.

As a result, he’s also illustrating why so many on the right are no longer trusting fact-checker sites in general. If it’s not Snopes trying to attack a satire site or Politifact covering for Joe Biden’s mistakes, we’ve got this site debunking an article that didn’t say what they’re claiming to debunk. It’s absolutely ridiculous.

Make no mistake. O’Rourke wants to come for the AR-15s. No fact-checker can even pretend he didn’t.

In fact, it’s more misleading than The Federalist Paper‘s headline could ever be. Someone looking at the two headlines together–because let’s be honest, some people only read the headlines before deciding what to do–would think nothing in the original post was accurate. That would be a mistake, and I think Duke knows this will happen.

After all, when a man tweets this out, he’s coming for your guns, even if he isn’t coming for all of your guns.

Further, let’s also be clear on one important fact. If O’Rourke somehow gets into the White House–and that’s a huge “if” at this point–and can successfully confiscate AR-15s and somehow avoid a war, do not believe for a single moment that he won’t try to come for handguns as well. After all, the most deadly school shooting in America was carried out with handguns. It’s only a matter of time.

I wonder if Duke would carry water for O’Rourke even then.