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Lawmaker questions financial ties between fact checker and Johnson and Johnson

Can fact checkers remain impartial when they're funded by a foundation that owns significant J&J stock?
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Representative Thomas Massie has raised questions about the financial relationship between a common online fact checker and Johnson and Johnson – a regular subject in its fact-checks, particularly where it relates to J&J’s COVID-19 vaccine.

A Factcheck.org project addressing “misconceptions” about COVID-19 and vaccines is funded by an organization that has more than 15% of its assets in Johnson & Johnson stock, Massie pointed out.

The significant amount of stock in a company that is producing a COVID-19 vaccine would make some question if the project is really an unbiased source of COVID-19 information.

The homepage of the project, called “SciCheck’s COVID-19/Vaccination Project,” states:

“SciCheck’s COVID-19/Vaccination Project is made possible by a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the foundation.”

“The goal is to increase exposure to accurate information about COVID-19 and vaccines, while decreasing the impact of misinformation. On this page, you’ll find answers to commonly asked questions, as well as links to our articles debunking misinformation.”

In a tweet posted April 24, Kentucky’s 4th District Rep. Thomas Massie, a Republican, posted screenshots showing that the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation funds the project and has more than 15% of its assets in Johnson & Johnson stock.
The image is of the foundation’s financial statement from December 2019. Of the $11.9 million in assets, almost $1.9 are in Johnson & Johnson stock, translating to a 15.9% investment in the pharmaceutical company.

Additionally, the CEO and president of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Richard Besser, previously served as the acting director for the US CDC and as chief health and medical editor at ABC News.

“Former director of CDC is now CEO of the foundation that funds FACTCHECK.org’s vaccine fact checking program. Roughly 15% of said foundation’s assets are J & J stock.

“Bless your heart if you think factcheck .org is an unbiased source of vaccine information,” Rep. Massie wrote, while sharing the screenshots.

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