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Fact-Checker Censors Report On Biden Administration Funding Distribution Of Crack Pipes

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*Correction: A previous version of this story stated Facebook censored the Washington Free Beacon’s article. The story and headline have been updated to reflect that the fact-checking website Lead Stories censored it. It has also been updated to include additional context and statements from Lead Stories editor-in-chief Alan Duke, HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra, Office of National Drug Control Policy Director Dr. Rahul Gupta and Drug Policy Alliance Director Kassandra Frederique. 

  • Facebook third-party fact-checking partner Lead Stories censored a story Wednesday published by the Washington Free Beacon about a program funding distribution of crack pipes and other drug paraphernalia.
  • The Washington Free Beacon published an article Monday titled “Biden Admin To Fund Crack Pipe Distribution To Advance ‘Racial Equity,’” which claimed the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) was providing funding for a grant program for local governments and nonprofits to distribute “smoking kits/supplies” as part of a “harm reduction” approach to drug use.
  • As of Wednesday afternoon, Facebook posts containing the Free Beacon’s story feature a warning label that includes a link to a Lead Stories fact-check and states the article contains “partly false information” that was “checked by independent fact-checkers.”
  • Lead Stories originally rated the Free Beacon’s article based on two tweets from HHS spokeswoman Sarah Lovenheim, neither of which refuted the Free Beacon’s actual claim about HHS providing funding for distribution of crack pipes and other drug paraphernalia.
  • Lead Stories later updated its article to hinge around comments from HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra and Office of National Drug Control Policy Director Dr. Rahul Gupta, who issued a statement Wednesday afternoon saying that “no federal funding will be used directly or through subsequent reimbursement of grantees to put pipes in safe smoking kits.”

Facebook third-party fact-checking partner Lead Stories censored a story Wednesday published by the Washington Free Beacon about a program funding distribution of crack pipes and other drug paraphernalia.

The Washington Free Beacon published an article Monday titled “Biden Admin To Fund Crack Pipe Distribution To Advance ‘Racial Equity,’” which claimed the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) was providing funding for a grant program for local governments and nonprofits to distribute “smoking kits/supplies” as part of a “harm reduction” approach to drug use. An unnamed HHS spokesperson told the Free Beacon that the safe smoking kits will contain pipes for users to smoke drugs such as crack cocaine and meth.

As of Wednesday afternoon, Facebook posts containing the Free Beacon’s story feature a warning label that includes a link to a Lead Stories fact-check and states the article contains “partly false information” that was “checked by independent fact-checkers.” When a third-party fact-checking partner rates a piece of content as “partly false,” the content “will appear lower” in users’ news feeds, which “significantly reduces the number of people who see it,” according to Facebook’s Business Help Center.

Lead Stories originally rated the Free Beacon’s article based on two tweets from HHS spokeswoman Sarah Lovenheim, neither of which refuted the Free Beacon’s actual claim about HHS providing funding for distribution of crack pipes and other drug paraphernalia. (RELATED: Facebook Bans Conservative Kid’s Book Publisher Heroes Of Liberty From Running Ads)

In one tweet, she said that Republican Florida Sen. Marco Rubio claims that the Biden administration is “sending free meth & crack pipes” to minority communities was “blatant misinformation.” The Free Beacon never claimed the Biden administration was sending drugs or crack pipes to communities, and Rubio’s tweet was a mischaracterization of the Free Beacon’s article.

Lovenheim further stated that the grants are “designed to help folks struggling with substance use stay healthy and safe, prevent overdose death” and “must stick to federal, state, local laws or regs.”

The other Lovenheim tweet that Lead Stories cited as evidence for its rating said HHS “is not distributing crack pipes.” She added that the grants “fund harm reduction efforts by organizations, in full adherence of state and local laws.” The Free Beacon piece did not claim HHS was “distributing” crack pipes to addicts.

Several cities, including San Francisco and Seattle, have distributed smoking kits to users containing crack pipes and syringes in efforts to reduce harm.

Lead Stories later updated its article to hinge around comments from HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra and Office of National Drug Control Policy Director Dr. Rahul Gupta, who issued a statement Wednesday afternoon saying that “no federal funding will be used directly or through subsequent reimbursement of grantees to put pipes in safe smoking kits.” The statement from Gupta and Becerra, both of whom are Biden appointees, was issued following several articles and social media posts criticizing the Biden administration.

Following the publication of Lead Stories’ initial article, White House press secretary Jen Psaki condemned the Free Beacon’s story as “inaccurate reporting” on Wednesday, claiming the Biden administration does not fund the distribution of crack pipes.

Kassandra Frederique, director of Drug Policy Alliance, issued a statement late Wednesday characterizing the Biden administration’s comments as “backtracking on critical evidence-based resources” and a “huge missed opportunity.”

Lead Stories editor-in-chief Alan Duke told the Daily Caller News Foundation that the Lead Stories article “speaks for itself.”

“There is no evidence of a federal program to hand out crack pipes — or herion (sic), as the Daily Caller alleged,” Duke said. “The HHS made a clear policy statement today on this, which I suggest you include in your reporting.”

Lead Stories refused to confirm or deny whether it used denials from cabinet members as primary source evidence for fact checks.

“If at some point crack pipes are provided under a federal program, you can report it then. Until then, it appears only to be speculation at best and fiction at worst,” Duke added.

“I guess we can take cabinet secretaries facing withering criticism at their word now,” Daily Caller editor-in-chief Geoffrey Ingersoll said in a statement. “Perhaps we should have believed Milley when he referred to the drone strike that killed an innocent family as ‘righteous.’ Giving unelected bureaucrats the benefit of the doubt despite all available evidence is a very low bar for the fact checking community.”

Facebook and The Washington Free Beacon did not immediately respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.

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