The Palmer Report became a source of information and political news for readers—specifically, liberal ones—during the 2016 election and throughout former President Donald Trump’s administration. But is the Palmer Report a legitimate news source? Or is it part of the “fake news” multiverse that both sides of the debate have used to besmirch sources they don’t like?
Regardless, it is influential. Palmer Report’s Twitter account boasts over a half-million followers, where the site’s founder posts invective-laden tweets primarily aimed at Trump and his fans.
Palmer Report’s Twitter account has almost half a tweet for almost every follower, with over 216,000 posts since it launched in June 2008.
Many point back to stories on the website, but the Palmer Report on Twitter is a feed unto itself, with expletive-peppered bursts of opinion and dot-connecting that serves an audience that wants to see figures on the American political right get their comeuppance.
Who is Bill Palmer?
According to a May 2017 Insider article, Palmer is a somewhat mysterious former elementary school teacher turned blogger, who, “after working at a school in Florida … appears to have launched nearly a dozen music- and technology-related websites before switching to political blogging.”
What is the Palmer Report?
According to its Twitter bio, the site claims to bring “political analysis ahead of the curve.” Though the Twitter account was established in 2008, Palmer launched the Palmer Report as a news site in 2016, the successor to his old site, the Daily News Bin.
A 2017 BuzzFeed News article exploring Palmer’s history said Palmer claimed to be a “political journalist who covered the 2016 election cycle from start to finish.” Snopes’s Brooke Binkowski labeled Daily News Bin as “basically a pro-Hillary Clinton ‘news site’ … out there to counter misinformation.”
The article also noted that in November 2016 Palmer launched the Palmer Report as an “investigative reporting … side project,” and that he’s published “evidence-free assertions that Vladimir Putin personally ordered [a] chemical attack in Syria” and a piece titled “‘Brain specialist doctor believes Donald Trump’s frontal lobe is failing’ that was based on a single tweet by a doctor.”
It noted, “Along the way, Palmer has collected more than 63,000 Twitter followers and more than a few famous signal boosters.”
By August 2023, that number had ballooned to nearly 525,000 followers.
In August 2017, during former President Donald Trump’s first year as president, the Washington Post compared Palmer’s work to several well-known conservative counterparts, the Gateway Pundit and InfoWars. He described it as “known to make wild and unsubstantiated claims, including linking House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to the Russia scandal.”
In the summer of 2023, as Trump is ratcheting up another presidential run, he was still a focus of Palmer’s attention, with the Palmer Report focusing intently on Trump’s legal battles.
Is Palmer Report a legitimate news source?
According to Media Bias/Fact Check, a website that evaluates the partisan lean and reliability of news sources, the Palmer Report is decidedly liberal in its positioning, and has a rating of “mixed” on the site’s factual reporting spectrum ranging from “very high” to “very low.”
The site notes, “The Palmer Report is typically well-sourced and usually points to credible sources. However, there is a very strong liberal bias in reporting and story content.” It accuses the site of using strong framing and hyperbolic headlines “that don’t always reflect the article’s content.”
The site also found that the Palmer Report has failed a number of fact checks by Snopes. Those include a story musing on the reason for a 2017 Saudi Arabia trip that Jared Kushner made, on the origins of a staged photo Trump tweeted to showcase him “writing” his inaugural address, and whether the Kremlin had “kompromat” on former Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz.
In part, because of the failed Snopes tests, Media Bias/Fact Check went with a mixed rating.
The 2017 Insider article questioned the reliability of the site, saying of Palmer and others with similar sites, “With at times dubious or incomplete sourcing, these Trump critics’ reporting is wish-fulfillment for people appalled by Trump’s shock victory in November, convinced he is an illegitimate president, and hopeful that he might one day be impeached.”
That article also pointed to Palmer’s own writing, justifying his approach in November 2016 by noting, “My articles include supporting source links which allow readers to easily verify the facts in question, meaning there’s nothing controversial about my reporting. Supporting source links are the only criteria one needs for determining the legitimacy of any given article on any independent news site.”
A 2021 article from the New York Times, on Facebook sharing of misinformation, cited another news rating source, NewsGuard, in labeling Palmer Report among the “false content producers” or “manipulators” that Facebook users were eager to share.
“We have these sites that masquerade as news outlets online. They’re allowed to,” said Karen Kornbluh, director of GMF Digital, in the article. “It’s infecting our discourse and it’s affecting the long-term health of the democracy.”
Palmer contested NewsGuard’s rating in a letter that NewsGuard itself published, declaring, “Your recently published ‘rating’ of Palmer Report falsely accuses us of ‘repeatedly publishing false content.’ This is a demonstrably false, and easily disproven, claim on your part. You’ve also falsely accused us of failing to correct errors, another disproven false claim on your part. You’ve falsely accused us of failing to separate news and opinion content, even though we helpfully explained to you long ago that we have entirely different—and clearly labeled—sections for this.”
While “fake news” is often in the eye of the beholder and dependent on people’s subjective criteria, the “mixed” assessment that Media Bias/Fact Check used is a fair one. While Palmer uses generally agreed-upon reliable news sources, there’s also a liberal dose of liberal opinion in his work, and in some cases, speculative stories that fact-checkers have debunked.