Reasoning: Propaganda, Numerous Failed Fact Checks, Lack of Transparency
World Press Freedom Rank: USA 45/180
Founded in 1984, The Heartland Institute is an American conservative and libertarian public policy think tank that conducts work on issues including education reform, government spending, taxation, healthcare, education, tobacco policy, global warming, hydraulic fracturing, information technology, and free-market environmentalism. According to their about page “The Heartland Institute is one of the world’s leading free-market think tanks. It is a national nonprofit research and education organization based in Arlington Heights, Illinois. Its mission is to discover, develop, and promote free-market solutions to social and economic problems.
The Heartland Foundation has been criticized by some scientific organizations such as the Union of Concerned Scientists who said “Heartland has a long history of intentionally trying to confuse the public on behalf of corporate sponsors.” The Heartland Foundation responded by stating “This is absolutely false, malicious, and libelous. We have never compromised our principles or altered our research findings to satisfy or attract a corporate donor. UCS cites no evidence to back up this baseless claim.”
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Funded by / Ownership
The Heartland Institute is a nonprofit that has received funding in the past from notable right-leaning institutions such as Exxon-Mobil, Charles G. Koch Foundation, and the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation. In the past, the Heartland Institute listed their donors, however, they stopped this practice based on this reasoning: “For many years, we provided a complete list of Heartland’s corporate and foundation donors on this Web site and challenged other think tanks and advocacy groups to do the same. To our knowledge, not a single group followed our lead. However, critics who couldn’t or wouldn’t engage in fair debate over our ideas found the donor list a convenient place to find the names of unpopular companies or foundations, which they used in ad hominem attacks against us. Even reporters from time to time seemed to think reporting the identities of one or two donors–out of a list of hundreds–was a fair way of representing our funding or our motivation in taking the positions expressed in our publications. After much deliberation and with some regret, we now keep confidential the identities of all our donors.” Since they no longer list their donors, we are unable to determine their sources of funding.
Analysis / Bias
In review, The Heartland Institute’s primary mission is to advocate for corporations and minimal regulations. For example, they have advocated on behalf of the tobacco industry claiming that “We argue that the (smoking) risks are exaggerated by the public health community to justify their calls for more regulations on businesses and higher taxes on smokers and that the risk of adverse health effects from second-hand smoke is dramatically less than for active smoking, with many studies finding no adverse health effects at all. These positions are supported by many prominent scientists and virtually all free-market think tanks.” While Heartland may be able to find a few scientists and virtually all free-market think tanks (who aren’t scientists) to claim that second-hand smoke is not very harmful, that goes completely against the consensus of the science.
The Heartland Institute is a leading supporter in human-influenced climate change denial and when it comes to climate change information, they have made numerous false or misleading claims. They have also made false claims when it comes to other political issues. Here is a partial list of their numerous failed fact checks.
Failed Fact Checks
Overall, we rate the Heartland Institute Right Biased and Questionable based on the promotion of anti-science propaganda, lack of transparency with funding, and more than 5 failed fact checks by IFCN fact-checkers. (7/19/2016) Updated (D. Van Zandt 10/07/2020)