When Stephen K. Bannon, the White House strategist turned podcaster, was explaining the latest Covid-19 developments in 2021, he passed the microphone to a special guest: Clay Clark, an evangelist and anti-vaccine activist.
For nearly 10 minutes, Mr. Clark rattled off one false and misleading statement after another. Covid is â€œ100 percent treatableâ€ with hydroxychloroquine and other drugs. (No.) Covid vaccines are filled with fetal tissue. (False.) Concentration camps are coming. (Nope.) Bill Gates owns a demonic patent for a cryptocurrency that is injected into your body. (Where to begin?)
â€œThere are no conspiracies, but there are no coincidences,â€ Mr. Bannon concluded minutes later, in what has become his showâ€™s catchphrase.
Mr. Bannon has spent the past few years parlaying his stint as the chief strategist for former President Donald J. Trump into a prominent role as a right-wing personality. His hourlong â€œWar Roomâ€ podcast episodes are released at least twice daily, even as Mr. Bannon faces various legal challenges, including aÂ guilty verdictÂ last year for contempt of Congress andÂ accusations from Manhattan prosecutors that he defraudedÂ conservative donors.
In aÂ study released on ThursdayÂ by the Brookings Institution, Mr. Bannonâ€™s showÂ was crowned the top peddler of false, misleading and unsubstantiated statements among political podcasts.
Researchers at Brookings downloaded and transcribed 36,603 podcast episodes from 79 political talk shows that had been released before Jan. 22, 2022. When researchers compared the showsâ€™ transcripts against a list of keywords and common falsehoods identified by fact checkers, they found that nearly 20 percent of Mr. Bannonâ€™s â€œWar Roomâ€ episodes contained a false, misleading or unsubstantiated statement, more than shows by other conservatives like Glenn Beck and Charlie Kirk.
Overall, about 70 percent of the podcasts reviewed had shared at least one false or misleading claim, the researchers found. Conservative podcasters were 11 times as likely as liberal podcasters to share a claim that fact checkers could refute.
Mr. Kirk, a conservative activist and the founder of Turning Points USA, ranked second, with 17 percent of his episodes containing an unsubstantiated or false claim. â€œThe Rush Limbaugh Showâ€ (which ended when Mr. Limbaugh died in 2021) and â€œThe Clay Travis and Buck Sexton Showâ€ shared third place, while â€œThe Michael Savage Showâ€ ranked fourth.
Valerie Wirtschafter, a senior data analyst at Brookings who led the research, said some falsehoods and errors were expected to slip through on talk shows, where conversations were typically recorded live. â€œBut what does stand out, particularly for a show like Bannonâ€™s â€˜War Roomâ€™ and a few others, is just how frequently this type of content appears,â€ she said.
Mr. Bannon said in an interview that the Brookings report was a â€œbadge of honor,â€ adding that â€œWar Roomâ€ was a leader in vaccine skepticism, election fraud claims and other topics commonly flagged as misinformation by fact checkers.
“What they call disinformation or misinformation we consider the truth,â€ he said. â€œAnd time is proving us out.â€