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Monday, April 18, 2022
MRC Tries To Drag Teachers Into Its War On NewsGuard
Topic: Media Research Center

The Media Research Center's increasingly desperate war against website rater NewsGuard for committing the offense of documenting the low quality of information at right-wing websites extended to an attempt to interfere with its business operations by bashing a teachers union taht contracted with the company. Catherine Salgado raged in a Jan. 26 post:

Biased online ratings firm NewsGuard is taking its information war to schoolchildren through a deal made with the American Federation of Teachers.

School children depend on the internet for homework help. NewsGuard is now stepping in to “filter” online sources for so-called “misinformation.” The American Federation of Teachers (AFT) union is buying NewsGuard licenses for its 1.7 million member teachers, according to an AFT press release. The partnership will make NewsGuard available to tens of millions of students and their families for free.

The NewsGuard partnership will foist the company's “real-time ‘traffic light’ news ratings and detailed ‘Nutrition Label’ reviews, via a licensed copy of NewsGuard’s browser extension” on students using news stories for research.

Salgado then rehashed the MRC's bogus attacks on NewsGuard, followed by a quote from her boss:

MRC President Brent Bozell blasted the AFT-NewsGuard partnership, suggesting it is worse than critical race theory in public schools. “The left has found a dangerous and equally disingenuous new way to indoctrinate our children, without their parents knowing. NewsGuard is partnering with a national teacher's union to bring their biased ratings into classrooms nationwide. This is as bad as CRT. In fact, it's worse. Like CRT, it is designed to push a leftist ideology on children, but unlike CRT, the left is not going to give it a name this time. This is purposely designed to go under the radar of public scrutiny.”

Rating the quality of websites is like critical race theory? That's a new one. But, hey, narratives are the MRC's business, and Bozell had to cram in the latest buzzwords.

The MRC tried to ramp up the war on NewsGuard and the AFT by calling its right-wing buddies in to screech at it, as Salgado wrote in a March 3 post:

The Media Research Center and more than 40 other conservative leaders warned governors about the left-wing bias of ratings firm NewsGuard.

The joint letter, signed by MRC founder and President Brent Bozell and dozens of other free speech advocates, sounded the alarm both on NewsGuard’s leftist bias and the ratings firm’s dangerous and growing influence in the educational arena. NewsGuard recently partnered with the American Federation of Teachers to bring its online “credibility” ratings and other resources to teachers and school children.

The letter itself featuring some of the MRC's lamest attacks on NewsGuard as purported evidence of its bias, such as arguing that HuffPost got a high rating despite "an attack piece on then-conservative talk radio host Rush Limbaugh following his death" (the letter clearly wasn't well edited, given the odd description of Limbaugh as "then-conservative") and that Planned Parenthood's rating should be lower because it "performed 9 million abortions as of July 2021" while anti-abortion websites got lower ratings (the MRC cited no misinformation on the Planned Parenthood site and censored the misinformation found on those anti-abortion sites).

Ironically, some the letter's signatories are well known for publishing highly biased misinformation, such as David Kupelian of WND, Floyd Brown of the Western Journal and Steven Ertelt of LifeNews.

In a March 8 post, Brian Bradley got mad that the MRC's attempt to crash a webinar held by NewsGuard CEO Steven Brill and AFT president Randi Weingarten failed:

American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten said she’s happy that NewsGuard highly rates some news outlets that have been critical of her. And her group’s new partner was right by her side.

During a webinar Thursday, she and NewsGuard CEO Steven Brill weren’t even willing to answer a question about their clear left-skewed political leanings.


Given Weingarten’s transparent partisanship and the formation of the new partnership, MRC asked the two executives how anyone can take NewsGuard’s claims of neutrality seriously. They totally ignored the question, even as they answered several questions posted in the Zoom Q&A chat.

Bradley then boasted that a notorious misinformer attacked NewsGuard:

Also on the health front, Weingarten lamented that “anti-vaxx” group Children’s Health Defense, headed by Robert F. Kennedy Jr., “ attacked ” NewsGuard’s ties to Big Pharma in a Feb. 28 blog critical of the NewsGuard-AFT partnership.

The post links to marketing materials that note the health division of Publicis Groupe, a major early funder for NewsGuard in 2018, boasted “13 of the top 20 global pharmaceutical companies” as clients. However, it’s also worth noting that Publicis Groupe divested its health care division in 2019.

“If there’s anyone who has been viewed as an enemy of Big Pharma, it’s you,” Weingarten hailed Brill.

Brill then pivoted the conversation to talk about alleged health “misinformation,” “anti-vaxx decisions plaguing the world,” and so-called 5G conspiracy theories. He lauded U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy for calling out alleged health care “misinformation” as a big obstacle, and he complained that programmatic ad revenue had contributed to alternative COVID-19 narratives. Then Brill used rhetoric to lash into Kennedy.

“The really good news about the internet is that anybody can be a publisher. You know, any teacher, you know, in this audience who has an important thought or an important contribution, you know, can be a publisher,” Brill said. “The really bad news about the internet is that anybody can be a publisher, and anybody is a publisher. And if your name is Kennedy, uh, you get a lot of attention, which is just really sad and is a whole ‘nother sad story about that.”

It's unclear why Bradley put scare quotes around "anti-vaxx" when describing Children's Health Defense, because it is very explicitly and unambiguously an anti-vaccine group. And Bradley made no effort to debunk anything Brill said.

Bradley concluded by whining that "The problem is that politics is embedded in NewsGuard’s framework and in AFT’s leadership." Actually, the problem is that the MRC is trying to use the might of the right-wing media machine it helped build to try and censor and silence NewsGuard because it is in apparently desperate need of a scalp to hang in MRC headquarters. Unfortunately for the MRC, however, its lame attacks on NewsGuard -- and its embrace of extremists like Children's Health Defense in this own-the-libs bid -- aren't exactly making that case.

Posted by Terry K. at 1:52 PM EDT

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