The Media Research Center has to dip into its Hunter Biden Derangement Syndrome and embrace a militia-loving extremist podcaster to keep up its attacks on the website-rating company.
By Terry Krepel Posted 11/17/2022
The Media Research Center's war on website rating service NewsGuard quicklydescended into lame gotchas, and that trend continued as the year went on. Catherine Salgado actually wrote this in a March 9 post:
Does biased NewsGuard automatically favor state-affiliated media? The liberal online “credibility” arbiter gave seven traditionally non-autocratic state-affiliated media outlets around the world an average score of 98.6/100.
MRC Free Speech America looked at seven traditionally non-autocratic state-affiliated media outlets from Germany, the U.S., France, the United Kingdom and Canada. Biased NewsGuard didn’t allow government affiliation to harm journalistic credibility.
America’s National Public Radio (NPR) and Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), France’s Radio France Internationale (RFI) and France 24 and Germany’s Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen (ZDF) all received perfect scores of 100/100.
The UK’s British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) and Canada’s Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) both received excellent NewsGuard scores of 95/100.
Salgado doesn't explain why this government affiliation must automatically be in conflict with journalistic credibility or even dispute the ratings or provide examples of why those outlets should be downgraded. Instead, she tried to play false equivalence and rehash old complaints about state-owned outlets in authoritarian countries getting better ratings than right-wing misinformers like One America News.
Salgado returned on March 11 to whine about NewsGuard's mission again:
NewsGuard co-CEO Steven Brill claimed that NewsGuard’s goal is “not to block anything,” but “just [to] give people straight information.” However, in a recent interview, he revealed NewsGuard’s real game of demonetizing anything the “credibility” arbiter deems “misinformation.”
Brill went on on March 8 to discuss NewsGuard and how the self-appointed online “credibility” arbiter works, especially how it restricts social media, with podcast host Molly Jong-Fast.
Brill explained that Facebook’s two top executives, Meta (formerly Facebook) CEO Mark Zuckerberg and COO Sheryl Sandberg, apparently ultimately rejected the idea of using NewsGuard for Facebook, though a Facebook executive had originally helped NewsGuard raise money.
He then summarized NewsGuard lists dividing supposedly “legitimate journalism” outlets from supposedly illegitimate media companies, so advertisers can choose what quality of news to affiliate with. “They can advertise there using our inclusion list, and can use our exclusion list to make sure they’re not on” sites that are presumably not “legitimate journalism,” he said. When leftist podcast host and Bulwark contributor Molly Jong-Fast suggested that NewsGuard could “stop fake news” on Facebook, Brill agreed, bragging, “You could do it in a minute.”
Brill said that Facebook executives originally endorsed NewsGuard as a tool that it could use instead of algorithms to regulate content, and helped the company fundraise. “One of the senior executives there even helped us raise money by encouraging investors,” Brill said. NewsGuard does not work like social media, Brill insisted, because it is “transparent.”
Again, Salgado offered no rebuttal beyond rehashing old attacks and hyping "a recent letter signed by MRC founder and President Brent Bozell and dozens of free speech advocates warned all U.S. governors about NewsGuard’s bias and influence." As if Bozell and his fellow letter-signers -- which, as previously noted, include officials from misinformation-laden operations like WorldNetDaily, LifeNews and the Western Journal -- aren't peddling their own bias and influence.
Because NewsGuard calls out misinformation, it's a threat to the MRC and its fellow right-wingers. That's why it has been waging war on the company.
Salgado nonsensically cheered NewsGuard for proving it wasn't biased -- despite the MRC's narrative to the contrary -- in an April 28 post:
Leftist internet traffic cop NewsGuard surprisingly put the left-wing Daily Beast in the doghouse by knocking its rating down 30.5 points for false reporting.
The service downgraded The Daily Beast in two categories, “Gathers and presents information responsibly” and “Regularly corrects or clarifies errors.” The NewsGuard “nutrition label” for The Daily Beast claims that the site “is often accurate and well-sourced,” but presents several examples deemed exceptions. Now, NewsGuard discredits The Daily Beast ’s reporting on acquitted Kenosha shooter Kyle Rittenhouse, on Florida’s mislabeled “Don’t Say Gay” bill and on the New York Post exposé of Hunter Biden. The ratings firm contacted The Daily Beast regarding the false reporting in April 2022, but had not received a response or seen a correction of the articles on the site, according to the company’s nutrition label for The Daily Beast.
By that standard, the MRC should be downgraded for mislabeling that Florida bill as an "anti-grooming" law. But being a greedy right-wing activist, Salgado demanded more:
The Daily Beast’s. MRC Free Speech America previously reported on how multiple leftist outlets that tried to quash the Hunter Biden laptop story still have perfect NewsGuard scores, even after The New York Times verified the story. Even more egregious, NewsGuard co-CEO Steven Brill himself tried to discredit the story, calling it a “hoax.” Does NewsGuard now have to downgrade itself? Outlets including Axios, BuzzFeed News, USA Today and The Washington Post still have 100/100 NewsGuard ratings, despite their inaccurate reporting on the Hunter Biden scandals.
In fact, there was plenty of reason to doubt the laptop story given its October surprise nature and the fact that it was advanced by pro-Trump partisans like Rudy Giuliani in the midst of a heated presidential campaign; further, the New York Post offered no independent corroboration of its story, making it easy to dismiss as a political stunt.
The MRC also continued to try and interfere with NewsGuard's business affairs by hyping attacks it inspired on other companies working with NewsGuard:
An April 22 post by Joseph Vazquez gushed that "Nineteen organizations demanded Congress investigate the Orwellian partnership between leftist website ratings firm NewsGuard and the anti-parent American Federation of Teachers." Vazquez described none of those organizations as conservative -- as that would have given away the partisan nature of this attack -- but he was quite happy to point out that the demand referenced the MRC's previous attacks on NewsGuard.
An April 29 post by Salgado similarly gushed that "Tucker Carlson slammed the Pentagon’s $750,000 contract with leftist ratings firm NewsGuard on his Fox News show," huffing that "NewsGuard is not to be trusted." She also let Carlson rant that "NewsGuard is currently preparing a black list of sites that contradict the national security state’s talking points on Ukraine and Russia" without mentioning the fact that Carlson has effectively been a pro-Russia propagandist.
Salgado parroted yet another attack on the NewsGuard-AFT deal (using MRC talking points, of course) in a June 3 post citing a letter by three right-wing members of Congress condemning the deal, adding that "The letters ended with a list of questions seeking transparency around the AFT-NewsGuard partnership and the two organizations’ business practices."
Vazquez dragged NewsGuard into its war on Washington Post reporter Taylor Lorenz for reporting on right-wingers in a June 8 post complaining that the Post "still enjoys a perfect score by leftist news ratings firm NewsGuard" despite a minor kerfuffle over whether someone was actually sought for comment in a Lorenz story -- again, not about the story's contents regarding how YouTubers covered the Johnny Depp-Amber Heard. Vazquez called Lorenz's article a "smear piece" without identifying what, exactly, the "smear" was.
USA Today recently removed over 20 articles after publication leadership found one of their reporters fabricating sources. Yet ratings firm NewsGuard still gives USA Today a stunning 100/100 score for “credibility,” even after acknowledging the scandal.
NewsGuard’s “nutrition label” for USA Today still gives the outlet a perfect “credibility” score, 100/100. This means that NewsGuard scored USA Today perfectly on categories including “Regularly corrects or clarifies errors,” “Gathers and presents information responsibly,” and “Does not repeatedly publish false content.” This comes even after USA Today became embroiled in a scandal after former reporter Gabriela Miranda fabricated sources.
USA Today removed 23 stories from its site after an audit of Miranda’s work revealed multiple discrepancies. Miranda resigned from her position. NewsGuard, which touts itself as the online “credibility” arbiter, has not adjusted USA Today’s 100-percent score, despite having added the information about the source fabrication scandal to its nutrition label for the outlet.
How does NewsGuard justify maintaining USA Today’s score while openly acknowledging the outlet’s self-identified massive fail?
Perhaps because it identified the problem and corrected the situation while explaining to readers what happened. By contrast, the MRC still has yet to make any sort of public statement about the Brent Bozell ghostwriting scandal or how one of its bloggers used white nationalist links to flesh out his posts.
And that's why the MRC is lashing out at NewsGuard -- because it wants its fellow right-wingers to get away with the same kind of shoddy journalism it practices, and it can't handle being held up to the same standard it demands non-right-wing operations follow.
Hunter Biden derangement
The MRC's Hunter Biden Derangement Syndrome spread to its failing war on NewsGuard. When the New York Times stated that it confirmed the validity of emails found on Biden's alleged laptop, Kyle Drennen hyped on March 18 how "The Federalist’s Western Correspondent Tristan Justice reported on leftist media outlets that refused to cover the Hunter Biden scandal in 2020 still somehow passing with flying colors when graded on their credibility by left-wing news rating group NewsGuard." Less than a hour later, Joseph Vazquez ranted:
NewsGuard CEO Steven Brill outed himself as completely biased before The New York Times’confirmation of the existence of Hunter Biden’s infamous laptop emails.
The New York Times recently confirmed what conservatives already knew the Hunter Biden laptop emails were legitimate. The Times reported on Hunter’s laptop, tying emails found on the computer to a federal investigation.
Ruthless podcast host Comfortably Smug created a timeline in a Twitter thread outlining how NewsGuard attempted to bury the New York Post’s story and the newspaper’s credibility. Comfortably Smug called out Brill for claiming in an October 2020 interview that the story about Hunter’s laptop was a “hoax perpetrated by the Russians.” The podcast host also tweeted: “3/16/22: Huge ad agency [Magna] says they'll use NewsGuard to avoid placing ads on ‘unreliable’ news [.] 3/17/22: NYT says the laptop is real.”
Brill went on the Oct. 15, 2020, edition of CNBC’s Squawk on the Street to rail on how social media companies that tried to ban the Post story “know absolutely nothing about what they’re doing.” Brill said those companies should follow Microsoft’s lead and use tools like NewsGuard to curate articles, supposedly for quality control.
Brill flaunted his leftist bias during this interview, even touting the disproven RussiaGate conspiracy theory: “My personal opinion is there’s a high likelihood this story is a hoax, and maybe even a hoax perpetrated by the Russians again.”
Vazquez didn't explain how "conservatives already knew" the story was legitimate in 2020, given that the Post offered no independent corroboration of its story at the time and there was plenty of reason to doubt it given its October surprise nature and the pro-Trump partisans who were peddling it. He also smeared NewsGuard as "neither a reliable nor trustworthy source," citing only the MRC's highly biased and unreliable attacks against it.
Vazquez continued his ranting in a March 22 post under the laughable headline "Devil Wears Pravda":
Internet traffic cop NewsGuard outed itself as a pathetic joke by giving perfect grades to outlets that tried to quash the Hunter Biden laptop story.
Left-wing news organizations Politico, The Washington Post, Axios and USA Today all maligned the Biden bombshell by the New York Post as possibly part of a 2020 “disinformation” campaign.
Both Axios and Politico currently enjoy 100/100 scores from NewsGuard. But that’s not all. The Washington Post’s phony fact-checker Glenn Kessler floated “that the [Hunter] emails could be part of a broader disinformation campaign.” His newspaper got a perfect rating via NewsGuard’s heavily skewed ratings system.
Fellow NewsGuard-approved partner in pravda USA Today was no better. Its story ripped the Post as a “tabloid”: “A tabloid got a trove of data on Hunter Biden from Rudy Giuliani. Now, the FBI is probing a possible disinformation campaign.”
Only from the far-right perspective of Vazquez and the MRC could anyone consider Politico, the Washington Post and USA Today "left-wing" or a "partner in pravda." And again, Vazquez failed to acknowledge the inconvenient fact that there was no independent corroboration of the story offered at at the time, making it unfair to judge those stories by coroboration that didn't happen until a year and a half later (which, again, the New York Post didn't see a reason to offer at the time) -- just as it tried to do with the Steele dossier.
That's unfair and deceitful "media research" -- but does anyone expect any different from the MRC?
Besmirching Fox News
The war on NewsGuard heated up again when the news rating organization downgraded the MRC's favorite biased network. Joseph Vazquez raged in a July 22 post:
Leftist website ratings firm NewsGuard is back to show the world why it’s a pathetic excuse for an internet traffic cop by giving FoxNews.com a failing grade while completely undercutting its own complaint.
NewsGuard downgraded FoxNews.com July 18 from a green-shield 69.5/100 rating in December 2021 to a red-shield 57/100, noting that the website “fails to adhere to several basic journalistic standards.” This is coming from the same firm that left the liberal USA Today’s perfect 100/100 score intact after the newspaper removed 23 stories because one of its reporters fabricated sources. NewsGuard even praised USA Today for how its “stories quote reliable sources.”
One of NewsGuard’s contentions with Fox is that the news outlet allegedly fails to handle “the difference between news and opinion responsibly.” Apparently, NewsGuard couldn’t correctly discern the difference, either. A “Corrections” note put at the bottom of its “nutrition label” scorecard for Fox News admitted that an earlier version falsely “referred to Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham as anchors [who cover the news] instead of hosts [who lead opinion shows] of their nighttime Fox News Channel programs.”
As ConWebWatch pointed out when the MRC first attacked USA Today over this, the fact that it identified the problem and corrected the situation while explaining to readers what happened is likely the reason USA Today kept its high rating. By contrast, the MRC still has yet to make any sort of public statement about, for instance, the Brent Bozell ghostwriting scandal or how one of its bloggers used white nationalist links to flesh out his posts.
Vazquez went on to defend Fox News while also playing whataboutism:
FoxNews.com clearly labeled Ingraham, Hannity and Carlson as hosts of talk shows, which are naturally opinion-based, but NewsGuard apparently couldn’t even be trusted to do its due diligence initially and make the proper distinction.
It’s also interesting how both the leftist The New York Times and The Washington Post don’t disclose covering the news from a liberal perspective, as the MRC repeatedly illustrated, but NewsGuard didn’t seem to take much issue with that. In fact, both newspapers which both have perfect 100/100 scores, were determined by NewsGuard to handle “the difference between news and opinion responsibly.”
Note that at no point did Vazquez -- amid his unceasing tarring of other outlets as "leftist" -- properly admit that Fox News has a right-wing bias. Nor did he mention that there's little daylight between Fox News" news and opinion sides since they both cover the same issues in the same way. And if NewsGuard's judgment can't be trusted for being "leftist," then by the same definition neither can the MRC's highly biased right-wing judgment on the purported bias of the media outlets it has declared its enemies.
Vazquez continued to whine about Fox News' rating drop in an Aug. 5 post:
It’s hard to take leftist website ratings firm NewsGuard seriously when it gave Fox News a failing grade while complimenting BuzzFeed News’s notoriously phony reporting with a perfect rating.
Leftist outlet BuzzFeed News promoted the Steele dossier, which was used as the pretext for a prolonged federal investigation against former President Donald Trump that bore no fruit. The dossier remains on BuzzFeed News’s website, but NewsGuard continues to give BuzzFeed a perfect 100/100 score.
BuzzFeed News continues to host the bogus January 2017 Steele dossier it published on its website that made erroneous and discredited claims about alleged collusion between Trump and Russia. However, NewsGuard still gives the outlet a perfect 100/100 score.
Vazquez censored the fact that, as ConWebWatch documented, BuzzFeed never presented the Steele dossier as indisputable fact and never vouched for its accuracy. Vazquez then bizarrely attacked BuzzFeed for doing another story:
The outlet actually went to bat for disgraced CNN Chief Legal Analyst Jeffrey Toobin after he was caught with his pants down masturbating during a Zoom call for The New Yorker, where he was a staff writer. In a piece disguised as news and not labeled opinion, BuzzFeed’s main excuse was: Hey, doesn’t everyone masturbate at Zoom meetings? “Jeffrey Toobin Can’t Be The Only Person Masturbating On Work Zoom Calls,” read the laughable BuzzFeed headline.
BuzzFeed “senior culture writer” Scaachi Koul even wielded Scripture to wokescold Toobin’s critics: “Haven’t we all done something on a work call that, in normal circumstances, we’d never do during a meeting? Let he without sin cast the first stone.”
That’s some hard-hitting journalism, eh, NewsGuard?
Vazquez identified no factual errors in the Toobin story. And if Toobin's cringey incident wasn't newsworthy, why did the MRC spendsomuchtime obsessing over it?
Siding with another extremist
The MRC found a new person to play victim of the allegedly evil machinations of designated MRC enemy NewsGuard, a website rating service. Joseph Vazquez was the servile stenographer in an Aug. 10 post:
Podcast icon Tim Pool slapped leftist website ratings firm NewsGuard for making “false and misleading statements” about his website.
Pool took to Twitter to blast NewsGuard for its sloppy work: “News Guard has had to issue several corrections already on their false and misleading statements about Timcast.com.” In addition, Pool said the firm “fabricated a quote from me and they have not issued a correction notice in violation of their own correction policy.” NewsGuard’s label, which rates Timcast.com with a 82/100, rebuked the website for allegedly not gathering and presenting information “responsibly.” Talk about irony.
Vazquez is hiding a couple very important things here. First, Pool is a supporter of right-wing militias, making him yet anotherextremist whom the MRC is trying to mainstream in order to maintain its victimhood narrative of conservatives being "censored" by "big tech." Second, there's a reason NewsGuard called out Timcast: it has a history of plagiarism, as the Daily Beast documented, uniroinically stealing from the mainstream media Pool purports to hate. Indeed, two of the people who help Pool run the editorial side of Timcast are Hannah Claire Brimelow, daughter of white nationalist Peter Brimelow, operation of the white nationalist site VDARE, and Cassandra Fairbanks, whom the MRC defended after she was flagged for tweeting out a video she falsely claimed was evidence of election fraud. Pool only intermittently corrects information that appears on Timcast, usually only after the complaints get too loud to ignore.
Rather than address the plagiarism issue forthrightly, Vazquez let Pool play it off and helped him play whataboutism:
Pool is right on point. NewsGuard continues to rate the liberal newspaper USA Today with a perfect 100/100 score even after a major journalistic scandal involving at least 23 stories that included fabricated sources. Pool pointed out NewsGuard’s blatant double standard when it came to the legacy liberal newspaper:
NewsGuard says we are not responsible because out of 3,892 articles around 5 either were too similar to other outlets reporting or did not provide fact checks on quotes. They refuse to say USA Today, which admitted to fabricating 23 stories, is irresponsible.
NewsGuard’s label for USA Today hilariously praises the newspaper because it supposedly “[g]athers and presents information responsibly, “[d]oes not repeatedly publish false content” and “[r]egularly corrects or clarifies errors.” What a joke.
Perhaps that's because USA Today handled that issue like a professional news organization -- fired the reporter involved, deleted the stories and apologized to readers. Meanwhile, Pool is misrepresenting the number of plagiarized articles found at Timcast (which, of course, Vazquez made no effort to fact-check). The Daily Beast found four articles in a group of 84 to have been plagiarized as well as two later ones -- a far higher ratio than the 5-of-3,892 Pool claimed. They weren't deleted until the Daily Beast emailed Pool for comment. The reporter who wrote those did say he was fired for plagiarism only after, ironically, NewsGuard contacted Pool about them. Vazquez never mentioned that pertinent fact.
Vazquez went on to rehash the MRC's old examples of NewsGuard's purported "extreme leftist bias"; of course, Vazquez thinks anyone who's not as far-right as he is is an "extreme leftist."
Gabriela Pariseau gave Pool another opportunity to rant about NewsGuard in an Aug. 17 post, and let him repeat his false statements:
Fox News “Unfiltered” host Dan Bongino asked podcast host Tim Pool about his website’s recent clash with NewsGuard. “I think it’s a joke,” Pool said. “They gave us a good rating, but it is not a legitimate agency.”
NewsGuard is a browser extension that rates news supposedly on the basis of “credibility and transparency,” but Pool said he caught the website breaking its own criteria and basic journalistic ethics.
“They gave us one strike for irresponsibility,” Pool told Bongino. “They first emailed me questioning why I reported on the Hunter Biden laptop emails and my response was, ’Your agency certified two outlets that claimed the emails are verified. And they immediately said ‘oh, oh, whoops, whoopsy.’”
NewsGuard complained of multiple issues in several different Timcast.com articles when it rated the site. Pool said in one case, NewsGuard penalized Timcast for accurately reporting something that former President Donald Trump said. “They came and claimed that because we quoted Donald Trump in a factual news article on our website, Timcast.com, that it was irresponsible because Donald Trump is a liar and they said his quotes are provably false.”
Pool told Bongino that he responded by saying, “We are not fact-checking what he said. We’re reporting he responded with a statement.” Pool also said he told NewsGuard he and his colleagues would “implement a new policy moving forward on all quotes to fact-check them all so we’re not being irresponsible.”
Pool noted his website has a “very good rating from NewsGuard” despite Timcast’s slightly tarnished score. He also tweeted that NewsGuard lowered Timcast’s score based on five articles which is concerning because wildly biased and openly inaccurate news siteslike BuzzFeedNews, USA Today, and The Nationhave perfect or near-perfect scores.
“NewsGuard says we are not responsible because out of 3,892 articles around 5 either were too similar to other outlets reporting or did not provide fact checks on quotes,” Pool tweeted. “They refuse to say USA Today, which admitted to fabricating 23 stories, is irresponsible.”
Like Vazquez, Pariseau did not fact-check any of Pool's claims.
In between those posts, Vazquez and Catherine Salgado teamed for an Aug. 12 post complaining that a NewsGuard adviser expressed an opinion they didn't like:
A former CIA director and NewsGuard advisor yesterday seemingly promoted the execution of former President Donald Trump on Twitter.
A Washington Post “exclusive” released Aug. 11 speculated that the FBI raided Trump’s Mar-a-Lago, Fla., estate to locate alleged missing nuclear documents. NBC News presidential historian Michael Beschloss tweeted shortly after the “exclusive” was released that the “Rosenbergs were convicted for giving U.S. nuclear secrets to Moscow, and were executed June 1953.”
Retired Gen. Michael Hayden quote-tweeted Beschloss’s post with the comment, “Sounds about right.”
Washington Examiner Justice Department reporter Jerry Dunleavy blasted Hayden and Beschloss for their apparent flirtation with killing a former president.
Vazquez didn't dispute that execution is an appropriate penalty for stealing classified documents, as the Rosenbergs were accused of doing and it appears that Trump has done, or why Trump should be let off with a less severe penalty simply because he's a "former president."