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Newsmax Parrots The Right-Wing War on NewsGuard

Following in the Media Research Center's footsteps -- and occasionally taking dictation from the MRC itself -- Newsmax has joined the right-wingers outraged that NewsGuard has identified the shoddiness of right-wing media (like Newsmax).

By Terry Krepel
Posted 2/5/2024

The Media Research Center isn't the only ConWeb outlet lashing out at website-ratings service NewsGuard for demonstrating that right-wing websites are less reliable than non-right-wing ones. A paywalled January 2022 article, for instance, complained that a teacher organization purchased NewsGuard licenses for 1.7 million teachers, "sparking fears that students will be isolated from news outlets not deemed sufficiently liberal or even potentially penalized for using them as sources." (We're not paying Newsmax money to read the rest of it.) But it also published an April 2022 Associated Press article favorably quoting NewsGuard pointing out Chinese-generated misinformation about Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Soon enough, Newsmax got on the right-wing anti-NewsGuard bandwagon and started cranking out more attacks conforming to that narrative. Nicole Wells wrote about blacklists that deny ad revenue to misinformation-spreading media outlets in a Feb. 9 article, suggesting without evidence that only right-wing outlets are being targeted and quoting Trump-era State Department official Mike Benz complaining that "The implementation of ad revenue-crushing sentinels like Newsguard, Global Disinformation Index, and the like has completely crippled the potential of alternative news sources to compete on an even economic playing field with approved media outlets like CNN and The New York Times."

Sandy Fitzgerald uncritically peddled the narrative in a March 2 article:

Florida’s Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis is warning left-wing "media monitor" group NewsGuard that he is ready to leverage the power of his office to protect any Florida businesses the company targets.

In a letter dated Wednesday, Patronis says that the company's actions are in line with the "environmental, social, and governance" (ESG) standards that the Florida Legislature is targeting in its upcoming session, and that its efforts appear to be a larger push to create "social credit scores" that will result in "debanking" and "deplatforming" private companies.

Florida, he explains, took a stand against ESG standards "because as fiduciaries, we cannot undermine those in our pension plan from gaining the best returns possible in the name of political outcomes."

NewsGuard, which says it devises credibility ratings on news and information for advertisers, agencies and other businesses, declares on its website that it provides "online safety ... while promoting safety for readers, brands and democracy."

NewsGuard’s ratings have been used by major advertising agencies, including Publicis Groupe and Magnite. The agencies, in turn, are using the rating system to ban conservative media outlets from receiving advertising revenues.

Fitzgerald offered no evidence to support her claim that NewsGuard is "left-wing," but she did regurgitate the MRC's hatred:

In December 2021, an analysis of NewsGuard’s rating system by the Media Research Center said that the company gave an average high score of 93 (on a scale of 1-100) to "left" or "lean left" news outlets, based on classifications by the company AllSides, which rates organizations based on bias. At the same times, outlets that were deemed "right" or "lean right" received an average score of 66.

Last month, MRC released its 2022 review of NewsGuard and found a similar bias in its ratings. "Discredited leftist website ratings firm NewsGuard has had a year to prove that its ratings system isn’t prejudiced against conservative media, but it’s failing miserably," the recent MRC January report stated.

As ConWebWatch documented, the MRC offered no evidence that NewsGuard did anything wrong nor made any attempt to prove that right-wing outlets were more reliable than NewsGuard ruled they were -- it just ranted that right-wing websites' ratings were lower. Indeed, the MRC's entire anti-NewsGuard strategy seems to be to rant about it without ever bothering to prove them wrong.

Fitzgerald did eventually get around to the reason why it's suddenly interested in all this: "Newsguard negatively rates leading conservative outlets like Washington Times, Newsmax, Breitbart, Federalist, Epoch Times, Red State, Prager U, Daily Wire, and others." ConWebWatch caught Newsmax spreading misinformation and lies about COVID and election fraud, so it has very much earned that "negative" rating.

The same day, Newsmax CEO Christopher Ruddy sat down for a discussion at CPAC in the midst of his war with DirecTV over Newsmax TV getting (temporarily) dropped, and he also attacked NewsGuard:

Ruddy called out left-leaning rating groups like the Global Disinformation Index and NewsGuard for exerting influence over recent decisions to silence conservative voices. They present themselves as independent fact checkers and have even received federal funding.

"All the liberal sites like CNN and New York Times get great scores no matter what they do," he explained. "Think about what CNN did — all the problems, the scandals, the Cuomos, the Russian collusion — and they're among the highest-rated by NewsGuard."

Despite the clear biases, Ruddy said, big advertising agencies use data from those groups to "block conservatives from getting advertising revenue."

"What they're trying to do is demonetize conservative media, and it's a threat to our constitutional freedoms."

Like Fitzgerald, Ruddy provided no evidence to prove NewsGuard's ratings are wrong. Ruddy also seems to have not considered the idea that if Newsmax wants to get higher ratings from NewsGuard, it should stop spreading lies and misinformation. Seems simple, no?

The narrative-parroting continued in a March 10 article by Theodore Bunker:

NewsGuard, a left-wing media monitoring organization which claims to rate the credibility of news websites, was awarded nearly $750,000 from the Department of Defense in 2021 according to publicly available records.

The revelation comes in the latest "Twitter Files" post by Matt Taibbi.

In a series of posts detailing internal communications among Twitter executives, Taibbi suggests a collaboration of government and the company of what appears to be a coordinated effort to censor or slant information available to the public and individuals — particularly conservatives.


NewsGuard defended the contract, saying it was not "government funded."

As ConWebWatch pointed out when the MRC hyped this same talking point, receiving a government contract to perform a specific service does not equal being government funded. Nevertheless, Newsmax let a right-winger rant about it, as documented in a March 12 article by Eric Mack:

Former Amb. Ric Grenell called out NewsGuard's taking government contracts to potentially demonetize conservative speech and Biden administration dissent.

"Look, I see what's happening with NewsGuard: They're trying to be the referees, and instead of really calling out misinformation, which I think the State Department could do, they're calling out dissenting information," Grenell told Newsmax's "The Count." "They're trying to figure out who is against the narrative that the political types in Washington, D.C., want to push.

"This is how regimes control the narrative. This is how they control the media. And what's happening right now with NewsGuard is that they are absolutely a far-left organization taking taxpayer dollars and finding ways to manipulate the rating system and control Big Tech and all of the other tools of the media.

"And they're trying to push out conservative media. They're calling conservative media, you know, disinformation machines. We all know that that's not true. It's just dissenting information."

Grenell and Mack didn't mention that Newsmax is currently being sued by voting-tech company Dominion over disinformation it spread about the company.

Newsmax also gave right-winger Dennis Prager space to rant about NewsGuard after it dinged his PragerU for spreading misinformation (not that he'll admit that's what happened), as noted in a March 16 article by Jeremy Frankel:

PragerU, a nonprofit that creates videos promoting American values and distributes them on its website and on social media, has been targeted by leftist monitoring organizations such as NewsGuard for "disinformation." NewsGuard uses its ratings system to pressure advertisers to boycott companies with which it disagrees. Most recently, video-streaming service JW Player bent to pressure and stopped servicing PragerU.

NewsGuard gave PragerU a red light, which indicates misinformation, for saying that the word "vaccine" has been "retranslated or reinterpreted," and JW Player used NewsGuard as an excuse for ceasing to host PragerU, Prager said.

In response to host Rob Schmitt's claim that the left wants to silence its opponents because it can't handle opposing views, Prager said that the reason leftists protest when conservative speakers visit universities is that "we can undo in 90 minutes what they indoctrinate over four years; and, of course, they would never acknowledge that deep down, they know it."

"Truth is far more powerful than lies," Prager stated.

Frankel did not mention if Prager offered any evidence to disprove what NewsGuard said about the PragerU video. And Prager is certainly not going to admit that he's trying to indoctrinate people too.

A March 28 article by Luca Cacciatore let a Republican congressman spout the usual right-wing talking points against NewsGuard:

Rep. Neal Dunn, R-Fla., called out fact-checker NewsGuard on Monday for claiming to be independent yet targeting conservative networks and websites.

Dunn, a House Energy and Commerce Committee member, made the comments during a communications and technology subcommittee hearing focused on "preserving free speech and reining in Big Tech censorship."

"The company NewsGuard defines itself as a journalism and technology tool that rates the credibility of news information and tracks online misinformation," Dunn started.

"However, they are partnered with Big Tech, Big Pharma, the National Teachers Union, and even, government agencies," he continued. "In fact, $750,000 went from the Department of Defense to NewsGuard in a government contract."

Dunn repeated those talking points on Newsmax TV the next day, which Cacciatore dutifully transcribed:

Rep. Neal Dunn, R-Fla., told Newsmax that the Department of Defense's nearly $750,000 grant to fact-checker NewsGuard was "appalling."

Joining "Prime News" on Wednesday, the House Energy and Commerce Committee member also said the funding was clearly "a violation of the First Amendment."

"We actually have a government grant funding a fact-checker to censor American citizens," Dunn said. "That's pretty appalling, and it certainly is a violation of the First Amendment."

He said the government can neither censor free speech nor support companies like NewsGuard that do, calling it "axiomatic."

Dunn's comments arrive two days after he called out the fact-checker, which claims to be independent, for partnering with "Big Tech, Big Pharma, the National Teachers Union, and even government agencies."

"Why is the Biden Admin using YOUR taxpayer dollars to pay for liberal-leaning NewsGuard to 'fact-check' & change your news?" the congressman asked on Twitter after the hearing.

Again, a government contract is not a "grant." And Cacciatore refused to allow NewsGuard to respond in either article to Dunn's biased attacks. And none of these articles proved anything NewsGuard has documented about conservative websites to be wrong.

As the right-wing war on NewsGuard heated up in the fall, Newsmax was happy to take part, such as in an Oct. 20 article by Mark Swanson:

Elon Musk railed against the left-wing media fact-checker NewsGuard on Thursday, calling the ratings company a "scam" and saying it should be "disbanded immediately."

Musk's reaction came in the aftermath of a series of posts on his social media site X, formerly known as Twitter.

One came from Foundation for Freedom Online executive director Mike Benz, who claimed NewsGuard, led by adviser and Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales, worked with the European Union on a disinformation code that would prompt governments to bankrupt alternative news sites.

Benz highlighted NewsGuard's business model, which he said combines "disinformation compliance services with censorship laws it promotes."


Newsmax CEO Chris Ruddy months ago called out NewsGuard — and the Global Disinformation Index — for exerting their influence to silence conservative voices. Ruddy said they present themselves as independent fact-checkers.

Swanson didn't mention that Benz had been exposed a couple weeks earlier as a creator of videos promoting racist and anti-Semitic conspiracy theories while posting under the name Frame Game, just the the MRC similarly failed to do while hyping Benz's claim.

This turned into a circular promotion with Musk, which Newsmax was only too happy to tout in an Oct. 22 article by Sandy Fitzgerald:

Elon Musk Sunday responded to a Newsmax article concerning his objections to left-wing media fact-checker NewsGuard, agreeing that it is "not cool" for it to push a "political agenda" with its ratings. 

"Yeah, it’s not cool. Pushing a political agenda in the name of “guarding” the public," Musk posted on his social media site X, formerly Twitter, in a response to Newsmax's article, published Thursday after he called NewsGuard a "scam" and said it should be "disbanded immediately."

In neither article was any proof offered to back up the claim that NewsGuard is "left-wing."

An Oct. 23 article by Swanson touted another attack on NewsGuard:

The publishers of the foreign policy news website Consortium News filed a lawsuit against the left-wing media fact-checker NewsGuard Technologies, Inc. and the U.S. government on Monday in New York federal court, claiming First Amendment violations and defamation.

The publisher, Consortium for Independent Journalism, accused NewsGuard of defaming Consortium News and the government for colluding with the self-proclaimed media "watchdog" to violate the First Amendment.

The publisher also is accusing an alliance between NewsGuard and the government — specifically the Pentagon's Cyber Command — of coercing news organizations to "alter viewpoints" that differ or dissent from policies of the United States and its allies," via a program called the "misinformation fingerprints" project.

And just as the MRC did, Swanson failed to tell readers that Consortium News is a liberal-leaning site, since doing so undermines the right-wing narrative that NewsGuard is uniquely biased against right-wing website. And, again, Swanson offered no proof to back up his claim that NewsGuard is "left-wing."

The anti-NewsGuard hits continued:

Then, presumably in the hope of setting off another round of circular promotion, a Nov. 23 article by Luca Cacciatore and Michael Katz hyped another Musk attack on NewsGuard:

Elon Musk's social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter, issued a new warning Wednesday about the left-wing ratings company NewsGuard.

In a post on the site, X said it was the latest organization to be targeted by NewsGuard, which has systematically targeted conservative media.

"NewsGuard is about to publish a 'report' on misinformation on X. As a for-profit company, they will only share the data that underpins their purported research if you pay," X explained.

X then highlighted NewsGuard's strategy in going after the platform — the same strategy it has employed on dozens of other companies.

NewsGuard "uses these reports to pressure companies to buy their 'fact-checking' services. It's a profit over any principle model," X said.

"X has not seen any of the data in their report. Before publishing, we encourage all media outlets to request the data underpinning their claims."

After the X posting, Elon Musk himself weighed in on the matter, posting to his account, "In other words, 'NewsGuard' is a propaganda shop that will produce any lies you want if you pay them enough money."
Cacciatore and Katz failed to note that Twitter/X is also ostensibly a for-profit company that will only share the data that underpins its purported research in defense of the company. That was demonstrated with the "Twitter files," in which Musk released selective data and documents to hand-picked writers whose job it was to push Musk's preferred narrative about "censorship" at Twitter by pre-Musk management. Of course, they also failed to offer any evidence that NewsGuard is "left-wing."

Newsmax's parrot work continued with a Dec. 9 article by Eric Mack featuring another right-wing outlet complaining that their shoddy work was called out:

The Biden administration could not get around the First Amendment in silencing dissent, but it has effectively found a way through the State Department paying NewsGuard to defund conservative media, according to a trio of researchers from the American Institute for Economic Research (AIER).

The First Amendment is "is so clear that only a politician could manage to miss the point," AIER senior researchers Phillip Magness, James Harrigan, and Ryan Yonk wrote in the New York Post this week.


The Post and AIER have been targeted by NewsGuard — founded by Steven Brill, a Democrat activist and donor, in 2018. Newsmax has reported it has been, too.

NewsGuard's rankings have since been used by advertising agencies to target and block conservative media from obtaining advertising revenue.

The complaints from Mack and AIER are generalized as to subject but don't get too deep into specifics,  suggesting that it's simply playing a partisan game rather than engaging in any sort of good-faith criticism.

A Dec. 13 article -- which was later deleted from the Newsmax website without explanation, though it lives in the Internet Archive -- featuring one of NewsGuard's most dishonest critics, the Media Research Center (which posted its own version of the segment):

NewsGuard, the ensorship [sic] giant self-tasked with rating media outlets on reliability, has “for years been silencing conservatives, directing ad revenue to liberals instead,” said Dan Schneider, vice president of Media Research Center’s Free Speech America.

The biased company has been "choking off the life blood of conservative media outlets, all because of their zeal to defeat Donald Trump and any conservative that wants to stand for basic American principles," he told Newsmax.

“NewsGuard has one standard, that is defeat conservatives, promote liberals,” Schneider said Wednesday during an appearance on Newsmax TV’s “Chris Salcedo Show.”

Media Research Cente [sic] on Tuesday released a study that found that NewsGuard “overwhelmingly favored left-leaning outlets over right-leaning ones.”

Using AllSides, an organization that classifies media outlets by their “right” to “left” bias, “MRC researchers determined that NewsGuard provided a stellar average ‘credibility’ rating of 91/100 for ‘left’ and ‘lean left’ outlets (e.g., The New York Times, The Washington Post, TIME, Vox),” wrote MRC researchers. Meanwhile, “right” and “lean right” outlets, such as Fox News, the New York Post, and The Daily Wire, were given “an outrageously abysmal average score of 65/100.”

Schneider also criticized left-leaning news outlets for covering up the Hunter Biden probe “because he’s part of the Biden bribery scandal.”

“This is how Joe Biden and his family have been making money for a long time. And NewsGuard is covering for it. NewsGuard is not going to go back and re-rate all those media outlets that said the Hunter Biden laptop was a hoax. … Their bias is so extreme that the left is willing to give our taxpayer dollars, millions of our taxpayer dollars, to NewsGuard and other outlets just like it.”

Newsmax did not allow anyone from NewsGuard to respond to Schneider.

A Dec. 11 article by Mark Swanson hyped a Republican attack on NewsGuard:

House and Senate Armed Services committees last week concluded their negotiations on the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), and Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., and House Republicans have won a significant victory opposing woke censorship programs that impact Pentagon recruiting.

The Democrat-led Senate has agreed with Johnson’s demand the annual defense spending bill not allow Pentagon dollars to be spent with ad agencies that use "misinformation" media monitors.

Left-wing groups such as NewsGuard and the Global Disinformation Index (GDI) have been used by major advertising agencies to block military recruitment ads on many conservative media outlets.

The new NDAA provision expressly prohibits any advertising agency the Defense Department contracts with from using services that engage in "determinations of misinformation."

The new law would also require the Pentagon to inform the House and Senate Armed Services committees any time the recruitment division directly contracts with NewsGuard, GDI or a similar entity.

Swanson did let NewsGuard respond -- though it took him three days to update his story to include that response -- but he continued to attack the group anyway, engaging in nitpicking over Hunter Biden's laptop:

In an email to Newsmax, NewsGuard disputed that it “was not a ‘vocal advocate’” of claims that the Hunter Biden’s laptop “represented Russia misinformation.”

However, the New York Post reported that NewsGuard CEO [Steve] Brill was a leader in declaring the Hunter Biden laptop story a “hoax.”

Also, NewsGuard’s board adviser, General Michael Hayden, a former director of the CIA, was a principal advocate for asserting the laptop was Russian disinformation, and was one of 51 signatories to a now discredited letter made public in October 2020 making such a claim.

Despite the false claims about the laptop being a “hoax,” neither Brill nor NewsGuard has offered a retraction.
Swanson offered no evidence that either Brill or Hayden were speaking on behalf of NewsGuard when they made those statements, and he failed to disclose that the New York Post offered no independent verification of the laptop at the time it introduced the story on it that would have addressed reasonable concerns about its authenticity.

Newsmax parroted the MRC again in a Dec. 14 article by Michael Katz:

NewsGuard, the left-wing media ratings group, continues to target conservative news outlets, a new study by the Media Research Center (MRC) finds.

In its annual review of NewGuard's rankings, an MRC Free Speech America study found that for the third year in a row NewsGuard continues to significantly outrank liberal and far-left news outlets over conservative ones.

"NewsGuard is just another leftist group trying to censor conservatives," MRC President Brent Bozell said in a statement. "We have the proof."

Note that Katz put a "left-wing" label on NewsGuard but no ideological label on the MRC despite its  clear right-wing bias.

Katz did let NewsGuard respond -- then let the MRC respond to the response:

"The analysis in question is highly flawed, relying on a cherry-picked sample of just 66 ratings out of more than 9,500 NewsGuard has issued, less than 0.7%.," NewsGuard's Matt Skibinski told Newsmax.

"In fact, NewsGuard's apolitical process has resulted in many conservative publications outscoring similar left-leaning publications and vice versa — for example, The Daily Caller outscores The Daily Beast, The Daily Wire outscores the Daily Kos, and outscores"

MRC told Newsmax that these "outscores" have not always reflected the rankings for conservative media like The Daily Caller, The Daily Wire, and Fox News.

It also noted that outspoken conservative critics of NewsGuard, like Newsmax and The Federalist, have also been targeted for extremely low scores.

Neither Katz nor the MRC offered evidence that NewsGuard downgrades a media outlet solely for criticizing it. Swanson returned to tout another right-wing attack on NewsGuard in a Dec. 21 article:

Florida CFO Jimmy Patronis announced a consumer protection bill Thursday that would prevent state agencies from using taxpayer funds to contract with media censorship companies like NewsGuard.

Florida HB 939 mirrors similar federal legislation that moved to strike the Pentagon from contracting with advertising agencies that use NewsGuard to blacklist conservative publications.

"We've got state agencies throughout Florida trying to reach the public to provide critical services, and we need to make sure advertisers who partner with the state are doing their very best to reach the specific groups," Patronis said in the announcement.

"NewsGuard's technology, however, is working its way into the advertising world, and effectively blacklisting media outlets who don't measure up to their ratings."

The legislation comes on the heels of Patronis' letter to NewsGuard in March, warning then he would "not hesitate to use the full force of my office to shed light on the organization you're running."

Swanson is lying by calling NewsGuard a "media censorship company," and later in the article he falsely called NewsGuard "far-left."

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