Regurgitate Hamas Agitprop on Hospital Bombing? NewsGuard Still Gives Leftist Outlets Perfect Scores

October 20th, 2023 4:08 PM

Radical internet traffic cop NewsGuard has shown once again why its bona fides as a supposedly unbiased journalism referee are hot garbage in light of how it treats leftist outlets that peddled Hamas agitprop to attack Israel. 

The New York Times, TIME magazine, Politico and Reuters are just four of a number of leftist news outlets that haphazardly gobbled up the Hamas-controlled Gaza health ministry’s claim that an “Israeli” airstrike blew up a Gaza-based hospital, allegedly killing 500 people on Oct. 17. A U.S. intelligence assessment later concluded that Israel was not responsible for the bombing. Both the U.S. House and Senate intelligence committees also absolved Israel. Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Mark Warner (D-VA) instead placed the blame squarely at the feet of a “failed rocket launch by militant terrorists.” Later reports also put the estimated death toll at a much lower count than what Hamas initially claimed. 

But liberal media outlets across the internet just took the Hamas talking points and ran with them, which helped fuel mass anti-Israel protests and regional governments’ fury across the Middle East. MRC Free Speech America dug out the archived versions for each of the four outlets that originally smeared Israel in their reporting before later stealth-editing their stories and headlines. Then MRC researchers checked NewsGuard’s scores for the four respective outlets. In the three days that have passed since the incident, NewsGuard maintained the perfect 100/100 scores for all four outlets. 

X owner Elon Musk recently stated that NewsGuard should be “disbanded immediately” for the way it ridiculously props up legacy and liberal media outlets who failed on the Gaza hospital story. It seems he was right.

To add insult to injury, each of the four outlets MRC examined scored a green checkmark on NewsGuard’s criteria that a news organization “Gathers and presents information responsibly.”  Apparently, in NewsGuard’s view — despite The Times, Politico, TIME and Reuters committing grave offenses to journalistic standards —each of the four outlets are still flawless paragons of American journalism. The irony is that NewsGuard just released a report railing against “superspreaders” of “misinformation” pertaining to the Israel-Hamas conflict on the X platform. Earth to NewsGuard!

The Times was arguably the worst offender. Not only did the outlet run a glaringly false headline — “Israeli Airstrike Hits Gaza Hospital, Killing 500, Palestinian Health Ministry Says” — the outlet used a photo of the wreckage of a completely different structure. As The Dispatch’s Jeryl Bier pointed out in a piece excoriating the newspaper, “the accompanying photo was not even of the hospital, but rather of a building in a city some 15 miles to the south.” Bier also concluded that The Times’s framing, bolstered by its misleading imagery, would “likely” lead Times readers to believe that the depicted carnage was of the “hospital in question.” The original, false story was plastered on the front page of the newspaper’s website with the misleading photo prominently displayed.

Then, in a brazen display of arrogance, The Times released another piece later pontificating about how changing headlines surrounding the coverage of the incident “highlighted the difficulties of reporting on a fast-moving war in which few journalists remain on the ground while claims fly freely on social media.” That is no excuse for running roughshod over journalistic ethics to run a false story based on the word of a U.S.-designated terrorist organization. 

Watch MRC Free Speech America's mini-documentary on NewsGuard below:

Here was the initial headline Reuters ran at 5:47 p.m. Oct. 18: “More than 300 killed in Israeli air strike on Gaza Hospital -civil defense official.” Reuters even tried to double-down and blame Israel in edits it would later make to the piece. In its 8:40 p.m. updated piece on Oct. 18, the Reuters headline was changed to: “At least 300 dead in Gaza hospital bombing, local authorities say.” However, the first paragraph still attributed the incident to an Israeli airstrike: “An Israeli air strike killed at least 300 people at a Gaza City hospital on Tuesday, authorities in the Palestinian enclave said, and the United Nations said an Israeli strike also hit one of its schools being used as a shelter.” The rag would later update its story again on Oct. 18 to suggest that the facts around the incident remained unclear, but the misleading headline's damage was already done. Reuters, in its current story, still attempted to sneak in some finger-pointing at Israel:

The Palestinian Authority's health minister, Mai Alkaila, accused Israel of ‘a massacre’ at Al-Ahli al-Arabi Hospital. The strike killed hundreds of people and occurred during Israel's intense 11-day bombing campaign in Gaza.

Politico was just as bad. Its original Oct. 17 headline wasted no time blaming Israel for the attack: “Hundreds killed in Israeli airstrike on Gaza City hospital, Health Ministry says.” The outlet propagandized that “If confirmed, the attack would be by far the deadliest Israeli airstrike in five wars fought since 2008.” 

TIME magazine was no better with its Oct. 17 headline: “Hundreds Killed in Israeli Airstrike on Gaza City Hospital, Health Ministry Says.” 

Even leftist Washington Post columnist Max Boot couldn’t defend what the liberal media and others had done in piling on to attack Israel. “The definitive verdict has yet to be rendered, but it seems fair to say that Israel has a strong case: It has presented evidence backed by outside analysts, and Hamas has not. And yet much of the world did not wait for a fuller picture to emerge before rushing to condemn the Jewish state,” Boot wrote in an Oct. 18 column

But NewsGuard’s preferential treatment of leftist media outlets is par for the course. Just last year, the MRC uncovered how outlets that falsely referred to the Hunter Biden laptop bombshell as disinformation saw their NewsGuard scores unaffected. Also, when it was reported that a number of stories by liberal outlet USA Today included fabricated sources by one of its reporters, its perfect NewsGaurd score wasn’t touched at all. 

The MRC has shown repeatedly how skewed to favor the left NewsGuard’s ratings system has been. Using a media bias chart provided by AllSides in December 2021, the MRC exposed NewsGuard for giving a high average score of 93/100 to “left” and “lean left” outlets while slapping “right” and “lean right” outlets with a low average score of 66/100. The MRC then waited a year and conducted the same exact study to see if the needle would move. No surprise: It barely budged. MRC’s second study released in January 2023 found that NewsGuard’s average score for “left” and “lean left” outlets was a 91/100. Meanwhile, NewsGuard gave “right” and “lean right” outlets a lowly 66/100. 

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