MRC Exposes NewsGuard for Leftist Bias Third Year in a Row

December 12th, 2023 3:00 PM

Internet traffic cop NewsGuard has gotten worse. A new MRC Free Speech America analysis shows the notorious leftist media ratings organization is more biased against the right than ever before.

MRC Free Speech America investigated NewsGuard for a third year in a row, finding that its 0/100 ratings scale has once again overwhelmingly favored left-leaning outlets over right-leaning ones. “NewsGuard is just another leftist group trying to censor conservatives,” said MRC President Brent Bozell. “We have the proof.”

Using the media list provided by AllSides that classifies publications based on 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). At the same time, it dinged “right” and “lean right” outlets like Fox News, the New York Post and The Daily Wire with an outrageously abysmal average score of 65/100.The latest analysis denotes a 26 point disparity.

NewsGuard’s rating for right-leaning outlets in particular was worse than the still-low 66/100 average rating it slapped on right-leaning media across the prior two MRC studies released Jan. 6, 2023 and Dec. 13, 2021.

Despite this glaring bias, NewsGuard continues to try to hoodwink Americans into believing it adjudicates media outlet credibility using an “apolitical” process. NewsGuard’s treatment of legacy media outlets that egregiously maligned the Hunter Biden laptop bombshell by the New York Post during the 2020 election as “disinformation” is case-in-point. NewsGuard’s treatment of outlets who deceived readers into believing that the bombshell was fake news is damning given the significant impact Big Tech and Big Media’s censorship of the story had on the electoral outcome. 

A 2020 MRC study showed that 45 percent of President Joe Biden’s voters weren’t fully aware of the Post story because the media and Big Tech suppressed it. “Full awareness would have led 9.4 percent of Biden voters to abandon the Democratic candidate, flipping all six of the swing states he won to Trump,” effectively giving the former president 311 electoral votes.

The Washington Post, USA Today and Politico are just three of the news outlets guilty of malfeasance for trying to make the Hunter Biden story disappear.

Despite The New York Times later confirming post-election that the emails discovered on Hunter’s laptop were authentic, NewsGuard left The Post, USA Today’s and Politico’s flawless 100/100 scores untouched.  Apparently, such election interference by The Post, Politico and USA Today wasn’t enough to taint their perfect scores in the slightest. 

Perhaps that’s because NewsGuard leadership was engaged in similar election interference on the same subject.

NewsGuard co-CEO Steven Brill joined CNBC just before the 2020 election to castigate the Hunter Biden laptop story as a probable Russian “hoax.” The video clip of his appearance continues to plague the organization to this day:

The string of left-wing media scandals that NewsGuard permitted to skirt by its hall monitors continues to haunt the firm. NewsGuard still gives leftist outlet BuzzFeed a perfect 100/100 score despite the expired site continuing to host the widely discredited Steele dossier that served as the nexus of the Trump-Russia collusion hoax. In fact, NewsGuard’s summary of the dead site’s “credibility” amounted to a hero’s eulogy. “The website for Pulitzer Prize-winning BuzzFeed News, publishing in-depth reports on politics and misinformation,” NewsGuard fawned. “BuzzFeed announced in April 2023 that it is shuttering the unprofitable site.” (NOTE: Since AllSides did not include BuzzFeed in its media bias chart, the defunct outlet was not included in MRC’s calculations.)

But for media outlets on the “right” that draw NewsGuard’s ire, the firm appears to have no problem downgrading their credibility, and by extension attacking their advertising cash flows.

NewsGuard wields its ratings as a cudgel, attempting to scare away advertisers from doing business with media and organizations that have been accused of promoting so-called “misinformation” or wrongthink on a whole host of issues like abortion, climate change, COVID-19 and elections. In so doing, NewsGuard effectively strips media outlets with which it disagrees of their ad money, slowly bleeding out their coffers. 

The fact that  the leftist media ratings firm received government funding from none other than Biden’s Department of Defense makes its explicit bias against right-leaning media and organizations even more disturbing. In 2021, the DOD awarded NewsGuard a nearly $750,000 contract for the purpose of investigating “misinformation fingerprints.” This is the same Biden administration that tried to erect a radical Disinformation Governance Board tied to leftist billionaire George Soros to collaborate with Big Tech companies to target Americans’ speech on social media platforms.

But that’s not all. 

Recent reporting also revealed that NewsGuard received significant funding from Big Pharma special interests. The financing came in the form of a funders consortium that included the consulting outfit Publicis Groupe. The Publicis Groupe happens to represent Pfizer, the pharmaceutical giant that has been at the center of the debate on the efficacy of vaccines against COVID-19. NewsGuard has a documented history of guarding the Big Pharma and government narrative on COVID-19 writ large, which in retrospect appears to be a major conflict of interest. 

For example, of the right-leaning outlets on AllSides’s list, NewsGuard once again gave The Federalist the worst score with a failing 12.5/100. That’s the same score it held at the time of MRC Free Speech America’s first and second studies. After roughly two years, NewsGuard is still criticizing The Federalist’s questioning of the efficacy of masks for COVID-19, even though liberal CNBC (not on the AllSides chart, but has a “95” NewsGuard rating) cited a study showing that cloth masks were only 37 percent effective at filtering out virus particles.

NewsGuard’s cozy relationship with President Joe Biden’s administration has set off a legislative fight over the First Amendment implications of having the federal government back an overtly activist outfit that polices the internet and appears to target right-leaning media. 

Rep. Richard McCormick (R-GA) proposed an amendment to the 2024 National Defense Authorization Act that would prohibit government funding from being funneled into entities like NewsGuard and the similarly dystopian, Soros-tied Global Disinformation Index. GDI was also revealed to be funded by the Biden administration. In exclusive comments, McCormick cited MRC’s work, stating that his “amendment in the NDAA is something we can do right now, this year, to address the censorship of conservatives. MRC’s own research shows these organizations are heavily biased against conservatives and are the leading edge of the censorship industrial complex.”  

NewsGuard Scores Anti-Israel Media as More Credible than Right-Leaning Media

It isn’t enough that leftist media routinely get the rubber stamp of approval from NewsGuard. It seems the firm will even let them get away with parroting terrorist propaganda to attack the state of Israel.

A recent MRC analysis found that NewsGuard maintained the flawless 100/100 scores of at least four leftist outlets — The New York Times, TIME, Politico and Reuters — that irresponsibly regurgitated the false claim from the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry that an Israeli airstrike blew up the al-Ahli hospital. 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 from the attack. Even the Canadian government cleared Israel of any wrongdoing in the incident. 

But the damage had already been done. Following the shoddy reporting, a firestorm of anti-Israel furor sparked across the Middle East, and regional governments condemned the Jewish state. But according to NewsGuard, The Times, TIME, Politico and Reuters are all flawless when it comes to “gather[ing] and present[ing] information responsibly.”

“Many media outlets have shown their true, radical colors, taking the side of butchers, murderers and rapists against the only democracy in the Middle East. Disgracefully, NewsGuard is running cover for these antisemitic outlets,” said Dan Schneider, MRC vice president for Free Speech. He continued, “I get it; NewsGuard is out to choke off ad revenues to conservatives.While that is bad enough, doing this wet work on behalf of outlets that want to end the state of Israel is unforgivable.” 

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. The Dispatch’s Jeryl Bier excoriated the newspaper for the blatant deception: “[T]he 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.

Not only does NewsGuard’s Nutrition Label for The Times not mention its deception on the Israeli airstrike falsehood, the label hasn’t even been updated since May of 2022. 

There is one possible explanation that could explain NewsGuard’s affinity for The Times. NewsGuard wrote in a disclosure buried at the bottom of the label that its deputy managing editor, Joyce Purnick, who is still listed as an employee of NewsGuard, not only worked for The Times but was married to the paper’s former executive editor Max Frankel:

Joyce Purnick, a former reporter, editor, editorial board member and New York City columnist at The New York Times was a deputy managing editor for NewsGuard but was not involved in this nutrition label. Her husband, Max Frankel, was The Times’ executive editor, editorial page editor, and a Pulitzer Prize-winning foreign correspondent, [emphasis added].  

Politico, for its part, never removed its Oct. 17 X post falsely blaming Israel for the al-Ahli hospital bombing. NewsGuard also just happened to release an Oct. 19 report railing against blue checkmark “superspreaders” of “misinformation” pertaining to the Israel-Hamas conflict on the X platform (formerly Twitter), but Politico's post was conveniently outside the parameters of NewsGuard's analsysis. 

But for outlets like Fox News, the New York Post and The Daily Mail, which AllSides lists on the opposite side of the political spectrum and whose reporting on the hospital incident was much more accurate, NewsGuard gave each of the three less credible ratings than those that haphazardly ran with the Hamas talking points. Each of the three right-leaning outlets received low “Credible with Exceptions” scores of 69.5/100, 69.5/100 and 64.5/100 respectively. 

Free Speech Alliance Members Condemn NewsGuard

MRC Free Speech America tallied at least 20 of the 130-member MRC-led Free Speech Alliance (FSA) that have had their websites or affiliated publications targeted by NewsGuard’s online traffic cops. Some are speaking out in condemnation of the Orwellian firm.

One of the strongest rebukes came from FSA member The Babylon Bee. The Babylon Bee Co-Owner and CTO Dan Dillion, who is also the CEO and Co-Founder of the publication’s sister news site Not the Bee. “We're aware that NewsGuard has given our site a laughably low trust score,” Dillon told MRC. “It's not good for our business, but we take this rating as a badge of honor and an indication that we don't align with the mainstream narrative that they support, nor comply with the censorship complex they actively reinforce.” 

Not the Bee got dinged with a 62.5/100 by NewsGuard in part because it supposedly “does not disclose that the site advances a conservative perspective that is apparent in its content.” This is grossly hypocritical in light of NewsGuard’s perfect scores for blatantly liberal outlets like the explicitly left-wing New York Times, which falsely purports that its over 100-year old pledge to “give the news impartially, without fear or favor, regardless of party, sect, or interests involved” still holds “true today.” This is the same publication that had the audacity to call a violent pro-Hamas protest that erupted in Brooklyn, New York just days after the terrorist organization’s Oct. 7 genocidal attack against Israel “mostly peaceful.” 

However, as the New York Post pointed out in an Oct. 21 piece headlined, “Thousands of NYC protesters demanding eradication of Israel clash with NYPD,” the so-called “Flood Brooklyn for Palestine” demonstration “descended into chaos as night fell, with protesters completely shutting down traffic, screaming at police and lighting small fires in the middle of the roadways.” 

In another example of overt leftist bias from The Times, the paper tried to spin the political mayhem surrounding Biden’s bribery scandal to make the president seem like a martyr and a helpless victim of paternal instincts to shield him from the fallout: “Biden Puts Son First, In Spite of Political Price.” The editorial board at The Times even openly endorsed Biden for president during the 2020 election, which could explain its knee-jerk attempts to do damage control for him where possible, especially when it came to the issue of Biden’s culpability for America’s inflation crisis. What’s even more insulting is that NewsGuard admits that the newspaper also “does not disclose any ideological agenda on the site,” despite conceding its history of consistently endorsing Democrats for president since 1956. But NewsGuard apparently has no issues showcasing its double standard by targeting Not the Bee more harshly than The Times. Dillion wasn’t having any of it:

Our business, like many other conservative news and culture sites, is significantly affected by NewsGuard and similar left-leaning ‘trust and safety’ hall monitors like Snopes, because large corporations depend on third party ratings when deciding what content to recommend to their users. We've seen significant drops in our reach on Facebook and Google that coincide with drops in our ratings on these ‘independent’ sites, which all seem to come to the same conclusion that certain political views are simply not acceptable for amplification. While we are proud of the fact that these sites recognize our commitment to objective truth over narrative, we share frustration with other conservative outlets in the way that sticking to our ideals ultimately limits our ability to reach new audiences.

Dillon wasn’t the only one to speak out. The Heartland Institute got hit by NewsGuard with an “unreliable” 30/100 in large part for rejecting the so-called “scientific consensus on climate change,” a leftist talking point. Heartland president James Taylor called out NewsGuard for being nothing more than a gatekeeper for left-wing arguments while simultaneously masquerading as an objective journalism referee. “The NewsGuard scoring system has nothing to do with truth and accuracy but merely conveys the extent to which an entity produces material consistent with leftist propaganda narratives,” Taylor exclaimed. “That being the case, I am surprised Heartland scored as high as a 30.”

The Heritage Foundation, one of the most prominent think tanks in the U.S. also received NewsGuard’s ire, getting hit with a 69.5/100 score. “The political hacks from NewsGuard claim they’ll help you decide what news outlets you can trust. In reality, you shouldn’t trust anything from this overtly biased organization,” said The Heritage Foundation Communications Director Rob Bluey. “Thanks to MRC, we now have proof that left-leaning outlets fare better than their conservative counterparts.”

One of NewsGuard’s nonsensical quibbles was The Heritage Foundation’s repudiation of the $80 billion earmarked in Biden’s extremist $749 billion Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) towards hiring 87,000 new Internal Revenue Service “agents.” NewsGuard split hairs by arguing that the onerous Biden bill simply allows the IRS to hire “86,852 full-time employees — not all audit agents, as the article suggested.” The headline of The Heritage Foundation’s article was “Fact-Checking Team Biden on Who Those 87,000 New IRS Agents Would Audit,” but NewsGuard didn’t disclose that The Heritage Foundation did note in its piece how “Calculations conservatively assume that only 57.3% of the Treasury Department’s estimated 86,852 new IRS agents (49,754 in total) would be assigned to enforcement.” In other words, The Heritage Foundation did specifically note that not all of the new “agents” would serve in auditing functions.  

NewsGuard simply trusted the government propaganda of the Treasury Department officials to claim that “most new net hires will fill customer service and technology roles, not auditing functions.”

NewsGuard also has an apparent penchant for attacking the pro-life movement. NewsGuard targeted pro-life, FSA member news outlets Life News and Live Action with abysmal 17.5/100 scores. By contrast, the abortion giant Planned Parenthood, which is notorious for repeatedly portraying itself as a medical care enterprise that just happens to also perform abortions, managed to maintain a higher, “generally credible” score of 75/100. Life News told MRC in a statement that NewsGuard’s “only mission is to purposefully target pro-life and conservative news outlets with false claims and biased, misleading fact-checks that are little more than a propaganda campaign for the radical left.” In the publication’s view, “NewsGuard is designed to smear and defame the good name of news outlets that provide reliable news and information to readers from a conservative and pro-life perspective and it knows some unsuspecting people will be fooled into thinking it provides objective analysis. But it should be exposed as a fraud.” 

Despite receiving a “generally” credible rating from NewsGuard of 74.5/100, The Washington Stand — a Christian publication owned by the Family Research Council — also critiqued the outfit for its “ideological bent.” Washington Stand Editor-in-Chief Jared Bridges told MRC that he could “see the temptation a news organization might have to moderate and even liberalize their content to raise their score and thereby be more accepted by NewsGuard's audience.” He continued: “And that's the real question: do we want to be acceptable or truthful?  There are plenty of ‘acceptable’ news organizations in America today, but we're more interested in high truth than we are a high score.” 

Reasons Congress Must Ensure NewsGuard Does Not Receive Taxpayer Funds

The MRC in conjunction with 36 pro-free speech allies have publicly called on Congress to block any funding by the government to Orwellian entities like NewsGuard in the 2024 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

“Our federal government never should have spent time and taxpayer money on censoring conservatives,” members of the Free Speech Alliance wrote in the open letter to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA). “That which government is constitutionally prohibited from doing, it cannot contract with others to do.” In addition to the extreme bias the firm displays against media that don’t comport with government and leftist narratives, this is just one of a myriad of reasons MRC pointed out as to why Congress should end NewsGuard’s funding.

  1. NewsGuard’s government funding is unconstitutional. It is fundamental to living in a free and fair society that agencies of the federal government may not endorse the products and services of private companies they favor. Nor may they weaponize national power against companies that officials have decided they dislike, absent duly enacted statutes and regulations and appropriate due process. 
  2. Financing from Big Pharma created a glaring conflict of interest. NewsGuard’s financing from Big Pharma special interests casts its notorious gatekeeping on issues related to COVID-19 and the vaccines into major doubt. The Washington Times reported Nov. 18 that NewsGuard received a $6 million investment from a consortium that included the Publicis Groupe, “which represents some of the world’s leading pharmaceutical and health care companies, including COVID-19 vaccine maker Pfizer.” Shockingly, according to The Times, NewsGuard “denied any conflict of interest” and claimed that the “group’s investors have never contacted them and have no influence over the company’s rating system.” The way NewsGuard has treated right-leaning outlets that have questioned the government narrative on COVID-19, the subsequent lockdowns and the efficacy and safety of masks and vaccines is blatantly outrageous when viewed through the lens of its Big Pharma financing.
  3. NewsGuard has openly celebrated its dystopian collusion with the federal government. NewsGuard isn’t shy about its funding ties to the federal government. Apparently, it openly boasted of its government collaboration when it tried to convince Twitter to integrate its ratings system into the Big Tech platforms’ censorship operations in May 2021. Independent Journalist Lee Fang reported in RealClearWire that NewsGuard Co-CEO Gordon Crovitz’s pitch to Twitter included an “out-of-the-box tool that would use artificial intelligence powered by NewsGuard algorithms to rapidly screen content based on hashtags and search terms the company associated with dangerous content.” In exchange, the proposed “tool” would then redirect users to “official government sources only” on issues like COVID-19.  Other content-moderation partners Crovitz mentioned in his pitch, reported Fang, “include[d] ‘intelligence and national security officials,’ ‘reputation management providers,’ and ‘government agencies,’ which contract with the firm to identify misinformation trends.”
  4. NewsGuard rates communist Chinese government propaganda as more credible than American publications. The reality that NewsGuard considers Chinese state propaganda to be more credible than American publications is nothing short of nefarious. The MRC first exposed this phenomenon in February 2022, and it still persists to this day. The China Daily, the Global Times and China Global Television Network (CGTN) and The People’s Daily— all run by the communist Chinese government — got scores of 44.5/100, 39.5/100, 44.5/100 and 39.5/100 respectively from NewsGuard. The Global Times, in particular, is the same outlet that has gone so far as to threaten Australia with becoming “cannon fodder” on Twitter. The People’s Daily is also particularly notorious for being the “official newspaper of the Chinese Communist Party Central Committee, and is the most influential and authoritative newspaper in China to represent the voice of the Chinese central government,” according to Despite being responsible for spewing propaganda emanating from the Beijing authorities, NewsGuard gives all four outlets the green checkmark for “not repeatedly publish[ing] false or egregiously misleading content.” By contrast, American publications like The Federalist (12.5/100), One America News (25/100), Newsmax (15/100), Life News (17.5/100) and LifeSite News (17.5/100) are considered to be significantly less credible than Chinese state propaganda. (NOTE: Life News and LifeSite News are FSA members, but were not included in the AllSides analysis since they don’t appear in its Media Bias Chart.)

METHODOLOGY: MRC Free Speech America utilized the AllSides media bias chart as a gauge to determine how NewsGuard rates outlets considered “left” and “lean left” in comparison to outlets considered “right” and “lean right.” AllSides listed 30 total outlets as “left” or “lean left” and 23 outlets as “right” or “lean right.” AllSides included the opinion sections of news websites as separate entities. MRC Free Speech America excluded any outlet that was characterized as “opinion” from the AllSides tally to keep the focus on news organizations for the analysis. (NOTE: Only two FSA members — American Spectator and Christian Broadcasting Network — were included in the AllSides analysis since their names appeared in the “right” list.) AllSides noted it has a “patent on rating bias and use[s] multiple methodologies,” not a homogenous group or an algorithm. “Our methods are: Blind Bias Surveys of Americans, Editorial Reviews by a multipartisan team of panelists who look for common types of media bias, independent reviews, and third party data.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: Readers should be aware that this report only uses the AllSides list to analyze NewsGuard ratings of outlets considered by AllSides to be “left” and “lean left” or “right” and “lean right” and does not necessarily reflect MRC’s characterizations of these outlets.