NYT Goes After ‘Fake News’-Inspired Pizzeria Harassment Only When Dems Are Target

November 22nd, 2016 5:49 PM

As part of its rearguard attack against the “fake news” it thinks cost Hillary Clinton the election, New York Times reporter Cecilia Kang made the front of Tuesday’s Business Day with “Fact Check: This Pizzeria Is Not a Child-Trafficking Site.”

Kang’s supportive article profiled James Alefantis, owner of Comet Ping Pong pizzeria in D.C. and a mover and shaker in Democratic circles, whose restaurant was victimized by a sinister political hoax on social media. But the paper’s sympathy and interest in such victims of fake news are rather selective, as shown by the paper ignoring the mistreatment of Memories Pizza in Indiana, the center of a phony gay-marriage story last year. No “This Pizzeria Does Not Hate Gays” headline appeared.

Days before the presidential election, James Alefantis, owner of a local pizza restaurant called Comet Ping Pong, noticed an unusual spike in the number of his Instagram followers.

Within hours, menacing messages like “we’re on to you” began appearing in his Instagram feed. In the ensuing days, hundreds of death threats -- one read “I will kill you personally” -- started arriving via texts, Facebook and Twitter. All of them alleged something that made Mr. Alefantis’s jaw drop: that Comet Ping Pong was the home base of a child abuse ring led by Hillary Clinton and her campaign chief, John D. Podesta.


None of it was true. While Mr. Alefantis has some prominent Democratic friends in Washington and was a supporter of Mrs. Clinton, he has never met her, does not sell or abuse children, and is not being investigated by law enforcement for any of these claims. He and his 40 employees had unwittingly become real people caught in the middle of a storm of fake news.

Kang positioned President Obama as a truthteller against Trumpism.

Fake news online has been at the center of a furious debate for the past few weeks over how it may have influenced voters in the presidential election. President Obama warned last week that we are “in an age where there’s so much active misinformation and it’s packaged very well” on social media sites. The criticism has buffeted web companies such as Google and Facebook, whose chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, has promised to work on technology tools to slow the gusher of false digital information.


For more than two weeks, they have struggled to deal with the abusive social media comments and to protect photos of their own children, which were used in the false articles as evidence that the pizza restaurant was running a pedophilia ring. One person even visited Comet Ping Pong to investigate the allegations for himself.


The misinformation campaign began when John Podesta’s email account was hacked and his emails were published by WikiLeaks during the presidential campaign. Days before the election, users on the online message board 4Chan noticed that one of Mr. Podesta’s leaked emails contained communications with Mr. Alefantis discussing a fund-raiser for Mrs. Clinton.

The 4Chan users immediately speculated about the links between Comet Ping Pong and the Democratic Party. Some posited the restaurant was part of a larger Democratic child trafficking ring, which was a theory long held by some conservative blogs....


The frustration has been compounded by the lack of recourse for Mr. Alefantis, his friends and employees. Yelp blocked the comments sections of Comet Ping Pong’s review page after reports of abusive comments and fake news in reviews. YouTube said it prohibits threats, harassment and hate speech and has tools for flagging violations and filing complaints for the site to take further action, but has largely not blocked comments on these videos. Twitter declined to comment, and Facebook did not have any further comment.

All such harassment based on sinister fake stories should be condemned. But the paper’s sympathy and interest in such victims of fake news are rather selective. A shame the Times never printed a headline back in April 2015 that said: “This Pizzeria Does Not Hate Gays” when an innocent pizza place outside of South Bend was getting the full social media condemnation from the left, threats, phony reviews and all, all based on a phony premise.

An aggressive local reporter went on a gay-marriage hunt and thought she’d bagged her quarry when she posed a hypothetical question to the owners of the Indiana pizzeria “Memories Pizza.” MRC’s Brent Bozell and Tim Graham wrote about the left’s vile response and the media’s lack of coverage of it:

Take Memories Pizza in Walkerton, Indiana, a town a few miles southwest of South Bend. Alyssa Marino, a pushy TV reporter from "ABC 57," showed up to ask how they would treat a couple seeking catering for a same-sex wedding.

Crystal O'Connor replied, "If a gay couple came in and wanted us to provide pizzas for their wedding, we would have to say no. We are a Christian establishment."

Mistake. Business owners are out of line living their Christian faith. The angry Left went berserk.  Tweets came like this one: "Who is going to Walkerton, IN to burn down Memories Pizza with me?"


Owner Kevin O'Connor shut his pizza parlor down until further notice after his family began receiving threatening phone calls and social media postings. Leftists flooded the store's Yelp.com page with negative reviews trying to destroy his business. Homoerotic photos were posted to embarrass them.

Erick Erickson writing at The Daily Signal revealed the full phoniness of the attacks on Memories Pizza.

A reporter in need of a story stuck a camera in the faces of Crystal O’Connor and her father, Kevin, owners of a small-town pizza shop. She asked them a hypothetical question—what would they do if a same-sex couple asked them to cater a wedding ceremony? The O’Connors said they would never deny anyone service on the basis of sexual orientation, but they would decline to sell piz­zas for a same-sex wedding ceremony because of their religious beliefs. Key word: would. No one had asked them to cater a wed­ding. No customer had walked away displeased and claiming, as in other cases, that he or she had been emotionally raped by the ordeal. Nothing. Memories Pizza doesn’t even cater weddings. I. Kid. You. Not.

Yet the URL to the original story at the time of this writing still lists the headline as: “rfra-first-business-to-publicly-deny-same-sex-service.” Truth be damned. The national media ran with the story, and the backlash from progressive bullies began.

Yet in contrast with the sympathy to Democrat activist pizzeria owner in D.C., the only bare mentions of the Memories Pizza incident by the Times were in two unsympathetic pieces by contributing legal writer and gay marriage advocate Emily Bazelon, which contained nothing about the threats and harassment from the “tolerant” left.