New York Times reporter Jeremy Peters, always eager to attack conservative media, decided to pick on a couple of right-wing sites with strange charges of inaccuracy and tired jabs about their funding, in Tuesday’s edition: “A Popular Political Site Made a Sharp Right Turn. What Steered It?” The text box: “Questionable articles and polling averages at Real Clear Politics.”
(Yes, the paper who gave Biden an 11-point win in Wisconsin and a 3-point win in Florida is calling other polls “questionable.”)
Before the tired “who funds you?” question -- a bad-faith accusation constantly brayed by the left toward conservative organizations --Peters tried to suggest two outlets in particular practiced “unverified and reckless” reporting. But the evidence he provided was embarrassingly lame.
For three days after every major news organization declared Joseph R. Biden Jr. the victor of the presidential election, one widely read political site maintained that Pennsylvania was still too close to call.
That site, Real Clear Politics, is well known as a clearinghouse of elections data and analysis with a large following among the political and media establishment -- and the kinds of political obsessives who might now have all the counties in Georgia memorized….
But less well known is how Real Clear Politics and its affiliated websites have taken a rightward, aggressively pro-Trump turn over the last four years as donations to its affiliated nonprofit have soared. Large quantities of those funds came through two entities that wealthy conservatives use to give money without revealing their identities.
As the administration lurched from one crisis after another -- impeachment, the coronavirus, a lost election the president refuses to concede -- Real Clear became one of the most prominent platforms for elevating unverified and reckless stories about the president’s political opponents, through a mix of its own content and articles from across conservative media.
Sounds scary, huh? So what did Peters find? Nothing.
While many of its featured headlines promote articles that have been aggregated from competitors, a separate, donor-funded investigative unit within the Real Clear enterprise has been responsible for some of the most audacious work it has published during the Trump presidency. Sometimes these have been stories that most other news outlets, including some that lean conservative, would not touch because the details were unsubstantiated or publication of them would raise ethical concerns.
One article from October 2019, for instance, purported to name and identify in a photo the anonymous whistle blower who reported the phone call between Mr. Trump and the Ukrainian president that led to Mr. Trump’s impeachment. Other news organizations knew the identity but declined to publish it because of concerns that the person’s safety could be jeopardized. Facebook prevented people from sharing the Real Clear article, saying it violated the social network’s policy against inciting harm. Fox News cautioned its staff at the time not to identify the person on the air.
It’s an odd stance for a journalist who works for a paper who claims “The Truth Is Worth It,” to want to censor the pursuit of truth by other outlets and flush their findings down an Orwellian memory hole.
Peters picked more odd examples.
Other times its stories have been inaccurate. Another Real Clear investigative piece from April misidentified the author of an anonymous New York Times Op-Ed article written by a member of the Trump administration who claimed to be one of many high-level officials working to thwart the president’s “worst inclinations.”
The Times also “misidentified the author” when it falsely claimed the 2018 “Anyonmous” op-ed came from a “senior administration official” when it was in fact a mere deputy chief of staff to the Secretary of Homeland Security.
It took real gall to criticize Real Clear Politics for allegedly skewing polling data toward Trump, when mainstream polling slanted so hard in favor of Biden:
The polling industry as a whole has taken a hit after the election, since most reputable organizations missed the mark with surveys showing a more dominant performance from Mr. Biden in key states. But in the lead up to Election Day, some of the country’s top political analysts raised questions about why the Real Clear averages often seemed skewed by polls that “have been a bit kinder to Trump” and didn’t adhere to best practices like person-to-person phone interviews, as Charlie Cook of the Cook Political Report put it in August.
Judging by this story, Real Clear is a more trustworthy source of political news than the -Russia-gate-obsessed New York Times who confidently predicted a Biden blowout (and a Hillary blowout in 2016).
Peters then turned his pop-gun onto the “hard-right conservative outlet, The Federalist.”
Others like The Federalist adapted by striking an aggressively pro-Trump, anti-left tone, eventually coming to warn that Mr. Biden’s victory would lead to “Marxist singalongs” in public schools and to recommend “coronavirus parties” as a way of defeating the pandemic.
There’s no “lead to” about it – The Federalist has it documented, along with the creepy singalongs about Hillary Clinton from 2016.