Do Better, Wall Street Journal
As the Wall Street Journal publishes a factually inaccurate "letter" from former President Trump under the header of "opinion," they forewarn a dangerous repeat trend by mainstream media.
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The Wall Street Journal has published a nearly 600-word letter to the editor from Donald Trump, brimming with inaccuracies and blatant lies, including that the 2020 presidential election won by Joe Biden was “rigged.” For the accurate record: the election was not rigged.
In the letter, Trump continues his phony claims of election fraud in Pennsylvania, a state that President Biden won by 81,660 votes, which ultimately handed him the election with its 20 electoral college votes. Trump took issue with an Oct. 24 piece from the Wall Street Journal editorial board, specifically the following statement made by the consistently conservative panel: “The country is lucky the election wasn’t closer.” The WSJ board continued: “If the election had hung on a few thousand Pennsylvanians, the outcome might have been picked by the US Supreme Court.”
Trump claims that the Pennsylvania statewide margin between Trump and Biden was not too vast for a debate over the status of approximately 10,000 mail-in ballots that arrived after the Election Day deadline, as they would have substantially affected the statewide outcome. For the record: those votes would not have changed the outcome and the courts have backed up this fact with several rulings.
Trump states the following: “Well actually, the election was rigged, which you, unfortunately, still haven’t figured out,” and then lists several inaccurate bullet points from Audit the Vote, PA, a Republican group that fueled Trump’s election conspiracy theories with their “independent forensic audit” of the votes. (I will not be posting any of those false statistics here, because the data is not backed up by any state-wide. professional count, or any court ruling.)
Trump next presented another grouping of 14 fake bullet point statistics from Audit the Vote under the following header: “Highly respected Audit the Vote PA found numerous data integrity problems with the Pennsylvania Statewide Uniform Registry of Electors (SURE) system, including…” To call this organization “highly respected” is laughable, but Trump’s statement that purports to have confirmed “data integrity problems” is completely false. To then list so many unsubstantiated claims, created by a partisan and unprofessional election monitor, is egregious.
The letter itself is pathetic — there are just a few complete sentences and the information presented is biased if not blatantly erroneous. The bullet points that follow are worse in that the numbers are not factually accurate or verifiable in any way. Trump has presented them like this so that his supporters — who don’t truly understand the process — can just regurgitate his deceitful rhetoric, as if it is factually substantiated or even verifiable.
Once again, Trump has imagined his own numbers, created a Republican team to “inspect” the results, and then claimed legitimacy for statistics that are false. This tactic from the former president is nothing new, but the idea that the Wall Street Journal would present this statement from Trump, in full, without any real-time fact-checking is journalistically irresponsible.
While letters to the editor are typically used as an opportunity for aggrieved readers to voice their concerns with the paper’s coverage, this is no ordinary response, for several reasons. First, Trump was able to use his previous executive shield to filter his overt lies into the media every day, which is something that has eroded the integrity of every publication that allowed itself to be used by him.
Josh Dawsey @jdawsey1WSJ publishes quite a letter from Trump... https://t.co/JydTyOUi7F
Moreover, allowing Trump to publish his own, made-up statistics in a “reputable” outlet is allowing him to continue to sell his lies to the American public. Trump is mounting another run for the presidency in 2024, and as such, he should be treated as a possible future candidate who is under investigation for attempting a coup over his own government, not just as a former president, who is due certain respect.
Failing to fact-check Donald Trump’s lies the first time is what put the world of journalism (and democracy) in such crisis and it appears as if the Wall Street Journal has refused to learn the lesson or worse: they will risk the well-understood danger in order to get clicks. If the latter is really the case, then we all need to prepare for more mainstream media subterfuge, which could once again place us in the exact same danger we experienced in 2016.
The consumer needs to make one thing abundantly clear, right now, before it is too late: we will not risk our democracy a second time so that mainstream media can line its pockets…again. If Trump was able to find a loophole in the culture and the law for how we hold people accountable for telling public lies, then we need to build our own wall to keep him and his slanderous mouth out of the game this time.
It is now our responsibility to hold prominent media outlets like these, to the higher standard they supposedly set for themselves, pre-Trump. This is our first and last warning, Wall Street Journal: we’re not doing this again.
Amee Vanderpool writes the SHERO Newsletter and is an attorney, published author, contributor to newspapers and magazines, and analyst for BBC radio. She can be reached at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter @girlsreallyrule.
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