Email #73, Subject: “FAKE NEWS”?

In his press conference yesterday, the President said: “The news is fake because so much of the news is fake.” While the circularity is stunning, I am actually more concerned by another of his recent statements on the same subject, a tweet in which he linked to an article published at TheFederalist.org: “16 Fake News Stories Reporters Have Run Since Trump Won.” I had never heard of the website before, so I read the article and then researched the site. AllSides.com gives it a “Lean Right” rating, and MediaBiasFactCheck.com a “RIGHT BIAS”:

“These media sources are highly biased toward conservative causes. They utilize strong loaded words (wording that attempts to influence an audience by using appeal to emotion or stereotypes), publish misleading reports and omit reporting of information that may damage conservative causes. Sources in this category may be untrustworthy.”

To make sure the rating sites were not themselves biased, I also checked the bias of Mother Jones, which AllSides called “Left” and MediaBiasFactCheck “LEFT BIAS”:

“These media sources are highly biased toward liberal causes.  They utilize strong loaded words (wording that attempts to influence an audience by using appeal to emotion or stereotypes), publish misleading reports and omit reporting of information that may damage liberal causes. Sources in this category may be untrustworthy.”

Since Mother Jones and TheFederalist.org appear to be oppositely but equally untrustworthy, my concern is that the President is using such a site to make an argument that mainstream news sources such as CNN publish “FAKE NEWS.” AllSides gives CNN a “Center” rating, and MediaBiasFactCheck.com a “LEFT-CENTER BIAS”:

“These media sources have a slight to moderate liberal bias.  They often publish factual information that utilizes loaded words (wording that attempts to influence an audience by using appeal to emotion or stereotypes) to favor liberal causes. These sources are generally trustworthy for information, but may require further investigation.”

While any bias is concerning, CNN appears to be within a reasonable margin of error similar to other highly reputable news sources. For example, AllSides ranks the Wall Street Journal as “Center,” and MediaBiasFactCheck gives it a “RIGHT-CENTER BIAS”:

“These media sources are slightly to moderately conservative in bias. They often publish factual information that utilizes loaded words (wording that attempts to influence an audience by using appeal to emotion or stereotypes) to favor conservative causes. These sources are generally trustworthy for information, but may require further investigation.”

Why then is the President using a “highly biased” and “untrustworthy” source to discredit a “generally trustworthy” and slightly biased source?

I ask you because as chair of the House Judiciary Committee, you are an influential member of the Republican Party on matters of ethics. Have you attempted to counsel the President on the use of sites such as TheFederalist.org? Are you concerned that the President is being influenced by such biased information?

You said that you believe in bipartisan solutions, but how is any bipartisanism possible if the White House is so verifiably misinformed? If your call for bipartisanism is more than empty rhetoric, I ask that you take tangible steps to achieve it. I suggest beginning with a condemnation of biased sources such as The Federalist and Mother Jones, and an endorsement of centrist sources such as CNN and the Wall Street Journal.

Chris Gavaler

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Author: Chris Gavaler

Chris Gavaler is an assistant professor of English at Washington and Lee University where he teaches creative writing, contemporary fiction, and comics. He has published two novels, Pretend I'm Not Here (HarperCollins 2002) and School For Tricksters (Southern Methodist University 2011), and two nonfictions, On the Origin of Superheroes (Iowa University 2015) and Superhero Comics (Bloomsbury forthcoming 2017).

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