Newspapers have been allowing readers to voice their opinions for a long time. This is both incredibly irresponsible and shockingly stupid.
The Wall Street Journal is getting a lot of heat for allowing Trump’s claims of a rigged electoral process to be pushed in a letter to editor on Wednesday. Trump was responding to an Oct. 24, Journal editorial on voting in Pennsylvania during 2020.
Trump wrote (and the Journal published it without raising any red flags): “Well, actually, the election rigged, which unfortunately you still haven’t figured out. These are just a few examples how decisive the voter fraud was in Pennsylvania.” He then listed a bunch unproven or debunked bullet points.
In a sharp, but well-written column, “The 14 facts you need to know about Trump’s letter in Wall Street Journal,” Philip Bump, Washington Post, wrote that “The Wall Street Journal should have not published it without assessing and demonstrating where they were incorrect, misleading, or unimportant.”
Other people were worse.
Bill Grueskin is a Columbia University journalism professor and was the Journal’s deputy managing editor. He told Jeremy Barr the Washington Post that letters to editors are meant to allow readers to respond to articles in the newspaper. Barr was told by Grueskin that while it’s fine to tell falsehoods, if someone is going on about them, the editor will usually feel obliged to remove those statements or publish a response. In this instance, the Wall Street Journal editorial page decided not to do so.
It is important to note that the opinion section deals with letters to the editor and is distinct from the rest.
Barr’s letter was addressed to the Journal, but it was not commented on by the Journal.
Alex Thompson, Politico White House reporter tweeted : “Odd to print this Trump letter w/ 0 facts checks given the great reporting that the WSJ newsroom did about the election.”
tweeted Amanda Carpenter from The Bulwark, who is a regular guest on CNN. She said, “The WSJ publishes a garbage oped by Trump spewing electoral lies, but calls it a Letter to Editor’ to avoid taking any responsibility. My understanding is that LTEs from the WSJ are limited to 200 words. Take responsibility, WSJ! “
Trump’s letter had nearly 600 words.
Carpenter then tweeted, “Trump could not post this on Facebook but editors at the WSJ decided to publish it on their platform.” This is a great example. They think they can disengage themselves from it by using LTE. They are now free to tell lies, which is a miracle.
Washington Post fact-checker Glenn Kessler tweeted: “Why would they publish without analysis a bunch of stuff already fact checked as false?”
CNN’s Jake Tapper took the full sarcasm route and tweeted , “Coming Soon to the WSJ Letters to the Editor: ‘The Moon Landing was Faked’ by @TheRealBuzz. Aldrin punched in his face.”
Newspapers have had a long history of allowing readers to voice their opinions and sometimes even giving them some latitude. The Journal’s decision to allow Trump to falsely claim the election was “rigged” is shocking and irresponsible.
This article originally appeared in The Poynter Report. It is our daily newsletter for anyone who cares about media. Subscribe to The Poynter Report.