WSJ Reporters Aren't Happy About Letter From Trump

Paper's opinion side published election claims newsroom had debunked
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 28, 2021 8:55 AM CDT
WSJ Slammed for Printing Letter From Donald Trump
In this July 24, 2021 photo, Donald Trump points to supporters after speaking at a Turning Point Action gathering in Phoenix.   (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, File)

Wall Street Journal reporters aren't happy about a letter to the editor from a certain Donald J. Trump of Palm Beach that was published Wednesday. CNN reports that the decision to publish the letter—which claimed the 2020 election was "rigged" and included a long list of debunked claims—was criticized by members of the newsroom, which is separate from the paper's opinion operation. "I think it's very disappointing that our opinion section continues to publish misinformation that our news side works so hard to debunk," CNN quotes one reporter as saying. "They should hold themselves to the same standards we do." More:

  • The letter. In his letter, a response to an Oct. 25 story on Pennsylvania's Supreme Court, Trump scolded the WSJ for saying that President Biden won the state by more than 80,000 votes. "Well actually, the election was rigged, which you, unfortunately, still haven’t figured out," he wrote.

  • WSJ criticized. The paper was widely criticized for allowing the former president to spread election misinformation. "The WSJ publishes a garbage oped from Trump spewing election lies but calls it a 'Letter to the Editor' to avoid taking responsibility," tweeted conservative political commentator Amanda Carpenter. She noted that the WSJ normally edits letters to the editor down to 200 words or fewer, but Trump's letter was almost 600 words.
  • Former editor speaks out. Columbia University journalism school professor, Bill Grueskin, a former WSJ deputy managing editor, says it's "generally fine" for readers to voice complaints about coverage in letters to the editor. "But if someone is going to spout a bunch of falsehoods, the editor usually feels an obligation to trim those out, or to publish a contemporaneous response," he tells the Washington Post. "The Wall Street Journal editorial page chose not to do that in this case."
  • What the WSJ could have done. Philip Bump at the Washington Post has a long list of things the WSJ could have done differently, including assessing Trump's claims or at least explaining its decision to "run the letter without contextualizing it." He says the WSJ could have "pushed back on obviously false claims," like Trump's assertion that Mark Zuckerberg spent millions to interfere in Pennsylvania's election. The main thing to know about the letter, Bump writes, "is that Donald Trump is still railing against his election loss 358 days after it occurred."

  • Sympathy for reporters. Columnist Frank Rich tweeted that he feels sympathy for WSJ "reporters of talent and integrity who are going to go down with this ship, whether now or when their grandchildren are taught about it." The Post's Josh Dawsey noted that the "newsroom has fact checked a lot of the claims made in that letter."
  • Not everybody's complaining. Jim Hoft at the right-wing Gateway Pundit praises Trump for continuing his "push for the truth in the greatest crime in American history."
  • News, opinion sides have clashed before. The New York Times reported last year that almost 300 WSJ newsroom employees complained to publisher Almar Latour about the opinion desk's "lack of fact-checking and transparency," citing errors in essays including then-Vice President Mike Pence's June 16, 2020 piece "There Isn't a Coronavirus 'Second Wave.'" The opinion side responded with a note to readers promising that it wouldn't "wilt under cancel-culture pressure."
(More Donald Trump stories.)

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