Leaders in the Washington Examiner newsroom are pushing back against a New York Times report alleging that it is one of several conservative news publications giving credence to a “conspiracy theory” that rampant voter fraud could swing the 2020 election to the left.
The article, published Sunday on the Times’ website, cites stories from the Examiner, Breitbart News, The Gateway Pundit and others alerting readers about possible instances of voter fraud, several of which were later determined not to be true.
In some cases, the news outlets either didn’t publish follow-up stories when the claims they reported on didn’t pan out, or only updated their headlines after the initial reports went viral.
The Times cited the stories as examples of what Harvard researchers have deemed a “propaganda feedback loop” in conservative media pushing a discredited theory that voter fraud is rampant in American elections. The theory “has been repeatedly debunked by data,” wrote Tiffany Hsu, the Times reporter who authored the story.
But the two stories the Times cited as evidence that the Examiner is fueling misinformation are curious because Hsu did not make clear in either case what exactly the publication is alleged to have done wrong.
In one case cited by the Times, the Examiner followed up on a news story in Wisconsin where a local county sheriff’s office reported finding three trays of mail discarded in a ditch. A Postal Service spokesperson initially reported that the mail included some mail-in ballots.
According to the Times, it was “all but unnoticed” that the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported a week later that the discarded mail didn’t include any Wisconsin ballots after all.
But the Examiner did notice, and had, in fact, published a follow-up story reporting just that.
The Times also called attention to a New York Post story that relied on only one source, an unidentified Democratic operative, who allegedly told the paper that he had engaged in voter fraud for years and explained how he did it. The Examiner was one of several news outlets that published its own report detailing the Post’s allegations.
The Times report did not provide any evidence indicating that the story was inaccurate.
“If this is all it takes for the Washington Examiner to be guilty of participation in a ‘disinformation campaign,’ then every newsroom in the world is guilty of the same,” Becket Adams, a senior commentary writer for the Examiner, wrote in a response Monday.
Danielle Rhoades Ha, a Times spokeswoman, said in an email that the Examiner’s response found no errors in their story “because there are none.” The Times story highlighted a pattern, she wrote.
“The Washington Examiner along with other sites repeatedly amplified anecdotes and other outlets’ reporting without verifying the reporting itself,” she wrote.
In an interview with National Review, the Examiner’s editor-in-chief, Hugo Gurdon, called the Times’ story “wafer thin and ridiculous.”
There have been documented cases of voter fraud, he said, even if it has been limited. Concerns about voter fraud are bigger this year simply because of the “unprecedented number of people voting by mail,” Gurdon said.
“The opportunity for fraud will be that much greater,” he said.
“You can’t use the fact that something has been of limited importance in the past to debunk concerns that it will be more important in different circumstances,” Gurdon added.
In his rebuttal to the article, Adams cited several Times stories, projects and editorials as examples of disinformation the paper has pushed in recent years, including its reporting on the Steele Dossier, alleged Russian collusion and even its “fraudulent 1619 Project.”
“When it comes to the press and disinformation,” he wrote, “maybe sit this one out, Gray Lady.”
Editor’s Note: This article has been updated with a response from a New York Times spokeswoman.