Some wonder if it's true that conservative news organizations are really fact-checked to the extent they claim or if they're just using it as an excuse to not do the hard work and call out the people who need calling out. I am here to tell you that it's true and give you some examples of what we face in our communications with fact-checkers, whose reviews of our articles can lead to a massive loss of revenue and potentially put us out of business.
As Scott Hounsell wrote, the level of scrutiny applied to our articles over the last 18 months has been intense. Beyond the normal sourcing, if our stories on “controversial” subjects are to survive fact-checker scrutiny, our sources need to be the “right” sources. That's completely annoying, but it's also rewarding to hoist people by their own petard.
And even beyond our reporting, RedState contributors' tweets are now being fact-checked even when they're clearly satirical (as Jeff Charles recently learned).
When an article is flagged, the reviewing entity's “fact-check” is attached to our social media post. That review presents the acceptable worldview on the topic, and one with which we rarely agree. (Given that we learned that Peter Daszak of EcoHealth Alliance and his cronies were the “experts” suppressing reporting on everything COVID for more than a year, we feel our skepticism is well-placed.) At that point, we have to decide if we're going to update the article to remove the flag (since multiple flags can majorly impact revenue and our ability to pay contributors for their hard work), or ignore it. Sometimes the reviewer still won't like our update, as in the situation below:
We note the update and the details added to the top of the article. However, reproducing parts of our review within your article to present “both sides” is not a correction. The article remains misleading, as it places [insert scientist's name here] inaccurate and misleading claims front and center without explaining to the reader that these claims are unsubstantiated by scientific evidence.
For example, the headline reads “Doctor Disagrees With the CDC/NIH on COVID”. This headline suggests that there are two opposing sides of a debate, [the doctor] and public health authorities, and that both positions are equally supported by evidence. This is not the case. As we explained in our review, [the doctor] made multiple claims that are inaccurate and unsupported by evidence. Suggesting that his claims carry as much weight as the guidance issued by public health authorities like the CDC, which are supported by evidence, is misleading.
Yes, you read that correctly. Presenting two sides isn't acceptable to them.
The article continues with four paragraphs focused on portraying Stock as a credible source by detailing his medical background and experience.
And yes, you read that correctly as well. Noting someone's background and experience is unacceptable if that leads them to a conclusion that's different than the one the fact-checking organization has come to. In this instance, they refused to take the “false” rating off of our story, and we told them to pound sand.
Then we get to the “unbiased” organizations who've taken it upon themselves to grade news outlets for reliability and “health.” I recently received a list of questions from one, most of which I didn't answer for various reasons, but I felt it important to answer the questions I'm going to share with you in this article because when the premise is so completely flawed, we have a duty to point it out loudly, backed up with facts, and then point and laugh. I should note, though, that the person I corresponded with was polite and easy to work with.
Anyways, buckle up; here we go. First question:
This article claimed that the COVID-19 virus was stolen by Chinese scientists who were acting as spies for the Chinese government and working at the National Microbiology Lab (NML) in Winnipeg, Canada. As we previously wrote, PolitiFact, FactCheck.org, and the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. all concluded that there is no evidence that the COVID-19 virus was stolen by Chinese spies from a Canadian lab. And the passage cited in your article claims the novel coronavirus arrived at a Winnipeg lab in 2013, but this was a different coronavirus than the COVID-19 one.
The article did not claim that “the COVID-19 virus was stolen by Chinese scientists who were acting as spies for the Chinese government and working at the National Microbiology Lab (NML) in Winnipeg, Canada.” The article referenced a book written by Dr. Joel Holmes, and stated that “the theory that the coronavirus may be a weaponized virus has been disputed.” The author also wrote that a lab origin of the virus was simply a “possibility” and that it “must at least be explored and ruled out before it is dismissed as a conspiracy theory.” The author specifically states that the book contains Holmes' theory of how the Chinese may have obtained the virus and doesn't make definitive declarations.
In addition, the two Chinese scientists who were removed from the Winnipeg lab haven't been cleared of any suspicions of espionage. The two (husband and wife) were officially fired in January 2021, and as of June 2021 were still under investigation by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. It has been confirmed by the Canadian government that the two sent Ebola and Nipah viruses directly to the Wuhan Institute of Virology, and the Public Health Agency of Canada recently changed the reason it's refusing to answer questions from the special parliamentary committee on Canada-China Relations “around that shipment of viruses [Ebola and Nipah], the reason that the scientists were fired and whether they are Canadian citizens” from “privacy legislation” to “a matter of national security.”
This article suggested that the COVID-19 virus was engineered, but this is something refuted by numerous studies and experts (see here and here). Your article did not mention that the study in question posted to bioRxiv was not peer reviewed, and HealthFeedback.org wrote that the study's finding that there is a similarity between the COVID-19 virus and HIV “was detected using extremely short protein sequences, a practice that often gives rise to false positive results,” noting that those same sequences are found in many other organisms.
As the question stated, the article contains “suggestions” that the COVID-19 virus was engineered and, further, that is a bioweapon; however, the very first sentence in the piece states, “There's been a lot of speculation and unsubstantiated rumors in open-source media about the origins of the Wuhan virus, including that it may have been manufactured in the Wuhan National Biosafety Laboratory at the Wuhan Institute of Virology.”
It then goes on to alert the reader that, “this article will examine some of that unverified speculation while also providing some historical perspective on bioweapons development and deployment.”
Is it the position of “fact-checkers” that journalists/columnists can't report on what's happening in a field and then examine those assertions, and that only fact-checkers can do so?
The question then says that the suggestion that COVID-19 was “engineered” (the definition of which could include a virus that was originally found in nature then modified using gain-of-function research) is “something refuted by numerous studies and experts (see here and here).” Those “refutations” have not aged well; in fact, PolitiFact has written an extensive correction of their prior coverage here and now at least give “permission” for reasonable people to debate the origins of COVID-19 without being labeled anti-science conspiracy theorists.
The lead author of the first piece linked in question 2, “The proximal origin of SARS-CoV-2,” published March 17, 2020, in “Nature,” is Dr. Kristian Andersen of Scripps. The piece purports to conclusively state that COVID-19 could not have originated in a lab but only through zoonotic transfer. However, Andersen told Dr. Anthony Fauci on January 31, 2020, via email that (emphasis added):
“The unusual features of the virus make up a really small part of the genome (<0.1%) so one has to look really closely at all the sequences to see that some of the features (potentially) look engineered… Eddie, Bob, Mike, and myself all find the genome inconsistent with expectations from evolutionary theory.
Andersen, along with Eddie, Bob, and Mike, were then asked to participate in a conference call with Fauci and Dr. Jeremy Farrar of the Wellcome Trust to discuss “next steps.” On March 6, 2020, Fauci received an email from Andersen thanking him for his “advice and leadership as we have been working through the SARS-CoV-2 ‘origins' paper,” the paper which was published March 17. This casts doubt on the independence of these scientists and the validity of their claims.
Other “studies and experts” who refuted the suggestion that COVID-19 could have been manipulated in a lab are similarly compromised, starting with Dr. Peter Daszak of EcoHealth Alliance, who “organized” scientists to sign on to a letter in Lancet that “establish[ed] the natural origin theory as orthodoxy,” according to Vanity Fair.
Daszak, who received numerous grants to study bat coronaviruses with WIV's Dr. Shi Zhengli, did not disclose his conflicts of interest in that letter and, in fact, stated that no conflicts of interest existed. That's what laypeople call a lie. And, as reflected in emails produced pursuant to FOIA requests, Daszak pressured other virologists to lend their signatures to the Lancet letter and failed to disclose his business relationships with them or their conflicts of interest. Daszak eventually recused himself from the Lancet's Origins Commission over this and other ethical issues, and the Origins Commission was subsequently disbanded. These relationships were uncovered as part of RedState's original reporting, supported by primary sources, into the origins of COVID-19, and are verified by a Vanity Fair article dated June 3, 2021. And, another letter in Lancet from leading virologists dated October 16, 2021, states that “There is so far no scientifically validated evidence that directly supports a natural origin” for the COVID-19 virus.
According to what I understand to be the fact-checker standard (including Science Feedback, which used Daszak as an expert), any article stating that COVID-19 arose naturally should be flagged for potential misinformation.
The suggestion that the origin question has been settled is also disputed by Dr. Ralph Baric, who worked with both Daszak and Shi – in fact, Baric and Shi created an entirely new coronavirus together. Baric, a researcher at UNC-Chapel Hill, led a group of 18 world-renowned virologists in signing a letter to Science Magazine in May 2021 which stated that “theories of accidental release from a lab and zoonotic transfer remain viable,” and urged investigation into the origins of COVID-19.
In addition, two prominent virologists, one of whom is a UC Berkeley professor who previously worked at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, wrote a piece in the Wall Street Journal – which has not been contradicted – titled “The Science Suggests a Wuhan Lab Leak,” stating that the “Covid-19 pathogen has a genetic footprint that has never been observed in a natural coronavirus.” One of the authors, Dr. Stephen Quay, testified before a US House of Representatives Committee that “there are six undisputed facts that support the hypothesis of gain of function acceleration and a lab leak.”
Given all of the information listed above, the positions stated in the two Nature articles linked in the question and the assertion that the lab origin theory has been completely refuted cannot be taken seriously by any journalist – especially since scientists who aren't beholden to Peter Daszak have all advocated for a full, complete, and transparent review of all origin evidence. A responsible journalistic outlet would report all of these competing ideas and allow the reader to decide.
Can you please comment on the lawsuit filed by Katie Hill against you and your managing editor? I am under the impression that a judge dismissed it.
In relation to your question about the lawsuit filed by Katie Hill, this response is from me personally, not on behalf of RedState. The lawsuit filed by Katie Hill was dismissed against all defendants. Judge Yolanda Orozco dismissed the case against me in April 2021. A copy of the tentative ruling is attached; the final signed ruling can be obtained on the LA Courts website, using case number 20STCV48797. Hill has been ordered to pay me approximately $83,000 in attorney's fees.
Also, your current review of RedState contains the following:
Hill said that the nude photos were published without her consent, thus constituting “revenge porn,” and stated: “This coordinated campaign carried out by the right-wing media and Republican opponents, enabling and perpetuating my husband's abuse by providing him a platform, is disgusting and unforgivable, and they will be held accountable.”
It should be noted that the judge found zero evidence of any “coordinated campaign” as alleged by Hill and that the “coordinated campaign” story Hill relied upon for her allegation was written by her then-boyfriend, Playboy reporter Alex Thomas, whose baby she is now five months pregnant with. Thomas was living with Hill at the time but he disclosed none of this when attempting to interview people or within his story. I can get you links for all of that, but it should be easy enough to find on Google. Numerous stories have been written about them in the last two weeks.
The Bottom Line
These instances are just samples of what we, and every conservative news outlet, face every day. The only way we can ensure that we retain our journalistic freedom – and that we can keep the lights on – in the long term is to build our own playground, so to speak. That is the main reason the RedState VIP program was launched two years ago. Your financial support not only provides some pretty cool VIP benefits (like reading articles with no ads!); it lessens (and will hopefully eliminate) our financial dependence on big tech. This week we are offering our biggest discount ever on VIP memberships, so it's the perfect time to become a member or purchase a gift subscription for a friend who might not be able to afford it. By using code 2022 you'll get 40 percent off your membership – and you'll be helping fund RedState's original and investigative journalism through the midterms.