EDITORIAL BOARD: The Intercept’s Dirty Smear Job On Our Reporters Deserves A Response

Editorial Board Contributor
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Journalist Glenn Greenwald left The Intercept in late October of 2020 – and if Thursday’s smear job on Daily Caller reporters is any indication, the publication has gone from journalism to activist garbage in just six short months.

The article, written by Robert Mackey and Travis Mannon, alleged that Daily Caller reporters Shelby Talcott, Jorge Ventura and Richie McGinniss — along with reporters from several other right-leaning outlets – had used video footage from protests and riots to catapult themselves to viral fame.

But they also alleged that our reporters had skewed their coverage in a concerted effort to demonize groups like antifa and Black Lives Matter — even suggesting that McGinniss might have withheld video evidence from law enforcement – and promote a specific political worldview.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

The reality is that our reporters were just a few of the many journalists who ventured out during a global pandemic, but they stood out from the rest of American journalism for two reasons. First, their bravery in accepting danger to cover an important story better than anyone else in America. And second, the nuanced, balanced and honest story they told.

The Caller’s reporters put themselves in harm’s way to tell the story of what was really happening on the ground rather than falling into the trap of endorsing media narratives on either side of the ideological spectrum. Whether reporting from KenoshaPortland, The CHAZ or the Capitol Insurrection, the goal was always to tell the complete story. Rather than lionizing one side while demonizing the other, our reporting included interviews with protestersriotersresidents of the communitybusiness ownersvigilantes and law enforcement.

The fact that New York TimesHuffington PostWall Street JournalWashington PostCNNFoxThe Hill TV and more all relied on the Daily Caller for the honest and candid stories these reporters shared indicates that the Caller is an example of brave and accurate journalism in the digital age.

As less partisan adults of all stripes can recognize, the protests and riots this summer were complicated. There were peaceful protesters on the streets for very good, heartfelt reasons. There were violent rioters on the streets intent on causing damage and chaos. There were amazing police officers trying to do a really difficult job. There were bad cops out to crack heads if they could. We told all of these stories.

Mackey even alluded to the Daily Caller’s reporters being at least slightly more balanced than he had portrayed them. Exactly 104 paragraphs into his hatchet job, he wrote:

McGinniss, who appeared in a reality show about the 2016 election as an undecided voter, worked for the far-right pundit Mark Levin but says he campaigned for Obama in 2008. Talcott denounced the January 6 attack on the Capitol as a riot, and wrote on Instagram last June that she had witnessed “incredible scenes of moving, peaceful protests as well as violent anarchy” while “reporting on a historic #BlackLivesMatter milestone.” Then again, she also spoke at the far-right Conservative Political Action Conference this year, in conversation with Rosas.

The Intercept’s hatchet man — who did not ask us for comment the way journalists are supposed to — seems upset that our guys reported on the violence. He’s desperate to stick to his narrative of peaceful protest. And our work showing all sides of what really happened, whether protests remained peaceful or not, doesn’t fit with his favored political narrative.

He knew he could not smear us directly because of the great job our guys did. So instead he came up with an amazing journalistic innovation: throw everyone covering these events into one group, and smear the whole group for the acts of the worst people on the ground. Using this construct, he ignored our balanced work and threw us in gratuitously with others who may have made questionable edits for political reasons. All this despite the fact that they work for completely different outlets. You could use this to smear literally anyone in America who happened to be covering the same event, regardless of the manner in which they did so. What a joke.

Why did the author focus most heavily on Julio Rosas of Townhall and our own Jorge Ventura? These guys were not the ones the white author accused of wrongdoing yet they were central to his piece. Maybe he’s threatened by minorities he perceives to disagree with his worldview? Maybe he’s just a racist.

Greenwald, who helped create The Intercept, drew the same conclusion about his former website and accused the authors of actively “targeting two journalists of color” and “putting a target on their backs for the crime of reporting on Antifa riots.”

Ventura’s video coverage in the past year has been comprehensive to say the least — in addition to riots, he has delivered a series of in-depth interviews highlighting the mental health impact of the coronavirus pandemic on children and on small business owners.

Anyone who knows Talcott and McGinniss knows they are neither right wingers nor political activists.

We asked Talcott what she would have said if Mackey acted like a journalist instead of a smear artist and had asked her about her politics. She said: “I’m pretty apolitical and what views I do have are pretty centrist. CPAC was an opportunity for me to speak to a large group of people about the work I did over the summer, and my comments on stage were, as they always are, rooted in facts.”

As for McGinniss, the smear on his brave coverage of the shooting in Kenosha — where he acted with more bravery than could ever be expected — is especially odious. McGinniss tried desperately to save the victim’s life while everyone stood watching. The notion that he wouldn’t have immediately posted any footage he had is ludicrous and betrayed by his own record of telling balanced stories. The implication that he was doing otherwise is libelous and disgusting.

McGinniss responded directly to the article in a series of tweets, refuting several of Mackey’s key points and referring to the piece in total as a “garbage pile.”

Contrary to the partisan narrative The Intercept stretches for, we also put out a deep dive in January debunking the notion that antifa was involved at the Capitol riot, and the editorial board’s “Patriots Do Not Storm Their Nation’s Capitol” piece speaks for itself.

There are outlets like ours and the old Intercept — trying to tell the truth. And there are outlets like the new Intercept — working overdrive to build narratives that fit their partisan political perspectives.

We said it before, but it bears repeating: what a joke.