Taylor Lorenz Responds To Complaint She Uses ‘Bad Faith’ Too Much


Nicole Silverio Media Reporter
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Semafor co-founder and editor-in-chief Ben Smith pressed Washington Post columnist Taylor Lorenz on labeling her critics “bad faith actors” during a Thursday interview.

“How do you know who’s in bad faith? What’s my faith? You’re sort of looking into people’s hearts and saying this person who disagrees with me, they’re not mad at me because I got something wrong, they’re mad at me because they think I’m too liberal, they’re fundamentally in bad faith. How do you say that?” Smith asked.

Lorenz frequently accuses other Twitter users of acting in bad faith. She called her critics “bad faith actors” and “far-right extremists” in a July 4 tweet, accusing them of perpetrating “blatant lies.” Smith pressed her on accusing people who disagree with her of doing so in “bad faith.”

WATCH: 00:06:55

Lorenz said people engaging in personal attacks, misrepresentation, and networked social media harassment are not criticizing constructively.

“You can tell the difference between someone who disagrees with you and someone who’s not operating in good faith,” she said. “Just based on the nature of their question, right? For instance, if they’re coming to you in an honest capacity, and saying, ‘Hey, I noticed X-Y-Z,’ you’re like, ‘Oh, OK, I’ll take your feedback.'”

“On every story I write, I hear lots of different perspectives,” Lorenz continued. “But if somebody is coming at you and they’re making personal attacks, they’re misrepresenting you, they’re kind of actively participating in networked harassment in the sense that you see them retweeting people who are just not there for constructive criticism. I think it’s just, can you tell the difference between constructive criticism and non-constructive criticism?”

Smith suggested that the critics may have responded angrily or obnoxiously, but it does not equate to acting in “bad faith” and accused her of “guessing what’s in people’s hearts.” Lorenz argued it is “obvious” when people are acting maliciously.

The host pointed to an error in her story titled, “Who won the Depp-Heard trial? Content creators that went all-in,” where she falsely claimed two YouTube users who allegedly profited from their coverage of the Johnny Depp-Amber Heard trial had not responded for comment. The Post issued corrections after the two individuals said they had never been contacted by Lorenz.

Smith said the YouTubers were simply angry, rather than acting in “bad faith.” She accused one of the YouTube users of having been involved in previous scandals. (RELATED: Taylor Lorenz Rages Over Liberal Co-Founder’s COVID Joke) 

“You made an error about them, of course they’re mad,” Smith said.

“There was an error in the story,” Lorenz replied.

“Why not just say, ‘you’re not in bad faith, I’m sorry we screwed up, I see why you’re mad,'” he pressed.

Lorenz claimed she reacted cordially to them and apologized for the error, to which Smith said that was not her response in public.

“I’ll let this go in a second, you can say this guy’s being horrible, that he’s overreacting to this error, that he’s trying to get attention off of it, that he’s capitalizing on it in various ways, that he’s trying to get clout. But how do you know if in his heart, he’s mad or not? If he’s bad faith or good faith?” Smith asked.

“Ben, he said he wants to go to war with the media and destroy The Washington Post,” Lorenz said. She said it goes back to her judgement, but she will always act in “good faith” with people and correct any errors.

Smith then pointed out that the term “bad faith” tends to be directed at “right-wingers,” asking Lorenz whether her judgement is primarily toward conservatives and those on the right.

“The critics of mainstream media, your critics, are certainly to the right,” Smith said. “Do you think ‘bad faith’ is primarily a right-wing phenomenon?”

“I think anyone can be in bad faith. Anyone can be kind of a troll or do something in bad faith,” Lorenz responded. “I think, obviously, a lot of more extreme figures on the right kind of play into that a lot, but I get criticism from all different kinds of people depending on the story. So I think, ultimately, you just have to have faith in your reporting.”

She ultimately agreed that “bad faith” is not “the best term” but added that she did not have another one.