New York Times political reporter Maggie Astor had a pretty galling story on the front of Tuesday’s Business section, where she criticized apparently dangerous falsehoods lurking in Republican campaign emails: “Now in Your Inbox: Political Misinformation.”
Yet her lead example, involving a popular Republican, was underwhelming.
A few weeks ago, Representative Dan Crenshaw, a Texas Republican, falsely claimed that the centerpiece of President Biden’s domestic agenda, a $1.75 trillion bill to battle climate change and extend the nation’s social safety net, would include Medicare for all.
It doesn’t, and never has. But few noticed Mr. Crenshaw’s lie because he didn’t say it on Facebook, or on Fox News. Instead, he sent the false message directly to the inboxes of his constituents and supporters in a fund-raising email.
Campaign emails can’t be trusted for 100% factual accuracy, and the Times is on it!
The New York Times signed up in August for the campaign lists of the 390 senators and representatives running for re-election in 2022 whose websites offered that option, and read more than 2,500 emails from those campaigns to track how widely false and misleading statements were being used to help fill political coffers.
You’ll never guess which party the Times found more misleading.
….Republicans included misinformation far more often: in about 15 percent of their messages, compared with about 2 percent for Democrats.
At least eight Republican lawmakers sent fund-raising emails containing a brazen distortion of a potential settlement with migrants separated from their families during the Trump administration. One of them, Senator John Kennedy, Republican of Louisiana, falsely claimed that President Biden was “giving every illegal immigrant that comes into our country $450,000.”
Those claims were grounded in news that the Justice Department was negotiating payments to settle lawsuits filed on behalf of immigrant families whom the Trump administration had separated, some of whom have not been reunited. But the payments, which are not final and could end up being smaller, would be limited to that small fraction of migrants.
So….it’s technically not false yet? They love to cry “False” by saying something is still in the oven.
After a couple of paragraphs devoted to “The relatively small number of false statements from Democrats…mostly about abortion…” it was back to the meat of the matter.
The emails reviewed by The Times illuminate how ubiquitous misinformation has become among Republicans, fueled in large part by former President Donald J. Trump….
Look over here, Big Tech! Pry into people’s private messages!
The messages also underscore how, for all the efforts to compel platforms like Facebook and Twitter to address falsehoods, many of the same claims are flowing through other powerful channels with little notice.
Astor’s attack was even weaker when she tried to defend the Biden Administration equating concerned parents with domestic terrorists.
“Parents are simply protesting a radical curriculum in public schools, and Biden wants the parents labeled terrorists,” read an email from Representative Jake LaTurner of Kansas. “Will you consider donating now to help us fight back against this disgusting abuse of power?”
“This misinformation…emerged after Attorney General Merrick Garland sent a memorandum on Oct. 4 directing the F.B.I. to address threats against school personnel and school board members. (Some opponents of curriculums and pandemic protocols have sent death threats, vandalized homes and otherwise acted menacingly.) The memo explicitly distinguished between dissent and threats, and did not call anyone a domestic terrorist….”
By her own loose standard, Astor has spouted misinformation regularly in the Times, falsely claiming that calling Vice President Kamala Harris “phony” or “condescending” was both sexist and racist, as Astor did in her defenses of Harris before the election.
Astor got heat for cowriting a story that stated as fact the dubious proposition that “Transgender women of color led the uprising at the Stonewall Inn 51 years ago….” It required a correction.
And calling Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin a “conservative” truly was misinformation.