The Wall Street Journal is taking quite the heat — and deservedly so — for allowing Trump to push his claims of a rigged election in a letter to the editor on Wednesday. Trump was responding to an Oct. 24 Journal editorial about voting in Pennsylvania during the 2020 election.
Trump wrote (and the Journal seemingly published without raising one red flag), “Well actually, the election was rigged, which you, unfortunately, still haven’t figured out. Here are just a few examples of how determinative the voter fraud in Pennsylvania was.” Then he listed a bunch of unproven or already debunked bullet points.
In a scathing, but well-reasoned column with the headline, “The 14 things you need to know about Trump’s letter in the Wall Street Journal,” The Washington Post’s Philip Bump wrote, “The Wall Street Journal should not have published it without assessing the claims and demonstrating where they were wrong, misleading or unimportant.”
Others were even harsher.
Bill Grueskin, a Columbia University journalism school professor who served as deputy managing editor of the Journal, told The Washington Post’s Jeremy Barr that letters to the editor are meant to give readers a chance to respond to pieces in newspapers. He told Barr, “That’s generally fine, but if someone is going to spout a bunch of falsehoods, the editor usually feels an obligation to trim those out, or to publish a contemporaneous response. The Wall Street Journal editorial page chose not to do that in this case.”
It should be noted that the opinion section handles letters to the editor and is separate from the rest of the newsroom.
The Journal declined to comment when asked about the letter by Barr.
Politico White House reporter Alex Thompson tweeted, “Odd to just print this Trump letter w/ 0 fact checks given how much great reporting the WSJ newsroom did on the election.”
The Bulwark’s Amanda Carpenter, who is a frequent guest on CNN, tweeted, “The WSJ publishes a garbage oped from Trump spewing election lies but calls it a ‘Letter to the Editor’ to avoid taking responsibility. Btw, WSJ LTEs are normally capped, I believe, at 200 words. Take responsibility WSJ!!!”
Trump’s letter was nearly 600 words.
Carpenter went on to tweet, “Trump couldn’t post this on Facebook but the editors at the WSJ collectively decided to put it on their platform. Think about that. And they think they can distance themselves from it by doing it as an LTE. As of that magically absolves them from pushing the lies.”
Washington Post fact-checker Glenn Kessler tweeted, “Why would they publish, without analysis, a bunch of stuff that already been fact checked as false?”
And CNN’s Jake Tapper went the full sarcasm route, tweeting, “Coming soon to the WSJ letters to the editor: ‘The moon landing was faked,’ by that dude @TheRealBuzz Aldrin punched in the face.”
Newspapers have a long tradition of allowing readers to express their views and even giving them a little latitude to do so. But in this case, the Journal allowing Trump to falsely call the election “rigged” is incredibly and surprisingly irresponsible.
This piece originally appeared in The Poynter Report, our daily newsletter for everyone who cares about the media. Subscribe to The Poynter Report here.