by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Journalists and other Democratic activists love to complain about “fake news” and “propaganda.” Nevertheless, they are among the most enthusiastic disseminators of egregious falsehoods about their political enemies. One particularly shameless example involves a story published last week in the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
On March 10, the Times-Dispatch promoted a blatant lie about Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R., Va.), one of the most reviled politicians among left-wing activists. Reporter (and “lifestyle photographer”) Mel Leonor wrote that Virginia school superintendents had criticized Youngkin’s education policies in “a blunt letter representing the views of all 133 state superintendents.” Leonor repeated the claim on Twitter, asserting that “133 Virginia school superintendents chided Youngkin’s education department” in the letter.
That sounds really bad for Youngkin: School leaders are unanimously opposed to his controversial agenda! As noted above, this is a blatant lie.
On March 14, local ABC affiliate 7News became one of the only media outlets to report the truth—that the letter was written and approved by the 12-person board of the Virginia Association of School Superintendents, and no one else. The rest of the state’s 133 school superintendents “were not advised of the letter before it was sent to the Governor’s administration.”
The group’s executive director, Ben Kiser, was perhaps more than happy to imply otherwise, given that he opened the letter by claiming to speak “on behalf of 133 public school division superintendents.” It would be easy enough to blame Kiser for the confusion if journalists and their Democratic allies weren’t constantly lecturing the rest of us about the importance of rigorous reporting methods and the need to fact-check authority figures.
In this case, no one bothered to do any fact-checking. The false claim about the letter was repeated by numerous local outlets and national publications. The Washington Post, whose motto is “democracy dies in darkness,” published two articles promoting the lie that every Virginia school superintendent had endorsed the contents of the letter.