NewsGuard, the establishment “news-rating” project that presents itself as a source of expert knowledge on which news sources can be trusted and which ones cannot, addressed its track record on the Hunter Biden laptop story in comments to Breitbart News, despite its co-founder labeling the story a Russian “hoax” at the time.

After two years of ignoring or denying the story, the New York Times has acknowledged that Hunter’s “laptop from hell,”  one of the biggest bombshells of the 2020 election cycle despite social media censorship and the establishment media’s news blackout, is real.

Steven Brill and Gordon Crovitz, co-CEOs of NewsGuard

Steven Brill and Gordon Crovitz, co-CEOs of NewsGuard (D Dipasupil and Stephen Chernin /Getty)

At the time, a wide swathe of establishment media figures and organizations sought to discredit the New York Post’s story. Taxpayer-funded NPR claimed there were “red flags” in the Post’s story, including unfounded claims from intelligence officials that Russia was involved, and claimed the story could not be “verified” – despite doing no work to verify it.

Politico, similarly, published a story with claims from “intelligence officials” calling the story “Russian disinfo,” without doing any independent work to verify the material in the laptop, which was widely available to news publications.

NewsGuard followed along with this narrative. In an interview with CNBC at the time, NewsGuard co-founder Steven Brill said “My personal opinion is there’s a high likelihood this story is a hoax, maybe even a hoax perpetrated by the Russians again.”

NewsGuard has a track record of giving negative ratings to conservative-leaning publications, while giving a positive “green” rating to establishment media outlets with a track record of publishing hoaxes, like Rolling Stone. Newsguard recently partnered with a major teacher’s union to teach kids how to spot “misinformation.”

In comments to Breitbart News, Newsguard general manager Matt Skibinski defended Brill’s comments.

“Steve Brill argued that big tech platforms’ censorship of the New York Post story about Hunter Biden’s laptop was misguided, and that social media platforms should not have prevented the story from being posted or shared. He said, ‘It doesn’t matter what I think — what matters is that people ought to be able to read [the story] and decide, and they can decide by reading and comparing what the New York Post says to what lots of other media institutions say.'”

“Our process for rating sites is based entirely on our nine criteria and an evidence-based assessment after a thorough review of a site,” continued Skibinski.

“The laptop story had no bearing on NewsGuard’s assessment of the New York Post, which has a Green rating from NewsGuard, because there was no evidence the story was false.”

Skibinski did not address the fact that the New York Times took two years to admit the veracity of a major news story that it ignored, nor the widespread efforts to discredit the story, nor the failure of establishment media organizations to independently verify the material.

Instead, Skibinski said news organizations would be negatively rated according to a much narrower standard, directly claiming that the story was false.

“If any website claimed the laptop had been proven not to be Hunter Biden’s and failed to correct that, this lapse would be taken into account in our ratings,” said Skibinski.

“Our ratings do not mean that a site with a poor rating will never get a story right, or that a site with a strong rating will never get a story wrong. We assess the general practices of each site by evaluating how well it adheres to nine journalistic criteria. If any news website falsely claimed that the laptop had been proven not to be Hunter Biden’s, we would take that into account in their assessment.”

Skibinski also noted that, with diligent searching, NewsGuard users could even find criticism of the New York Times on its platform.

“In our detailed ‘Nutrition Label’ for each news source we rate, we provide an in-depth description of the site’s content and our rationale for the rating. In some cases, a site may have had high-profile mistakes or controversies related to its reporting, and we want readers to know about those kinds of things so that they can judge for themselves, so we include them in our written explanation of the rating. For example, in our rating of the New York Times, we mention several instances in which the site was criticized or admitted that it had failed to meet its usual standards–such as its retraction of its ‘Caliphate’ podcast in 2018, the controversy over the 1619 Project, and even the Jayson Blair scandal from 2003. Readers can review our Nutrition Label, weigh the totality of the information we provide, and decide for themselves how much to trust each source.”

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