Facing threats of legal action, the Washington Post has been forced to add an editor’s note distancing the paper from a dubious website, PropOrNot, which it had initially endorsed as a group of nonpartisan experts on “Russian propaganda.”
The Post came under fire on social media for its provocative hit piece which claimed that “Russia’s increasingly sophisticated propaganda campaign” actually influenced the US presidential election.
The article, published late last month, referenced “independent researchers” who allegedly determined that Russian state media, RT and Sputnik News among them, produced “misleading articles online with the goal of punishing Democrat Hillary Clinton, helping Republican Donald Trump and undermining faith in American democracy.”
One of the main sources cited by the Post was PropOrNot, “an independent team of concerned American citizens” who, according to the site’s description, are “volunteering time and skills to identify propaganda – particularly Russian propaganda – targeting a US audience.”
After the publication of its evidence-free article, the newspaper was sent a letter from one of the websites listed, threatening a defamation lawsuit.
“We have another post today that describes how the few things that are verifiable on the PropOrNot site don’t pan out, as in the organization is not simply a group of inept propagandists but also appears to deal solely in fabrications,” Naked Capitalism – a US blog on finance, economics and politics – said on its website.
“If the site is flagrantly false with respect to things that can be checked, why pray tell did the Washington Post and its fellow useful idiots in the mainstream media validate and amplify its message? Strong claims demand strong proofs, yet the Post appeared content to give a megaphone to people who make stuff up with abandon. No wonder the members of PropOrNot hide as much as they can about what they are up to; more transparency would expose their work to be a tissue of lies.”
Jim Moody, an attorney representing the website, stressed in a letter to the Washington Post on Sunday that the newspaper “did not provide even a single example of ‘fake news’ allegedly distributed or promoted by Naked Capitalism or indeed any of the 200 sites on the PropOrNot blacklist.”
Award-winning journalist Glenn Greenwald, significant in bringing Edward Snowden’s US security revelations to the public, labeled the Post story“total journalistic garbage.”