‘Truth Police’ NewsGuard’s co-founder called Hunter Biden laptop story a Russian hoax

NewsGuard, the organization that, when no one was looking, became the global “Truth Police” via its “news-rating” Nutrition Labels–the organization which informs advertisers’ critical placement decisions–called the Hunter Biden laptop story a Russian “hoax” when it first broke in the New York Post in 2020. Now, following the New York Times’ recent bombshell admission that the laptop is real, Breitbart News, which has long been a recipient of NewsGuard’s negative ratings, has some questions.

In communications with Breitbart, NewsGuard General Manager Matt Skibinski, defended the organization’s record with respect to the “laptop from hell,” despite having gotten the facts wrong for more than two years.

In the weeks leading up to the highly contested 2020 elections, The Post’s exclusive, explosive story revealed the existence of a forgotten laptop belonging to President Joe Biden’s scandal-ridden son, Hunter, which was found at a Delaware computer repair shop.

The Post delivered what should have been devastating blows to Joe Biden’s bid for the White House, including emails detailing how Hunter Biden introduced top advisors at Burisma, a now-notorious Ukrainian energy firm, to his then-Vice President father.

The laptop’s hard drive — which was copied by the shopkeeper and given to former Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s lawyer, Robert Costello — also contained a damning 12-minute video of Hunter, apparently smoking crack and having sex with an unidentified woman. Other graphic, sexual images were also uncovered. The laptop was given to the Post by Mr. Giuliani after former President Trump advisor Steve Bannon alerted The Post of its existence.

The revelations should have been devastating blows, but, with the election cycle racing towards the finish line, mainstream media circled their wagons around candidate Biden’s camp and declared the entire story a disinformation hoax perpetrated by Russia, because Russian President Vladimir Putin really wanted Donald Trump to win.


“At the time, a wide swathe of establishment media figures and organizations sought to discredit the New York Post’s story,” Breitbart reports. “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.”

Breitbart also points to the liberal Politico and taxpayer-funded NPR, which both did their best to discredit The Post.

But none of the nay-sayers were as egregiously wrong about the toxic — and now, verifiably true — laptop as NewsGuard co-founder Steven Brill, who, at the time, jumped on the “hoax” bandwagon in an interview with CNBC.

“My personal opinion is there’s a high likelihood this story is a hoax, maybe even a hoax perpetrated by the Russians again,” Brill stated.

“But, 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.”

He went on to say that Facebook and Twitter are not qualified to make a judgment call on the trustworthiness of your news and that they should use a service like Newsguard to tell people if a site is trustworthy. In Brill’s scenario, he wants readers to be able to compare news “to lots of media institutions” ~ that his company has pre-approved.

It isn’t the first time NewsGuard has used false “facts” to malign conservative publications while praising those outlets that spread the fake news, as Breitbart notes.

“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,” Breitbart claims, adding that NewsGuard has “recently partnered with a major teacher’s union to teach kids how to spot ‘misinformation.'”

The “pathbreaking” partnership with the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), which provides “tens of millions of kids … and their families” with free access to NewsGuard’s browser extension, received a nod of approval from the World Economic Forum, the architects of The Great Reset, for their efforts.

In his response to Breitbart News following the New York Times’ confirmation of The Post’s original laptop story, Skibinski stood by 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,” Skibinski stated.

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

Skibinski pointed out that the New York Post maintained its “green” rating, despite the laptop story.

“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 said.

But, as Breitbart notes, that isn’t really the issue. Rather, it is, among other things, the noticeable lack of Red ratings for all the media organizations who failed to independently verify the “hoax” narrative and instead ran with it, effectively burying the facts, which may have influenced the outcome of the elections.

“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,” Breitbart reports.

To this point, Skibinski claimed NewsGuard’s standard for negatively rating a news organization was much narrower than that, and would have required a site to directly claim the story was false before giving it a red check.

“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,” Skibinski said.

But is this standard applied across the board?

A closer look at the nine criteria Skibinski mentions makes one wonder.

One of the nine, listed in the Number Two spot after “Does not repeatedly publish false content,” is “Gathers and presents information responsibly,” which is described as a news organization that will “reference multiple sources, preferably those that present direct, firsthand information on a subject or event or from credible second-hand news sources, and they do not egregiously distort or misrepresent information to make an argument or report on a subject.”

This criterion is worth 18 points in NewsGuard’s rating system and can go a long way to deciding which news outlets are deemed trustworthy and which should be pariahs to prospective advertisers and subscribers.

In response to the New York Post article, the New York Times ran a story on Oct. 18, 2020, citing two anonymous Post employees, “speaking on the condition of anonymity out of fear of retaliation,” that claimed a staff reporter penned most of the Post article and then refused to put his name on it “because he had concerns over the article’s credibility.”

The article goes on to say that “five people with knowledge of the tabloid’s inner workings” wondered if the paper had put enough effort into verifying the authenticity of the hard drive before publishing the story.

NewsGuard gives the New York Times a perfect score of 100 out of 100 points, which must mean that basing a story that aims to discredit a competitor on totally unverifiable, nameless people constitutes responsible reporting. And now that The Times has admitted that the laptop is, in fact, authentic, a retraction or an update of its hit piece on Post staff members has yet to appear, which appears to be a violation of NewsGuard’s Number One criterion, which deducts 22 points from sites that do not “quickly and prominently” correct stories found to be “clearly and significantly false.”

“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,” Skibinski told Breitbart. “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 says even the perfectly-rated New York Times receives criticism from NewsGuard.

“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,” Skibinski explained. “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,” he continued, “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.”

Meanwhile, Breitbart, which has often scrutinized NewsGuard’s system of policing news outlets, has a negative rating of just 49.5 out of 100 points.

Among other complaints, NewsGuard has determined Breitbart fails to gather and present news responsibly.

As for the New York Post, it is “Green” in NewsGuard’s eyes, but only just.

Out of 100 points, NewsGuard rates The Post at 69.5. Not surprisingly, according to NewsGuard, The Post also fails to gather and present news responsibly.


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Melissa Fine


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