HuffPost’s repeated public claims of nonpartisan journalistic principles [UPDATED]
Since its founding in May 2005, Arianna Huffington, HuffPost’s Editor-In-Chief, has consistently maintained that her website is not partisan in any way:
“HuffPost prohibits content that is pornographic, obscene… hateful… or is otherwise inappropriate.”
– HuffPost Terms and Conditions
“[T]he news is not right-wing news or left-wing news, it’s the news. And that will be the sensibility, that will basically permeate our news coverage.”
Interview with USC-Annenberg Online Journalism Review, May 3, 2005
“What we’re doing is two things. We do news. I don’t believe news is left wing or right wing. And then we do the group blog, which is going to be a dialogue from all viewpoints.”
Interview with Newsweek, May 6, 2005
“[Arianna Huffington] is offended and bewildered by the suggestion that other news outlets think she’s getting a free ride. She sees herself as the future of journalism, not the end of it.”
Time magazine, March 19, 2009
“If you’re looking for the usual flame-throwing, name-calling, and simplistic attack dog rhetoric, don’t bother coming to the Huffington Post.”
Interview with Newsweek, May 6, 2005
“HuffPost prohibits material that is unlawful, or encourages conduct that would be considered a criminal offense [or] violate any law.”
– HuffPost Terms and Conditions
“The editorial stance of the Huffington Post is to debunk the right-left way of thinking, which has become completely obsolete.”
Interview with Conde Nast Portfolio, November 14, 2007
“[T]oo many reporters have forgotten that the highest calling of journalists is to ferret out the truth, consequences be damned.”
Arianna Huffington, July 29, 2008
“[W]e are increasingly seen … as an Internet newspaper, not positioned ideologically in terms of how we cover the news.”
Interview with Politico, May 22, 2009
2010: After AOL’s purchase of HuffPost
“We don’t see ourselves as left.”
Interview with Politico, Feb. 8, 2010
“It’s time for all of us in journalism to move beyond left and right… [A]ll voices have been welcome at the Huffington Post”
Interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Feb. 7, 2010
“It’s time for all of us in journalism to move beyond left and right.”
Interview on The News Hour with Jim Lehrer, Feb. 7, 2010
Huffington even urged Fox News’s CEO, Roger Ailes, to adopt HuffPost’s editorial policy, and rules for civil discourse:
“[At HuffPost] there are guidelines that have to be followed — and they include a prohibition on conspiracy theories or inflammatory claims. These are actually very good ground rules for Fox News to adopt. I’ll send you a copy and cc Roger. For context, it’s good to remember that Glenn Beck didn’t come out of nowhere. He’s the latest example of what the great historian Richard Hofstadter called ‘the paranoid style in American politics,’ which he defined as angry minds that traffic in ‘heated exaggeration, suspiciousness, and conspiratorial fantasy,’ and that see ‘the fate of conspiracy in apocalyptic terms… always manning the barricades of civilization’.”
– Arianna Huffington blog article, April 3, 2010A 2011 lawsuit filed against Huffington by two of her former associates, who asserted that they conceived of what would become HuffPost, but received neither credit nor a share of its profits, revealed the partisan deception that was apparently built into the concept they pitched to her:
The site would be, they say: “[A] Democratic-leaning site with enough non-partisan news as to appear more mainstream than it truly is; this is critical for credibility and advertising revenue.”
Daou’s alleged ‘Huffpo’ proposal: ‘Appear more mainstream’, by Ben Smith, January 5, 2011, Politico.com.
Arianna Huffington settled the suit, paying the complainants an undisclosed sum.
Arianna Huffington, 2011: “There is an objective reality, and it is the media’s job to present it unequivocally”
Huffington excoriated the New York Times for not acting as vigilantly as she felt it should have, to correct an ad by the Mitt Romney campaign in 2011:
Mitt Romney Brazenly Lies And The Media Lets Him Slide, by Arianna Huffington, November 28, 2011. Screencap here.
Along with being deceitful, the ad is also a challenge to the media. It’s like when a toddler looks right at you and slowly and deliberately spills a glass of milk. The child wants to see the reaction. It’s a test of boundaries. If there’s no reaction, then the message is that it’s OK.
So what message did the media send with its reaction? This is how the New York Times‘ Michael Shear covered the ad:
“Democrats reacted ferociously on Tuesday to Mitt Romney’s first campaign commercial, which they said distorted comments by Barack Obama to make it look as if he was running away from his record on the economy.”
“They said”? The ad did distort President Obama’s comments. It was not a matter of what Democrats said versus what Republicans said — there is an objective reality, and it is the media’s job to present it unequivocally.
2011: HuffPost’s claim that it has “zero tolerance” for breaches of basic journalistic ethics
One of HuffPost’s senior editors, Peter Goodman, wrote the following after it was pointed out that it had massaged copy from another publication just enough to make what appeared to be an original “news” story.
“We have zero tolerance for this sort of conduct [plagiarism]. Given that, the writer of the offending post has been suspended indefinitely.”
However, the suspended writer, Amy Lee, claimed that she had done nothing wrong; to the contrary:
“That is what we were taught and told to do at HuffPost. Arianna and the higher ups made a decision to stop linking out directly as much and rewrite stories “the way the AP does.” They even hired people specifically to rewrite other people’s work. Whenever they get caught they just blame an underling. These poor kids right out of school who have no experience get told to do XY and Z and then get punished for doing it.”
In the wake of this scandal, numerous other news organizations rose to Lee’s defense, by offering example after example of HuffPost’s pathological lifting and use of other people’s work:
- What It’s Like to Get Used and Abused by The Huffington Post: The Blog Queen Defends Her Aggregation Practices by Saying She Drives Traffic. Oh, Really?, by Simon Dumenco, Ad Age, July 11, 2011. Excerpt:
“To evoke the specter of Somali pirates gives way too much credit to those editors and writers at HuffPo who regularly engage in unethical aggregation. Because, geez, this is grade-school-level pathetic! […] To Arianna Huffington, I have this to say: The extent to which you’re trying to buy respect by poaching editors and writers from The New York Times and other traditional news operations (with all that funny money AOL chief Tim Armstrong has so unwisely put at your disposal) has gotten downright embarrassing. If you really want to rescue your legacy, get in touch with your inner fifth-grader — and tell her to grow the hell up already.”
- Thanks for the Apology, Huffington Post. How About One More?, by Simon Dumenco, Ad Age, July 12, 2011. Excerpt:
“I imagine that , like me, you’ve been reading the reactions that have been rippling across the media blogosphere, and you’re finding that there’s general unanimity that HuffPo is singling out — indeed, scapegoating — a young writer for engaging in a style of aggregation long practiced, condoned and encouraged by Huffington Post editorial management.”
- Amy Lee Firing by Huffington Post Exposes Hypocrisy When it Comes to Site’s News-Stealing Business Model, by Dennis Romero, L.A. Weekly, July 11, 2011. Excerpt:
“It’s unconscionable for the HuffPo to have build itself up via other news org’s reporting and then burn kids for towing the company line (and then, on top of all that, being dishonest about it). No wonder kids think the corporate world sucks.”
- HuffPo controversy highlights cavalier online editorial culture, Joe Pompeo, YahooNews, July 12, 2011. Excerpt:
If “zero tolerance” is truly the watchword here, how have items like these appeared on the site with such regularity?
- HuffPost apologizes for over-aggregating, by Kevin Roderick, L.A. Observed, July 11, 2011. Excerpt:
What the Huffington Post does with many stories it picks up from others (including LA Observed) is have a junior writer rewrite them without adding new facts or smart observation, then not hint until the end that the story actually came from somewhere else. The link is usually given there at the bottom, but the whole game is to satisfy the reader enough that they don’t click the link and leave HuffPost — but instead stay to inflate the home team’s stats.
2011: HuffPost exposed for profiting from unpaid child labor
The sleuths at The Shame Project revealed the following:
- [In February 2011] An LA Times columnist accused Huffington of committing “many of the worst abuses of the old economy’s industrial capitalism — the sweatshop, the speedup and piecework; huge profits for the owners; desperation, drudgery and exploitation for the workers. No child labor, yet, but if there were more page views in it…”
- Seven months later, Ad Age reported on HuffPo plans to exploit free child labor in a story headlined : “The Astonishing AOL/Huffington Post Plan to Profit on the Backs of Unpaid 13-Year-Old Bloggers (Seriously): Well, That’s One Way to Improve AOL’s Balance Sheet: Persuade Children to Shovel Free Content Into Its Page-View Oven.”
- Ad Age wrote: “Let’s get real here: AOL is not just another benign outlet for aspiring teen writers; it’s not the school newspaper writ large. It is, thanks to its combo with HuffPo, a massive, highly aggressive, cynically SEO’d page-view machine with a history of dubious ethics — and let’s not forget that AOL, despite all its troubles, still had second-quarter revenue of $542.2 million.”
2011: HuffPost bragged about how it profits from blurring the line between journalism and paid PR
More from the sleuths at The Shame Project:
- Greg Coleman, Huffington Post president and chief revenue officer, bragged that the company’s “sponsored content” strategy – which deliberately obscures the line between journalism and PR—had helped his company “more than double” its advertising revenue in 2010, saying “the level of interest we have in this marketing form is gigantic.. “The Guardian called HuffPo the “grand master” of blurring “the line between advertising and editorial … via sponsoring schemes.”
2014: Arianna Huffington explains HuffPost’s “core values” — with major emphasis on standing for victims of injustice
“And at every step along the way, we refused to fall prey to the innovator’s dilemma by constantly evolving, innovating and reinventing vital aspects of how we put together The Huffington Post while remaining true to the core values that made HuffPost HuffPost, including:
– Using storytelling to put flesh and blood on statistics, putting a human face on the numbers.
– Finding the buried lede and moving it to the top of the page.
– Comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable.
– Putting an end to seeing every issue through the tired frame of “right vs. left.”
100 Million Thank-Yous to HuffPosters Around the World, by Arianna Huffington, September 6, 2014.
“At The Huffington Post we’re relentless in our coverage of… injustice… [and] are equally relentless in giving our readers and viewers a full and accurate idea of the entire human story. […]”
– Arianna Huffington, August 21, 2014
STW analysis: The video below is an excerpt from STW’s debut documentary, “HuffPost’s anti-Semitic bias and incitement During the Third Intifada.” It (and the entire film) shows how HuffPost manipulates news items in order to present a warped depiction of Islamist terrorist attacks, while ignoring their Jewish victims — and actually evoking sympathy for the perpetrators of these terrorist attacks, and their families:
“At The Huffington Post we’re relentless in our coverage of corruption, injustice, poverty, joblessness, inequality and racial discrimination, but we are equally relentless in giving our readers and viewers a full and accurate idea of the entire human story. […]”
– Arianna Huffington, August 21, 2014
2014: HuffPost “maintains the highest level of journalistic integrity”
On November 6, 2014, Politico published an interview with HuffPost senior editors regarding another rash of disciplinary actions they and Huffington took against certain editors and reporters (an expanded version of an incident in 2011). An excerpt, citing a public statement by these executives (emphasis added):
“The Huffington Post has in place rigorous editorial policies and standards that we expect all editors, reporters and newsroom staff to follow. If they do not, senior editors take appropriate action on a case-by-case basis to ensure that we maintain the highest level of journalistic integrity.
“As editor-in-chief, Arianna is deeply involved in day-to-day operations – from setting the tone of our coverage to upholding the quality of our sourcing. Arianna has always emphasized the importance of such standards at HuffPost, and entrusts the senior edit team to implement and reinforce them at every level.”
John Montorio, Executive Features Editor
Katie Nelson, National Editor
Danny Shea, Executive Producer, Special Projects
Whitney Snyder, Executive News Editor
HuffPost defends disciplinary actions against reporters, editors, Politico.com, November 6, 2014.
2014-present: AOL pitches advertising by claiming HuffPost “covers the world’s stories from every viewpoint”
At the bottom of HuffPost’s front page is a link, “Advertise”:
The link takes the reader to a specific section of a simple HTML page at AOL, which says:
The Huffington Post covers the world’s stories from every viewpoint. The first online news outlet to win a Pulitzer Prize, it is the new model for media organizations.
SaveTheWest recently proved that the claim that HuffPost “covers the world’s stories from every viewpoint” is a lie, in our recent report:
In summary, as our encyclopedic documentation proves, HuffPost presented only one, supportive side to the Iran deal, and engaged in a multi-year, scorched-Earth policy of viciously attacking anyone who dared to oppose or expose the reality of it. And continuing its endemic anti-Semitic bias, as proved in our recent documentary video, HuffPost employed lies and smear campaigns against Jews, Israel and its prime minster, Benjamin Netanyahu.
2016: HuffPost is “fully upfront and honest with readers”
In the above editorial, from November 2014, HuffPost’s senior editors asserted that they have in place “rigorous editorial policies and standards” that enable it to “maintain the highest level of journalistic integrity.”
In January 2016, HuffPost’s Washington “bureau chief,” Ryan Grim, was interviewed by Poynter.org, which defines itself as, “the world’s leading instructor, innovator, convener and resource for anyone who aspires to engage and inform citizens in 21st Century democracies.” The interview laid bare the lie about HuffPost’s supposed adherence to even the most basic principles of journalistic integrity.
Specifically, Grim was asked why HuffPost inserts the following statement into every “news” article it writes about Donald Trump (screencap), and whether doing so isn’t a betrayal of basic journalistic principles:
“Note to our readers: Donald Trump is a serial liar, rampant xenophobe, racist, misogynist, birther and bully who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims — 1.6 billion members of an entire religion — from entering the U.S.”
Key excerpts (emphasis added), from:
Why every HuffPost article about Donald Trump calls him a liar, by Benjamin Mullin, Poynter.org, January 29, 2016
Poynter: Does this interfere with your ability to provide fair coverage of Trump’s campaign?
Grim: Not at all. Why would it? These are merely statements of fact.
Poynter: Why not hew to a more straightforward editorial stance and let readers draw their own conclusions about Trump?
Grim: I’ve never understood why the media see these two distinct things as connected. There’s an extraordinary amount of hubris in believing that if a media organization says something, it automatically removes the possibility that readers can draw their own conclusions. That seems to me to be an awfully pessimistic view of the intelligence of readers. We’re not telling them what to think, we’re telling them what we think — which in turn helps them evaluate the information we’re providing them, and aides them in making up their own minds. Being fully upfront and honest with readers is a mark of our respect for their ability to think freely and for themselves. Withholding certain bits of information out of a fear that it will brainwash readers is the opposite.
STW Analysis: What Grim is basically saying is that in contrast to the statement of objectivity by HuffPost’s senior editors, it is, in fact, not a “news” website at all – but rather, is a political propaganda site. This fact is thoroughly validated in SaveTheWest’s debut documentary, “HuffPost’s anti-Semitic bias and incitement During the Third Intifada,” which shows one case study after another in which HuffPost manipulated news items in order to present a warped depiction of Islamist terrorist attacks, while ignoring their Jewish victims, and actually evoking sympathy for the perpetrators and their families.
It should also be noted that in no instance that we’re aware of has HuffPost ever appended a news story or editorial about terrorist leaders with a screed similar to what it has done to Donald Trump. For example, Palestinian Authority “president” Mahmoud Abbas is one of the world’s leading inciters and financiers of terrorism against Jews and Israel. He has repeatedly made statements that can only serve to incite hate and violence against Jews, and has used Western humanitarian aid money to advance these objectives as well. Yet HuffPost enables Abbas to spew his lies on the site, without any adornment or criticism.
In August 2016, Arianna Huffington was reportedly pushed out of her “news”paper by her superiors. Originally described as an unplanned resignation (with no successor named, and 9 months after she’d signed a new, four-year contract), so she could pursue another opportunity, Vanity Faire soon after ran a two–part expose’ that alleged her departure was not voluntary.
Then, on October 2, 2016, HuffPost’s new CEO openly admitted to CNN that it does not even pretend to be a nonpartisan “news” site anymore:
What’s ahead for a post-Arianna Huffington Post?, by Tom Kludt, CNN.com, October 2, 2016. Excerpts:
Jared Grusd has been chief executive at the Huffington Post for about a year now, but late last month, he sounded more like the company’s resident hype man. […]
Don’t expect a rebranding under new leadership. In his memo last week, Grusd outlined a new mission statement in which he described the Huffington Post as “the world’s premier progressive media platform.”
“We are fierce and fun,” the mission statement continued. “We help people lead better lives, make more informed choices and define their own identities and communities as they see fit. We tell stories and create experiences that matter, by shining light on truth and exposing absurdities and lies. We believe in the universality of human rights and the power of understanding and appreciating our differences. We fight the good fight. We will be the leading source of news and commentary for the most diverse and connected generation ever.”
And what does “progressive media” look like, according to HuffPost? Here are three major investigative reports that SaveTheWest produced between March-September 2016, that reveal the reality: