After its CEO suggested the now-infamous Hunter Biden laptop story was Russian disinformation, NewsGuard, the self-styled arbiter of internet truth, is not backing down.
“My personal opinion is there’s a high likelihood this story is a hoax, maybe even a hoax perpetrated by the Russians again,” NewsGuard CEO Steve Brill said on CNBC just before the 2020 presidential election.
The laptop belonging to the son of the president contained sexually explicit images, and images of him smoking crack cocaine.
Nearly 18 months after the story was published in The New York Post (and subsequently censored by Silicon Valley tech giants like Twitter) The New York Times earlier this week confirmed what many already knew – the laptop did in fact belong to Biden, and its contents were in fact authentic.
In a lengthy series of emails between NewsGuard spokesmen and The Tennessee Star, NewsGuard refused to answer directly when asked if Americans should trust the company, but insisted that “ratings are based on a rigorous review of the evidence by multiple journalists and editors–not any one person’s opinion or speculation.”
NewsGuard, which has targeted this website, ranks internet news sites on its own subjective nine-point scale after what it calls an “evidence-based assessment after a thorough review of a site.”
“In the quote you reference, Steve Brill was clear that his ‘personal opinion’ as the story was still breaking was that there was a possibility the story was false–before adding that his own opinion did not matter and that people should be allowed to read the story and judge for themselves,” NewsGuard General Manager Matt Skibinski told The Star.
Skibinski insisted that despite the CEO making a blatantly false statement about alleged Russian disinformation on national television in the run up to the 2020 election, Brill’s opinion doesn’t matter.
“Indeed, his opinion did not matter–NewsGuard’s ratings are not based on anyone’s personal opinion, even the CEO, which is why no publication’s rating ever was negatively impacted as a result of publishing the Hunter Biden story,” he said.
The company also insists that if a news outlet had claimed the laptop story was false – like Brill did not CNBC – it would affect that company’s assessment on its subjective nine-point scale.
“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 said. “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.”
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Pete D’Abrosca is a reporter at The Tennessee Star and The Star News Network. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Steve Brill” by Steve Brill. Background Photo “News Guard Home Page” by News Guard.