Backlash after Wall Street Journal prints Trump letter on ‘rigged’ election

Twitter may be maintaining its ban on Donald Trump, but the former US president is finding other ways to get his message out.

On Wednesday, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) published a lengthy letter to the editor from Mr Trump, charging, inaccurately, that the 2020 presidential election won by Joe Biden was “rigged”.

The nearly 600-word letter is replete with loosely sourced and largely debunked claims of fraud in Pennsylvania, a state Mr Biden won by 81,660 votes, handing him 20 electoral college votes that helped secure his victory.

Mr Trump took issue with an October 24 piece from WSJ’s reliably conservative editorial board, which argued that the statewide margin between Mr Trump and Mr Biden was too vast for a debate over the status of approximately 10,000 mail-in ballots that arrived after the election day deadline to be relevant to the outcome.

“The country is lucky the election wasn’t closer,” the board wrote. “If the election had hung on a few thousand Pennsylvanians, the outcome might have been picked by the US Supreme Court.”

“Well actually, the election was rigged, which you, unfortunately, still haven’t figured out,” Mr Trump retorted in his letter, before listing “a few examples of how determinative the voter fraud in Pennsylvania was”. He cited talking points from “Audit the Vote PA”, a little-known organisation that has promoted unsubstantiated claims of election fraud, which he described as “highly respected”.

WSJ’s decision to publish the letter drew a backlash from some journalists and political commentators.

“Most newspapers don’t allow op-ed writers to just make up nonsense lies. Apparently the Wall Street Journal is not among them,” HuffPost White House correspondent SV Date wrote on Twitter.

Jonathan Tamari, a national political reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer, said Mr Trump’s letter “is full of absolute lies”.

Amanda Carpenter, a conservative political commentator who previously worked for Senator Ted Cruz, called it “a garbage op-ed” and said the newspaper should take responsibility for its claims.

Steve Severinghaus, a spokesman for the WSJ, declined to comment on the decision to publish the letter. When asked about the paper’s standards for publishing a letter, he did not respond.

Bill Grueskin, a Columbia University journalism school professor who served as deputy managing editor of the WSJ, said that letters to the editor are an opportunity for aggrieved readers to voice their concerns with the paper’s coverage.

“That’s generally fine, but if someone is going to spout a bunch of falsehoods, the editor usually feels an obligation to trim those out or to publish a contemporaneous response,” he told The Washington Post.

The WSJ’s right-leaning opinion page has often been at odds with the newspaper’s newsroom. In July last year, after the opinion page published an essay by vice-president Mike Pence headlined “There Isn’t a Coronavirus ‘Second Wave”, nearly 300 WSJ staffers sent a letter to the publisher that asked for more delineation between news reporting and commentary and called out the opinion section’s “lack of fact-checking and transparency”.

The editorial board res- ponded with a column decrying the letter as an effort at “cancel-culture pressure”. (© The Washington Post)

© Washington Post

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Written by Bourbiza Mohamed

A technology enthusiast and a passionate writer in the field of information technology, cyber security, and blockchain

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