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The Effort to Censor and Deplatform Political Speech

By John Fortney
November 3, 2023
On The Record

I know we must be doing something right when coastal elitists, statehouse liberals, and the billion-dollar abortion industry generate a national media hit piece attacking our little online newsroom, On The Record – The Views the News Excludes.

It took just five editions of OTR to generate a national story by the Associated Press hinging on three transparently far-left sources accusing us of “unprecedented” misinformation.

What stories could possibly generate this type of meteoric meltdown of breathless indignation?

Abortion. Specifically, the radical attempt to enshrine abortion on demand in Ohio’s Constitution, driven by the real misinformation of the Issue 1 campaign supporting the ballot initiative.

The AP story focused on our columns by Senator Michele Reynolds, a central Ohio Republican, and Senator Kristina Roegner, a northeast Ohio Republican.

Both are moms firmly committed to pointing out the dangers of the overly broad language within Issue 1. We stand by their columns, and you can listen to Senator Reynolds explain point -by-point in our podcast why the AP story is false. Also, you can read her new column, setting the record straight right here in our latest edition of OTR.

I’d like to express a sincere “thank you” to Laura Manley, Executive Director of the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School for her quote in the AP story about On The Record. 

She told the AP, “I’ve never seen anything like that. It’s really smart in a really devious way.”  A Harvard "expert" says we’re smart. I don’t know whether to be offended or flattered.  Regardless, class is now in session. 

Anytime you think outside the box and do something innovative that can be portrayed as even remotely controversial, today’s media, and, of course, liberal dark-money elitists, go insane. It reminds me of those great lines from the movie “Moneyball.”

“This is threatening not just a way of doing business, but in their minds, it’s threatening the game, but really what it’s threatening is their livelihoods, it’s threatening their jobs, it’s threatening the way they do things. And every time that happens, whether it’s the government or a way of doing business or whatever it is, the people who are holding the reigns, have their hands on the switch, they go bat**** crazy.”

In January of this year, Columbia Journalism Review posted a four-part series from former New York Times reporter Jeff Gerth. “The Press Versus the President,” provides a revealing look at how the media bought into the fabricated Russian Dossier pushed by the Clinton campaign to take down President Trump. 

It is a troubling summary of the media’s echo chamber.

Here is a quote from Gerth’s summary:

“My main conclusion is that journalism’s primary missions, informing the public and holding powerful interests accountable, have been undermined by the erosion of journalistic norms and the media’s own lack of transparency about its work. This combination adds to people’s distrust about the media and exacerbates frayed political and social differences.

One traditional journalistic standard that wasn’t always followed in the Trump-Russia coverage is the need to report facts that run counter to the prevailing narrative."

Exactly. That is what I’ve been saying for some time. Today’s newsrooms seem driven to report a narrative rather than the news. The AP story is a textbook example of attempting to fact check with spin from biased sources.

The AP even has a problem with ostensibly unbiased sources.

A textbook example occured last year when AP reported Russia had bombed Poland

Poland is a NATO member. If the story were true, the United States and the rest of NATO would’ve been obliged to defend Poland.

The AP used only one source. And it was anonymous. What could go wrong?

AP’s story had one redeeming virtue. 

It wasn’t true.

The AP Stylebook was once considered the newsroom bible on grammar, punctuation, ethics, and style. 

Now? It warns newsrooms about the perils of objectivity and fairness.

AP now advises against telling both sides of the story and to “avoid false balance [by] giving a platform to unqualified claims or sources in the guise of balancing a story by including all views.”

Well, if anyone’s an expert on unqualified claims and sources, it’s AP.  

Just ask Poland.

In our case, AP inexplicably and unethically ignored the thorough and publicly available analysis of the Issue 1 abortion amendment by the state’s top legal expert, Attorney General Dave Yost. 

Then the AP enlisted the opinions of out-of-state liberals to criticize our opposition to Issue 1. And to propagate its own predetermined and biased narrative. 

The legal expert quoted by AP would be more adequately described as a pro-abortion advocate with a law degree. She has written more than 50 pro-abortion pieces for such unbiased publications as the New York Times, the Atlantic, CNN, and the Washington Post. 

Mary Ruth Ziegler teaches law at UC Davis, currently ground zero for a national scandal involving rampant antisemitism among her colleagues who “blame Israel for Hamas attack.”

Ziegler claims OTR “crosses a line” by stating the facts about Issue 1 and abortion on our website. Her real message? Free speech for me but not for thee.

She's not exactly what you'd call an unbiased expert. The titles of her work in the aforementioned publications include:

Ohio’s new abortion law is an assault on Roe. Here’s why it won’t work

The sinister genius of the Texas abortion law

The deviousness of Texas’s new abortion law

The Conservatives are not just ending Roe. They’re Delighting in it

Then there’s AP’s expert on online misinformation. Harvard’s Laura Manley essentially opposes free speech online and thinks social media must censor what she considers “extremist content.”

She wrote a scholarly piece detailing how Russian bots on Facebook used misinformation to sway the 2016 election. Except, her thesis was debunked by an NYU study that found, “no evidence of a meaningful relationship between exposure to the Russian foreign influence campaign and changes in attitudes, polarization, or voting behavior.”

(The study focused on Twitter rather than Facebook because it was easier to quantify its data, but the authors noted “the reach of Russian foreign influence campaign content across both platforms was similar.”)

The claim that free speech online allows people to be easily manipulated is actually misinformation pushed by “experts” who want to censor conservatives online.

In fairness, there is one thing the AP got right. It described, “Red, Wine and Blue” as a progressive women’s organization. A spokesperson complained about having to outcompete misinformation around Issue 1 with its own messages, then added that Google has been “responsive” in taking down some “misinformation.” 

Translation: Only pro-abortion and liberal progressive speech should be available on search engines – and opposing voices, opinions and protected political speech should be deplatformed. 

“Google did not return an email message seeking comment,” the article said. In other words, the AP appeared willing to do the bidding of liberal groups to censor protected political speech by elected officials of the Ohio General Assembly without looking too hard for contrary evidence. 

Errors of omission are textbook examples of misinformation. 

One could say the AP wrote the stylebook on misinformation. 

Did you know that calling someone “French” is a slur?


The Associated Press Stylebook had to apologize after producing a list of terms it thought could be dehumanizing. 

That included “the French.”

The Guardian reported: Lauren Easton, the vice-president of AP corporate communications, told the French newspaper Le Monde: “The reference to ‘the French’ as well as the reference to ‘the college educated’ is an effort to show that labels shouldn’t be used for anyone, whether they are traditionally or stereotypically viewed as positive, negative or neutral” ...

But the agency was mocked after posting the original guidance on its Twitter account. The French embassy in the US joked that it should possibly change its name to the Embassy of Frenchness ...

The writer Sarah Haider said: “Nothing as dehumanizing as being considered one of the French. Rather, such individuals should be thought of as ‘suffering from Frenchness’ and deserve our compassion and prayers.”

In all seriousness, the AP Stylebook went so woke, it can’t even define what a woman is. Women are definitely not defined as the gender that can have babies.

According to the AP Guide’s style update last year, it’s “pregnant people” who can have babies. 

And abortions are not just for women. They are for “people who seek abortions.” 

These are the concepts guiding today’s legacy newsrooms.

Narratives rather than the news.

Remember that the next time you see some California leftists, statehouse liberals, and the media upset to the point of suggesting that a search engine censor the protected political speech from a government website.

Speech that we stand by.

Thank you to the AP for the superb promotion. Truly priceless. Onto the next edition.