Response to NewsGuard’s inclusion of BillMoyers.com on its Election Misinformation Tracking Center
We respectfully request that you withdraw the rating of our website and issue a correction.
The rating ignores the fact that a federal court in Washington state issued a preliminary injunction in September against the Postal Service’s removal of high-volume mail sorting machines and other challenged activities and policies under Postmaster General Louis DeJoy’s watch this summer, including against further removal of postal collection boxes. Item 2.c of that court order specifically required DeJoy not to deviate from assurances he issued on August 18, which pledged specifically not to remove any more collection boxes and high-volume sorting machines, among other things.
Please see the attached court order, which also specifically references the fact that the overwhelming majority of the mail sorting machines that were removed were located in areas Clinton won in 2016. Here are some additional clips about the Chief Judge’s preliminary injunction:
(Others have also noted the importance of the high-volume machines: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/mail-sorting-machines-are-crucial-for-the-u-s-postal-service/)
It is true that machines and collection boxes are routinely removed due to obsolescence or lack of need, but with the attacks on voting by mail made by President Trump and with so many people planning to vote by mail due to the pandemic, those activities were deemed to be disruptive of the priority of ensuring Americans could readily mail their ballots so they could be counted, as Snopes noted. https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/usps-mailboxes-removed-oregon/
As noted above, DeJoy promised to suspend the removal of the collection boxes and the high-volume processing machines after intense public outcry, which was occurring in the same timeframe as the article posted on our site. Our interview occurred as postal workers and others were raising alarms about the removal of the machines and the mailboxes, along with warnings that mail-in ballots might be left behind. In August, lawsuits were being filed that later resulted in rulings that vindicated those concerns.
Notably, although DeJoy had insisted his actions would not impact the election, he also sent out notices warning states that the Postal Service might not be able to meet long-standing statutory deadlines and state guidance about when people should mail their ballots.
The bottom line is that the federal courts rejected DeJoy’s arguments that this was all just business as usual and acceptable during this pandemic election. One of those court rulings included orders specifically relating to the mail processing machines and collection boxes, treating those activities as part of a whole that could cumulatively undermine Americans’ ability to vote by mail during the pandemic, and enjoining the same. In fact, three different federal courts ruled against DeJoy and issued orders to stop the policies and practices that occurred during the summer.
Accordingly, we respectfully request that the marker against our site be rescinded.
–Lisa Graves, a frequent guest on Bill Moyers’ show, on behalf of BillMoyers.com
Response from NewsGuard Editorial Director Eric Effron and Executive Editor James Warren:
We disagree that our assessment warrants a correction.
Although a court ruling later affirmed some of the claims made on BillMoyers.com about political implications of removing USPS mail boxes, the BillMoyers.com article does not provide evidence to back up the central claims that these mailboxes were removed by DeJoy for political reasons. The article asserted that DeJoy was “acting as a tool at the bidding of Donald J. Trump in a massive nationwide effort to help the president cheat: preventing people from easily and safely voting by mail during the pandemic.” However, the article provided no evidence and stated this as a fact, whereas most responsible media reported this as an accusation being made by President Trump’s opponents – an accusation also partially echoed by the judge as fact without evidence.
Further, the article on BillMoyers.com claimed that mailboxes in swing states were a “particular target” of DeJoy’s efforts, suggesting that he hoped to disenfranchise people in states that might well decide the election. There was no evidence of this in the article, and Miller’s response to NewsGuard does not respond to NewsGuard’s assessment. U.S. District Judge Stanley Bastian, the federal judge whose ruling Miller referenced, did not find that mailboxes in swing states were targeted.
Thus, despite the judge agreeing with some of the points made in the BillMoyers.com article, the ruling does not alter the fact that the article provided no evidence to back up claims referenced by NewsGuard, including the site’s claims concerning DeJoy’s allegedly political meddling to support Trump’s re-election.