Feedback from Ezra Levant, founder and owner of RebelNews.com. NewsGuard’s responses to Levant’s feedback are included in italics.
Editor’s Note: Mr. Levant, in addition to his comments above about NewsGuard’s review of its site, submitted additional feedback and questions to NewsGuard about several issues, including about what he described as conflicts of interest involving one of NewsGuard’s editorial advisers for Canada. Mr. Levant’s commentary, as well as NewsGuard’s responses to Mr. Levant’s questions about our editorial adviser, can be found below. NewsGuard’s responses are italicized. (Questions to Mr. Levant’s specific questions about NewsGuard’s criteria and reasoning involved in our Nutrition Label appear in the Nutrition Label).
Hi John. I read your report on NewsGuard.
As I said in my first note to you, I do not accept that we have made any uncorrected factual errors. Every one of your purported substantive fact-checks is in fact merely a difference of opinion. But there are two things I would like to challenge in the rest of your report, and a third systemic challenge that is actually quite serious.
As I mentioned to you, we take corrections seriously and for both journalistic and legal reasons we promptly and carefully publish them when required. On what basis do you claim we do not do so? Or is this just a spill-over of your own disagreement with our point of view?
If so, you shouldn’t pretend that “Gathers and presents information responsibly”, “Regularly corrects or clarifies errors”, “Handles the difference between news and opinion responsibly” and “Avoids deceptive headlines” are separate categories — they’re all just how you punish news sites with whom you disagree.
As I mentioned to you in my letter, we were implementing a policy to distinguish amongst news, news analysis (opinion) and advocacy. We have done that. On what basis do you claim that we don’t do so? If your report is out of date, please update and correct it.
3. Conflict of interest: Edward Greenspon and the PPF
I was surprised when an American was assigned to review Rebel News but I see that in fact Canadian Edward Greenspon was your editor in this project. Greenspon is the CEO of an government- and corporate-funded advocacy group called the Public Policy Forum (PPF). As such, Greenspon receives direct funding from the Government of Canada, including from the Heritage Department against whom we have ongoing litigation regarding censorship of Rebel News. How can someone who receives major funding from Canada’s Heritage Department that is in litigation against us, then claim to objectively review our organization?
Editor’s Note from NewsGuard: Although he was not the primary editor, Edward Greenspon, NewsGuard’s senior advisor for Canada, did review the Nutrition Label for RebelNews.com, as did several other NewsGuard editors and NewsGuard’s co-CEOS. As Mr. Greenspon’s biography on NewsGuard’s website notes, he is president and CEO of the Public Policy Forum. The Public Policy Forum’s website discloses its funding from hundreds of sources, including the Heritage Department. Because The Public Policy Forum is not involved in any litigation against RebelNews.com and because the Heritage Department is one of hundreds of members of the Public Policy Forum, NewsGuard asserts that this does not constitute any substantive conflict of interest.
Did the disparaging political remarks about Rebel News come from Greenspon? I assume they did, because they were not part of our discussions. Is that in keeping with NewsGuard’s policies?
Editor’s Note from NewsGuard: No NewsGuard staffer issued “disparaging political remarks” about Rebel News. Our Nutrition Label speaks for itself.
Greenspon also has a specific conflict of interest with regards to vaccines, which were the vast majority of your criticisms. The PPF boasts on its website not only that they take funding directly from individual vaccine companies like Pfizer, but also from a variety of pharmaceutical industry associations. Incredibly, PPF also publishes “research” on Pfizer, without indicating anywhere on that research that Pfizer is a funder. This is deeply unethical — and in fact contradicts NewsGuard’s own stated rules of conduct. Finally, I note that the PPF does not disclose the amount of funding from its government of pharmaceutical funders, nor does it publish an annual report on its website.
Editor’s Note from NewsGuard: The Public Policy Forum’s funders are disclosed on its website. Pfizer is among those members disclosed, along with hundreds of other organizations. Funders of specific Public Policy Research projects are disclosed in each publication. As Ed Greenspon has confirmed, Pfizer is not a funder of any of the Public Policy Forum’s COVID-19 related research.
John: did you know about any of this? Did Greenspon disclose it to you?
Was it Greenspon himself who assigned Rebel News to you? What did he disclose to you about his company’s relationship to us, Big Pharma, or the government agency that we’re fighting in court?
Given the above, do you think you ought to have the NewsGuard review of Rebel News taken down and reviewed by someone without Greenspon’s conflicts of interest? Or at the very least, do you think NewsGuard ought to acknowledge Greenspon’s conflict of interest in its review of Rebel News?
Editor’s Note from NewsGuard: NewsGuard does not view the points raised here as conflicts of interest regarding Mr. Greenspon’s advisory role at NewsGuard and his review of the Nutrition Label for Rebel News.
Does this fit with NewsGuard’s own policies of disclosure and neutrality?
In addition to my requests above for a review and revision and reassessment by someone without a conflict of interest, I’m going to do a story on this, so I’d appreciate your feedback.