Scandalmongers, Plagiarists, Antagonists and Maker-Uppers: Meet four members of journalism’s SPAM brigade

Lou Carlozo November 17, 2020

What’s Joe Deadline working on? A story about spurious claims of alien beings? Or the conspiracy theory that insists they dwell among us? Not even his editor knows for sure.

As journalists heading into 2021, we live in peril on many fronts like never before. A raging pandemic. A shipwrecked economy. A stalled transition of presidential power. And: unchecked climate change; fake accusations of fake news; and a president making up stories about voter fraud that doesn’t exist, even as his lawyers drop out of his lawsuits like dung-covered flies. They get it: Soldiering on in the face of frivolity will wreck their reputations. The truth, as always and forever more, is the truth. You prove it, I’ll believe it. You report it in advance of public confirmation, but with rock-solid evidence, and I’ll entertain it.

Left, right, up, down, it doesn’t matter: The truth is the truth. Although, if you repeat a lie enough, it becomes the truth. Maybe a certain president said that? Actually, it was the dark lord of Nazi propaganda, Joseph Goebbels.

But in this time, lawyers aren’t only ones who need to worry about damaged reputations. On the individual level, journalists (and those who purport to play that role) are doing harm. But often, they don’t care. Indulging themselves, they deface the field at large in ways we simply can’t stand for. Thus here, I’m going to call out and recall a few people who set a new bar for limbo-low despicability. Some you may know well, others not so much or at all.

Regardless, I’ve broken them down into four categories: Scandalmongers, Plagiarists, Antagonists and Maker-Uppers. They are, collectively, Journalistic SPAM.

Scandalmonger: Chanel Rion

Outlet: One America News Network (OANN)
Quotable: “How easily could bad actors have used Dominion [Voting Systems] to switch votes from Trump to Biden? The answer is shocking.”–Rion in her OANN news report picked up by President Trump
Unfounded scandal: Trump relayed this in an all-caps tweet, tagging Rion: “DOMINION DELETED 2.7 MILLION TRUMP VOTES NATIONWIDE. DATA ANALYSIS FINDS 221,000 PENNSYLVANIA VOTES SWITCHED FROM PRESIDENT TRUMP TO BIDEN.”
Journalism 101 error: Rion interviewed no sources to counter pro-Trump voter fraud points of view.
What reputable sources said: “This claim about election fraud is disputed” (Twitter); “Trump spreads baseless claim about Dominion Voting Systems after losing election” (CBS News); “Rion … has been at the center of the false narrative” (BuzzFeed)
Did you know?: Rion formed the National White House Correspondents Association in August after the very similarly named White House Correspondents’ Association voted to bar OANN from White House briefing rotations. On the NWHCA website, Rion is the only listed member.
Career FYI: File under fiction: Rion claims to have written and illustrated mystery adventure books for girls ages 9-13. But four jacket covers pictured on her LinkedIn site have information about the books crudely scrawled out.
Accuracy of my reporting: 100 percent verifiable

Opinion: Sensationalism is not journalism. Creating a fancy-sounding news organization of which you are the only known member is not credible–though it is incredible. In her OANN video report, Rion quotes a cybersecurity “expert” (fittingly in a black cowboy hat) describing theoretical scenarios involving Dominion. Under that standard I can say, “I believe it is possible Donald Trump is made of green cheese,” and another journalist could say “The editor in chief of a prominent news organization contends that it is possible Donald Trump is made of green cheese. Could this be true?”

Plagiarist: Jayson Blair

Outlet: The New York Times
Dead-lies: A Times editor was alerted to a discomforting resemblance between a Blair story and one written by San Antonio Express-News reporter Macarena Hernandez. This came from the Express-News senior editor. Further investigation led to the discovery of at least seven suspect Blair stories between 2002 and 2003. Blair was subsequently fired from the paper.
Did you know? Fallout from the case included a 7,000-word-plus Times “mea culpa” report roundly mocked and criticized in the journalism community. It also forced the resignation of executive editor Howell Raines and managing editor Gerald M. Boyd, who died three years later. Both protected Blair to a fault, ignoring repeated warnings about his incompetence and brazen behavior.
Career FYI: Blair became a life coach. That’s right, a life coach. Go ahead, ask him about it; his phone number and email are listed here.
Accuracy of my reporting: 100 percent verifiable

Opinion: That Blair calls the practice he founded Goose Creek Consulting is fitting, given the keister ramming he gave our field. I am not sure what his true qualifications are for this work; on the one hand, he has certifications and the like, and has endured bipolar disorder. But if there is one thing he should and must know, it’s that he inflicted a tremendous scar on journalism’s reputation and a proud bastion of the craft. (True, he wrote a book “Burning Down My Master’s House,” but many consider it inflammatory.) As a life coach, it’s impossible that he’s ignorant to 12-step work. He needs to make a very public, living and ongoing amends. Absent of this he is a “life roach.” If the nimrods of the “fake news” brigade get away with inflicting such a label on The New York Times, Blair is no doubt an enduring reference point.

Antagonist: Alex Jones

Outlet: Infowars
The news makes news: Infowars re-posted a Facebook invitation by a far-right militia group, the Kenosha Guard–“Armed Citizens to Protect our Lives and Property”–that encouraged gun-toting citizens to flock to Kenosha, Wisc. in response to a police shooting protest. That same night, 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse, traveling in from Northern Illinois, was charged with murder (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel).
Did you know?: On Nov. 16, Jones’ website posted “President Trump Announces He Won Election, As Evidence Of Voter Fraud Pours In.” As with Rion, Infowars has been unable to produce a shred of evidence indicating massive voter fraud, and has declined to interview security experts who have proclaimed the 2020 election the safest in modern history.
A disgrace to dead kids and grieving parents: Jones promoted a theory that the 2012 Sandy Hook shooting of 20 first graders and six educators was a hoax. Families of the victims said they have been subjected to harassment and death threats from Jones’ followers because of the hoax conspiracy. Jones allegedly threatened Christopher Mattei, a lawyer for Sandy Hook relatives, using the word “kill” on the air.
Accuracy of my reporting: 100 percent verifiable

Opinion: Among other things, 20 dead, innocent first graders are not around to offer their opposing truth. Anger, lies and rancor posing as journalism deserve banishment to a dark, foul rathole. So ensconced, Alex Jones would make the ideal overlord. For now, he struts under the banner of free speech.

Maker-Upper: Stephen Glass

Outlet: The New Republic
Scandal: An associate editor for The New Republic from 1995 to 1998, Glass was fired for faking material in at least 27 of his 41 stories. His print lies ranged from covering a non-existent convention of Monica Lewinsky memorabilia to the fabricated tales of the fake Ian Restil, a 15-year-old hacker recruited by a non-existent company, Jukt Micronics. Glass even posted a fake-o Jukt website. Images are getting harder to find, but here’s one of Glass’ Jukt Internet creation.
Quotable: “To say the 26-year-old version of Glass lied is like saying Bernie Madoff committed fraud.”–Adam Peneberg, the Forbes journalist who discovered Glass’ cheating.
Did you know: Compounding his fictions, Glass wrote a novel “The Fabulist,” where the misunderstood protagonist, someone readers were supposed to sympathize with, was a thinly veiled version of himself, according to his former New Republic colleagues and literary critics.
Career FYI: In 2003, Jann Wenner was roundly criticized after assigning Glass an article for Rolling Stone on Canada’s drug laws.
Accuracy of my reporting: 100 percent verifiable

Opinion: When someone is caught faking stories as a journalist, it should and must be “one strike, you’re out.” Glass had 27 strikes, after which The New Republic stopped scrutinizing his stories out of concern for piling on. And 27 strikes is enough for 27 lifetimes, I’d say. Beg me for a job, Stephen: The mop and toilet brush are right over there, kiddo.

So there it is. It baffles me that We The Journalists, so skilled at rooting out corruption and rottenness in politics and corporations, often fail to do it when our so-called colleagues make a mockery of what we do. I am, for better and probably worse, the first I know to dive into Chanel Rion, a reporter of arguably dubious skill at best and unrepentant, exaggerated slant at worst. Or even worse.

What next? Truth is truth. Poison is poison. We are the antidote. The next time someone spotlights lies as truth (or uses them as a method of career advancement) shine it right back at them. And keep shining it. You’ll see how hard it becomes for them to pursue it with the same zeal once exposed to unrelenting, glaring, cleansing light.

Lou Carlozo is Qwoted’s Editor In Chief. All opinions expressed have been challenged in court as election fraud. lou@qwoted.com