Chris Quinn knew he had a problem when Ohio Republican Senate candidate J.D. Vance repeatedly used the phrase “dirty” while talking about immigrants.
Back in March, Quinn — the top editor at Cleveland.com and the Cleveland Plain Dealer — instituted a policy to ignore false, irresponsible and potentially dangerous statements made by political candidates. Four months later, statehouse reporter Andrew Tobias wanted to do a story focused on Vance’s xenophobic comments, made at a campaign rally in July.
“I said we’re not doing that. That flies in the face of what we told people we were doing,” Quinn said, “There are thoughtful ways to do what he wanted to do without putting the hate out there.”
Instead, Tobias wrote a deep dive on how candidate Vance’s speech patterns and comments have changed over the past four years. Vance, the author of “Hillbilly Elegy,” had once been highly critical of former President Donald Trump and held himself out as the representative of people in poverty. Now, as he seeks Trump’s endorsement, Vance has apologized for his past criticism and has undergone a dramatic change in his tone and rhetoric to sound more and more like the former president.
You have to give Quinn credit for understanding the problem:
“We’re just not okay with somebody weaponizing our platform and using our traditional coverage methods to spread bullshit,” Quinn said.
That “weaponizing” quote is in the context of coverage of a Trump rally near Cleveland.
We know for sure that “fact checking” doesn’t work. First, it’s exhausting — Trumpers can tell a dozen lies in the time it takes for a fact checker to investigate and debunk one. Second, the fact checkers reflexive desire for balance ends up with them finding one or two minor mis-statements by Democrats to “balance” their coverage of the hundreds of bald-face and consequential lies uttered by Republicans. So maybe just not repeating the lies and instead looking at a bigger picture (as with Vance) will work. At least outlets like the Plain Dealer won’t look like a bunch of chumps.