The Intercept Stands By Its Reporting on Gab and the Riot Squad

The specific accusations about our reporting crumble when subjected to scrutiny.

Over the past several days, wild and unfounded accusations have been hurled at The Intercept. We publish corrections and clarifications when we get something wrong, but none of these attacks have any merit whatsoever. In the rancorous and dizzying world of social media, falsehoods are amplified and it is often difficult for well-intentioned readers to discern the truth. So we would like to take this opportunity to correct the record.

These attacks revolve around our reporting on an archive of data from Gab, a far-right social media website, and on the “Riot Squad,” a group of journalists whose viral clips of violence, at times deceptively edited, have been used to smear the Black Lives Matter movement. We are proud of this reporting, which in intent as well as execution bears no resemblance to the caricature being drawn on social media.

Our reporting on the Gab archive, which The Intercept and other news outlets obtained, has focused on what it reveals about public figures on the far right. As we have done with other data archives we have worked on in years past, including the Snowden archive from the National Security Agency and the Vaza Jato archive from Brazil, we published only what is newsworthy and in the public interest, and the only names we published were of public figures. (In one story, we erroneously reported that a prominent conservative’s Gab account was one of many with a weak password. The error was corrected.) Newsrooms commonly come into possession of archives that contain personal information about private individuals. We would never expose people because they hold views we dislike or even abhor. The notion that we have done so is simply false.

Our reporting on the Riot Squad consists of a meticulously researched video and article. The members of the Riot Squad — this is a name they use — are journalists whose influential clips of violence connected to Black Lives Matter protests have been regularly featured in right-wing media, including Fox News. Our reporting found several instances in which this footage was selectively edited to remove crucial context, in one case editing out footage of a man wielding a machete at protesters. Some of this deceptively edited footage was played by Donald Trump’s defense team during his second impeachment trial and by a Republican senator during a hearing. The charge that the purpose of our project was to identify the Riot Squad so that they could be harmed by antifa is absurd. The article and video make clear that these individuals are journalists and that the violence they have experienced from left-wing protesters is inexcusable. The Riot Squad journalists are very public about what they do; they appear regularly on outlets including Fox News, BlazeTV, Newsmax, OAN, and Infowars. They are well-known to activists already.

The Intercept, like other news organizations, often reports on how the news is made and who makes it. Media criticism is central to our approach to journalism, and always has been. Members of the media should be afforded every protection necessary to do their constitutionally protected work, but they are by no means immune to criticism or off-limits to analysis. Reporters who have influence on the public’s understanding of events — as the Riot Squad clearly has when it comes to BLM protests — are the most important to interrogate. That is a concept our critics understand, and an argument they themselves make relentlessly. It applies no less to this case.

The specific accusations about our reporting crumble when subjected to scrutiny. Take one example: the claim that The Intercept inaccurately reported on Richie McGinniss’s work in Kenosha. In the article, we reported that there was speculation online that McGinniss had recorded footage of Kyle Rittenhouse shooting a protester and had not broadcast the footage or provided it to authorities. The speculation was based on video footage taken at the scene that showed McGinniss’s camera in recording mode immediately after the shooting. The story included multiple links to the speculation, and it included a statement from McGinniss that he did not start recording until after Rittenhouse fired his weapon. Our reporting was accurate, balanced, and substantiated, and we stand by it.

The Intercept’s reporters have become targets of vicious harassment over this reporting. The physical security of not just our staff but even their families has been threatened. The editorial leadership of The Intercept condemns these attacks, and stands 100 percent behind our journalism and our staff and their families.

Several reporters for the Intercept have been doxxed: their home addresses have been published online, and the names of their partners have been published. More members of our staff have been threatened with doxxing. It is particularly sad and infuriating that much of the impulsion for this campaign has been generated by the unbalanced tweets of a founder of The Intercept who resigned and falsely accused The Intercept of censoring him as part of his effort to launch his Substack blog.

We are doing everything we can to guarantee the security of our staff and defend their families and their reputations. Our reporting will continue.

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