The left realizes that the fearless Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is becoming a serious threat as the right’s potential presidential candidate. So, true to their politics of personal destruction, the leftist media has united in a full-on pre-emptive assault to take Walker down. That included a blatant lie about the governor’s effort to conceal the reporting of campus rapes.
Last Friday Jezebel, a politics-and-pop-culture website replete with vicious and foulmouthed radical feminists, posted an attack on Walker written by “senior reporter” Natasha Vargas-Cooper. Vargas-Cooper is no novice to pop culture journalism, though she apparently doesn’t feel bound by any Old School journalistic standards of factuality and objectivity (and why should she? The mainstream media long ago decided that the aim of journalists should be, not fair and balanced reportage, but social justice activism). The daughter of leftist journalist Marc Cooper, her writing has been featured in all the usual media outlets from The New York Times and The Atlantic Monthly to HuffPost and Salon.
Her short article, straightforwardly titled “Scott Walker Wants Colleges to Stop Reporting Sexual Assaults,” claimed that his proposed state budget “has a non-fiscal bombshell tucked in between its insane pages”:
Under Walker's budget, universities would no longer have to report the number of sexual assaults that take place on a campus to the Department of Justice. Under Walker's plan, university employees who witness a sexual assault would no longer have to report it.
There are no policy recommendations in Walker's budget how or what would replace these reporting mechanisms. The Governor simply instructs that they should be deleted.
Vargas-Cooper went on in a weak attempt to belittle Walker as “a small-time guy who is having a big-time moment by playing the conservative werewolf, a role Chris Christie and Jeb Bush are so far unwilling to play in their presidential bids.” She sneered at him as bearing the “CONSERVATIVE STRONG MAN card” – which is precisely the reason the left fears him so much: they recognize that Walker isn’t a soft RINO who can be counted on to roll over for them once he is in office, like the current Republican leadership.
Jezebel’s perpetually hate-spewing readership swallowed this false accusation whole and, in the comments section, responded predictably with head-exploding outrage, casual obscenities, and animated graphics called gifs in lieu of literate thought (“I can only express myself via gif” wrote one female commenter, which is no doubt true of her and much of the rest of Jezebel’s readers).
However, to paraphrase Vargas-Cooper herself, there was a non-factual bombshell missing from her article’s insane paragraphs: Walker neither wanted nor instructed the state university system to stop reporting sexual assaults. As noted by USA Today, it was the University of Wisconsin itself that asked Walker to delete a requirement that all 26 campuses report sex assault allegations to the state every year, because it already submits similar information to the federal government as well as posting that information on its website. USA Today also reported that Walker’s spokesperson confirmed that “protecting victims of domestic violence and sexual assault remains a top priority for the governor.”
But the left never apologizes and never plays defense (take heed, conservatives). So rather than Vargas-Cooper acknowledging the damning revelation about Walker and posting a retraction, she initially let the libelous headline stand and merely added an “UPDATE.” The original piece too remained unchanged, but at the bottom, Jezebel vaguely clarified that Walker was not at fault. Since the headline still reads as if Walker is waging a war on women, this is the newspaper equivalent of burying a retraction on page 17.
As reported at Newsbusters, The Daily Beast initially ran with the smear, as did blogger Ana Marie Cox, who later took down her tweet about Walker being “terrified of campus rape stats getting out.” The Feministing website declared that “With a swipe of the ‘delete’ key,” Walker “has eliminated efforts to combat campus rape from the state budget.” The progressive mouthpiece Rawstory repeated the false charge as well. Madison’s local progressive paper Capitol Times slyly wrote, “Does Scott Walker want colleges to stop reporting sexual assaults? It's not that simple.” Yes it is – the answer is no, but Jezebel and its cohorts in the media would rather not be bothered to acknowledge that because it’s more useful to spread the hateful lie that Walker is pro-rape.
Called out on Twitter about her hit piece, Vargas-Cooper dug in her heels with this begrudging bit of belligerence: “Ran an update on the Walker piece. Find another thing to be outraged about sweet, sweet Walkerites.” When Twitterites took her to task for this juvenile, bullying unprofessionalism, she doubled down: “Also, I'm not gonna apologize for reporting what was in the budget. Because that was in the budget. Ask your gov. to apologize for bad optix.” Right, it was in the budget – never mind that she lied about the entire context surrounding it and refused to apologize for it. The damage was already done, so for her it was “Mission Accomplished.”
But in light of the USA Today story, and after intense browbeating on social media, where conservatives actually have a voice, Jezebel finally issued another “update” – not described as a retraction – in which they announced that “We reported this piece without full context, and while this piece conveys factual information, omission of that context for that information presents an unfair and misleading picture. We regret the error and apologize.” The original headline smearing Walker still stands, however.
In the wake of that reluctant apology, the Daily Beast came out with a full-blown retraction blaming Jezebel but hinting that there were still problems with the sexual assault reporting requirement in Walker’s budget. At least they changed the headline to “Walker Unfairly Attacked on College Rape - ORIGINAL STORY RETRACTED.”
Finally, Vargas-Cooper herself broke down and admitted fault in a series of Twitter messages: “I realize now that it would have been worth a follow up phone call to Walker's office… So, you guys, Walker folk and media pundits alike, I screwed up… I know I said I wasn't going to say sorry but I hope you won't fault me for changing my mind.”
Welcome to the wonderful world of progressive journalism, where angry radicals in the guise of journalists don’t even bother pretending to care about the truth until they’re taken to task for it on social media. All that matters to the left is the total destruction of the target – in this instance, the Conservative Strong Man that progressives fear the most.
(This article originally appeared here on FrontPage Magazine, 3/2/15)