Editors of The Wall Street Journal’s
opinion page last week defended their decision to publish a letter to the editor from former President Trump that included falsehoods
about election rigging. They said readers can decide for themselves whether
Trump’s statements were factual, and that he makes news as a possible candidate in the next presidential election.
The paper wasn’t validating Trump’s claims by running
his letter, but the apologia was necessary after a handful of critics questioned the judgment of its editors.
Newspapers typically don’t publish claims their editors know are false,
deceitful or pointless. Otherwise, opinion pages would resemble the unmoderated comments sections on websites.
The WSJ’s editors must have known Trump’s claims about the
2020 election were bogus. His letter was written in response to an editorial that said Trump had lost Pennsylvania by 80,555 votes.
“Well actually, the election was
rigged, which you, unfortunately, still haven’t figured out,” Trump wrote, followed by a list of 20 bullets points about alleged inconsistencies
in voter tabulations.
egregious claim is that about 72,000 votes in Pennsylvania were returned after the election deadline and “shouldn’t have been counted.” Those ballots weren’t in the final tally
after Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito ordered election officials to segregate them.
In explaining its reasons for publishing the letter, the WSJ’s editors
also refute some of Trump’s claims by citing other news reports or speculating that some of his figures came from “amateur spelunking into voter data.”
Publishing Trump’s letter isn’t a sign the WSJ’s editorial page is soft on the former president. It did ask Trump to resign after he incited the Jan. 6 riot on Capitol
Hill and has published editorials that refute his claims of election fraud.
Instead of running Trump’s letter as it was, the paper should, at least, have counterbalanced
his allegations, perhaps with an accompanying piece to help readers decide the veracity of those claims.
Trump has sowed plenty of public doubt, with two-thirds of Republicans saying they
believe the election was rigged and stolen from him, according to a Yahoo
News-YouGov poll. He will continue to harp on that theme of rigged elections, and get his message across to voters without the WSJ’s help.