If the measure of a political journalist is the vehemence, vitriol, and histrionics from partisans unhappy with the unassailable facts revealed by your work, then Salena Zito has got to be at the top of her game right now.
The Washington Examiner columnist and co-author of the groundbreaking examination of the 2016 presidential election The Great Revolt: Inside the populist revolution reshaping American politics, Zito faced a shadow ban from Facebook for her New York Post column explaining how Trump voters in the rust belt would be unmoved by the Manafort guilty verdict and the Cohen guilty plea from several days ago.
That story seemed to attract the attention of an anonymous Twitter user who made several attacks on Zito’s journalistic practices and called into question the veracity of her hundreds and hundreds of interviews which support her book as well as several of her regular columns.
Zito responded to each attack with a Twitter response of her own but the partisan attacks from activist journalists continued.
The Huffington Post published an attack from Ashley Feinberg which fleshes out the attacks from the anonymous Twitter account and utilizes Zito’s response only at the tail end of the column as an afterthought rather than highlighting the point by point response Zito offered.
Zito had plenty of supporters on Twitter singing her praises and coming to her defense (including this columnist) but Zito didn’t just sit back and let others fight her fight for her. Unlike other journalists who are under fire for alleged misreports (are you listening Mr. Bernstein?) Zito chose to go one step further and defended herself on live television.
She walked into the lion’s den and faced these accusations personally Sunday on CBS News’ Face the Nation.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Salena, I put Margaret on the— on the hot seat at the get-to. I’m going to ask you personally as well to respond to what has been some criticism of your journalism. The Huffington Post coming out with an article specifically about you saying you didn’t identify a Republican in a story specifically as Republican official and called into question a lot of your work. I’d like to give you the opportunity to respond to that.: Sure. As you can imagine this has been an interesting week for me. It all began through a series of tweets by an anonymous troll. And as the internet goes, it just expands and expands and expands. I addressed the questions that were asked to Ashley and also I put my own personal tweet out there addressing each— each issue that this anonymous person did. My editors have reviewed everything that I work for and all the places— news organizations I work for and they stand behind my work and so do I.
MARGARET BRENNAN: And you will be I think detailing some of this in the coming days—
SALENA ZITO: Yeah.
MARGARET BRENNAN: —beyond this conversation here. You also, though, have— have touched on or you— you mentioned some of the social media outcry. There’s been this outcry and some fund-raising on behalf of Republican congressman, particularly Kevin McCarthy on this idea that social media companies are censoring conservatives.
SALENA ZITO: Yeah.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Is there anything to that that you have experienced?
SALENA ZITO: Sure. I had a story that I wrote for the New York Post a day or so— a day or two after Cohen and Manafort had their, you know, lovely little legal issues come out where I went out and I— I talked to Trump voters to see, does this change you, does this take you away? And within twenty-four— I wrote the story, I posted it and in the morning it was gone. There was a notice that said it did not meet Facebook’s community standards. Received a flurry of direct messages and— and e-mails and so forth from people who also posted the story and said, hey, I put your story up and it’s gone. It’s marked as spam or again not me meeting community standards. So— and— and that was just a straight story. But the New York Post is considered a conservative publication, I work for two conservative news organizations along with The Washington Examiner and there is that impression that that happened.
Andrew Breitbart once told me that you can truly measure your effectiveness by the quality of people who are screaming things at you. If that’s the case, Ms. Zito is hitting all the right marks. She’s pissing off all the right people.
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