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FIRST ON FOX: Republican lawmakers sent scathing letters to teachers union American Federation of Teachers and journalism rating tool NewsGuard on Wednesday demanding information on their anti-misinformation partnership that would put NewsGuard on the devices of millions of American children.
“We can’t let this kind of left-wing propaganda into our schools, or let groups condemn so-called ‘misinformation’ while peddling it themselves. I’m not surprised that AFT is teaming up with an organization that ranks Chinese state-run media sites higher than American conservative sites, but I refuse to let it happen without a fight,” House Education Committee ranking member Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., told Fox News Digital.
“AFT has long demonstrated that its priority is politics, not education. It is painfully clear that NewsGuard does not have the judgement necessary to teach our nation’s children how to tell truth from fiction,” Foxx continued.
NewsGuard bills itself as a tool that allows internet users to access “trust ratings for more than 7,500 news and information websites” by adding a browser extension aimed to combat misinformation online, but conservatives believe the product favors liberal ideology. When the partnership was announced in January, a press release declared “the AFT’s 1.7 million members, tens of millions of kids they teach, and their families, can now receive free, real-time ‘traffic light’ news ratings and detailed ‘Nutrition Label’ reviews, via a licensed copy of NewsGuard’s browser extension, whenever they search the web for news and information.”
AFT President Randi Weingarten called NewsGuard a “great tool” to combat misinformation but many conservatives disagree.
“The collaboration between Randi Weingarten’s American Federation of Teachers and NewsGuard is not an honest attempt to separate fact from fiction. It’s yet another coordinated effort to politicize our academic institutions,” Rep. Burgess, R-Utah, Owens told Fox News Digital.
“Using biased ratings to referee free expression and opposing political viewpoints is un-American and harms the education of our children,” Owens continued. “I’m proud to work with Ranking Member Foxx and Chairman Banks to call out this alarming partnership.”
The letters, signed by Foxx, Owens and Rep. Jim Banks, R-Ind., and obtained by Fox News Digital, were sent to NewsGuard CEO Steven Brill and Weingarten.
“The left is obsessed with indoctrinating kids… Political advocacy groups should focus on people who are old enough to vote. They have no place in taxpayer funded public schools,” Banks said in a statement.
Banks also cited the Hunter Biden laptop controversy in his criticism of NewsGuard; The Federalist noted the site gave perfect or near-perfect credibility ratings to several mainstream news sites that heaped doubt on the laptop story by the New York Post and even suggested it was a Russian disinformation campaign.
The letters declared “AFT and NewsGuard have a history of demonstrating left-wing bias” and called the partnership “troubling,” singling out the tool for ranking “several Chinese state-run media outlets” higher than some conservative and far-right American news sources.
“It seems the AFT would prefer that American schoolchildren read this Chinese propaganda than read content from a right-leaning American media outlets, which is both absurd and unjust. These factors taken together demonstrate that NewsGuard is not qualified to determine the veracity of any news, let alone determine the truth for millions of American school children,” the letter said. “As members of Congress, it is our duty to investigate these efforts to politicize classrooms across the United States with a biased misinformation rating system.”
The letter also asks, “If NewsGuard has to issue a correction of a rating, such as in the case of the New York Post’s story on Hunter Biden’s laptop or the BuzzFeed publication of the discredited Steele Dossier, how do they plan on notifying students who may have visited that story and received an incorrect rating from NewsGuard?”
Foxx, Owens and Banks then called for NewsGuard and the AFT to respond to a series of demands within 30 days, including a description of the events that resulted in the partnership, a copy of the agreement, information on whether parents can opt out of NewsGuard being installed on their child’s school-issued device and an explanation of how parents will be educated on the tool.
The American Federation of Teachers did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
NewsGuard co-CEO Gordon Crovitz, a former publisher and opinion columnist of The Wall Street Journal, told Fox News Digital that his company looks forward to answering the questions and setting the record straight about the “apolitical process for rating news and information sources based on nine basic criteria of journalistic practice.”
“The legislators and their staff who drafted this letter seem misinformed about our process – and the results of that process, as well as our relationship with the American Federation of Teachers. We look forward to correcting the record,” Crovitz said, adding that NewsGuard assesses “every website using the same apolitical criteria is that many right-wing and left-wing sites get high trust scores as well as right-wing sites and left-wing sites getting low scores, with the results based on credibility and transparency criteria, not on politics.”
Crovitz defended his company as “an alternative to government regulation of content or to having to rely on the secret algorithms and terrible news judgment of the Silicon Valley platforms” and said an example is labeling “Russian disinformation site RT as highly untrustworthy years ago” when Google considered it credible.
“The legislators’ letter cites false information provided to them. For example, far from giving Chinese government ‘news’ sites high scores, we warn readers not to trust them,” Crovitz said.
Conservatives from the Media Research Center objected when the partnership between NewsGuard and the AFT was announced earlier this year.
“The left has found a dangerous and equally disingenuous new way to indoctrinate our children, without their parents knowing,” MRC president Brent Bozell said.
“NewsGuard is partnering with a national teacher’s union to bring their biased ratings into classrooms nationwide. This is as bad as CRT. In fact, it’s worse,” Bozell continued. “Like CRT, it is designed to push a leftist ideology on children, but unlike CRT, the left is not going to give it a name this time. This is purposely designed to go under the radar of public scrutiny.”
MRC associate editor Joseph Vazquez analyzed NewsGuard and found “extraordinary left-wing bias” in its ratings. The findings were cited in the letters sent on Wednesday by Republican lawmakers.
“Liberal outlets were rated 27 points higher on average than news organizations on the right,” Vazquez wrote.
The study, based on a list compiled by AllSides classified by their “bias” on a left-to-right scale, indicated that 93% of liberal sites were deemed credible, compared to only 66% percent of right-leaning outlets.
“According to NewsGuard’s skewed ratings, left-leaning outlets have substantially more ‘credibility’ on average than right-leaning outlets,” Vazquez wrote. “The trend is very disturbing.”
At the time, NewsGuard general manager Matt Skibinski dismissed the Media Research Center’s criticism.
“NewsGuard’s rating process is designed to be strictly apolitical and to review every site using the same standards. We do that by assessing each site using nine basic criteria that have nothing to do with politics,” Skibinski said.