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The Decline and Fall of the Washington Examiner

By Eric Lendrum, Associate Producer

In this era of unprecedented levels of FakeNews, in which most mainstream outlets will go out of their way to smear, distort, and lie without reservation, it is increasingly important to find media outlets that are truly reliable, unbiased, factual, and hard-hitting. The Washington Examiner is, sadly, not one of them.

We have documented a list of the 13 most reliable outlets, which you can read here. But just as much as we need to keep an eye out for the most reliable, we also need to watch out for the most untrustworthy websites that claim to be “conservative.” Among these are the notoriously anti-Trump websites The Bulwark and The Dispatch, as well as the gradually-declining National Review.

But the one website that has, in its own way, become even worse than the blatantly anti-Trump publications, while still maintaining a relatively strong following, is The Washington Examiner.

The Examiner was once a reputable site, standing as an example of a successful conservative publication, both in print and online. It has headlined the likes of the talented Byron York, who still publishes his investigative reporting to this day, and has even earned recognition from President Trump for his work.

However, in recent years, the Examiner has taken a sharp turn for the worse, as its editorial section has become increasingly infested with more anti-Trump virtue-signaling and fundamentally anti-conservative screeds, in the name of “diversity of opinions” All this has truly achieved is a website that claims to be conservative but actually isn’t, which, to a certain degree, is even worse than the mainstream FakeNews outlets. At least an outlet like CNN doesn’t try to hide its bias anymore; the same cannot be said for the Examiner.

Comparing Patriots to Terrorists

The most recent, and perhaps most egregious, offense by the smug commentary class of the once-respected Examiner comes from a writer by the name of Quin Hillyer. Hillyer has not contributed much to society, having written for such publications as Washington Post, National Review, and The Guardian, among others. His one other major accomplishment is a failed congressional bid in 2013; in that year’s special election for Alabama’s 1st Congressional District, Hillyer came in fourth in the Republican primary, with only 14% of the vote (just over 7,000 total votes, out of 52,000 cast).

Hillyer recently wrote a piece regarding the handful of Republican Congressmen who stormed another one of Adam Schiff’s closed-door star chamber hearings, demanding more transparency in the ongoing “impeachment” process against President Trump.

What to most Americans was clearly a noble act by true patriots was, in the eyes of Mr. Hillyer, equivalent to domestic terrorism. In his piece, he declared that the 30 Republican members of Congress in question “made themselves the Antifa of Capitol Hill.”

It takes an astronomical level of delusion and dishonesty to even begin to think that this is a reasonable comparison. There could not be a greater difference between patriots such as Matt Gaetz, Steve Scalise, Mo Brooks, and Lee Zeldin (all of whom are on our list of the Top 20 most pro-MAGA politicians in the country), and the Anarcho-Communist domestic terrorists that are Antifa.

The notorious Black Bloc group routinely engages in acts of ultra-violence against anyone that crosses their path. Although they predominantly target Trump supporters for violent assault, they have been known to also attack journalists, and even innocent bystanders, including little girls and elderly couples. And let’s not forget that Congressman Scalise was shot and nearly killed by an Antifa member two years ago.

Yet somehow, in Hillyer’s twisted mind, elected officials who are fighting for their constituents and defending America’s core values against a tyrannical weaponization of the impeachment process are somehow just as bad as masked street thugs who prey on the innocent. This pathetic excuse for an op-ed should never have been allowed to see the light of day, and the fact that the Examiner saw fit to publish it speaks volumes about its editorial judgment (or lack thereof), and their real political mission.

But it’s not just enough that the Examiner has displayed poor political judgment; they have also broken some of the most basic rules of standard journalism in their attempts at factual reporting.

Plagiarism and Projection

The saga of Ilhan Omar’s extremely questionable – if not totally illegal – marriage remains one of the most bizarre, and not to mention deliberately under-reported, stories in the history of modern politics. It only recently came into national focus after President Trump explicitly mentioned it to reporters as he was boarding Marine One in July.

But there was intense investigative reporting being done on this scandal for several years before it finally gained mainstream attention. And for their work, the three original reporters involved saw their efforts blatantly plagiarized by one of the Examiner’s “rising stars,” in an effort to completely bury the work of the people who actually brought this story to light in the first place.

The bulk of the investigative reporting, including deep digging into official school records, divorce proceedings, and other evidence, was the work of PJ Media’s David Steinberg, whom we recently had as a guest on AMERICA First. Steinberg also credits Scott Johnson of the Powerline blog, and Preya Samsundar of Minnesota-based outlet Alpha News, who first began investigating the marriage and immigration fraud claims back in August of 2016.

Reporting on this story stretched from August of 2018 well into October, right before the midterm elections. While it was not expected to affect Omar’s easy election to Congress, it had definitely become common knowledge among those who were paying attention.

However, in June of 2019, the majority of this investigative work was shamelessly ripped off by the Examiner, in a piece co-authored by Tiana Lowe and John Gage, with the former doing much more on social media and in the mainstream media to putatively own this piece. Lowe, who formerly wrote for the National Review, was all too eager to promote the article at the time with a massive thread on Twitter, proudly touting the article as an “exclusive.” She claims that she flew to Minneapolis herself to “gather” the evidence and write the article, allegedly in the span of just 48 hours.

Lowe was first confronted on Twitter by One America News’s Jack Posobiec, who pointed out that Steinberg had reported on the discrepancy in Omar’s residential address eight months before Lowe’s piece was published. Lowe responded by claiming that the specifics of Omar’s address in Cedar Riverside were not mentioned anywhere in Steinberg’s work at PJ Media.

Steinberg himself responded, acknowledging that while his work did not include this particular detail, Samsundar did cite this evidence for Alpha News back in 2016. He further pointed out that Lowe’s “reporting” on possible perjury charges against Omar was all “my work – and nearly my words,” and requested that the Examiner “pull the piece.” Lowe was further criticized by other prominent media personalities, including conservative activist Ali Alexander, author Michelle Malkin, and Human Events editor-in-chief Will Chamberlain.

A side-by-side comparison between Steinberg’s article from August of 2018 and Lowe’s article does indeed confirm the similarity in even wording that is beyond coincidental, especially since Lowe does not attribute the work to Steinberg.

Steinberg: The above document depicts Omar, under penalty of perjury, attesting to the court that she has not had contact with her legal husband since June 2011.

Lowe: Under penalty of perjury, Omar wrote during divorce proceedings that she had not contacted or known the whereabouts of Elmi since the summer of 2011.

The very next day, Alexander claimed, allegedly from internal sources at Washington Examiner, that the outlet had opened an investigation into possible plagiarism on Lowe’s part. At the same time, the capitalized word “EXCLUSIVE” was dropped from the article’s title.

But that didn’t stop Lowe from continuing to promote the article as her own work, even appearing on Laura Ingraham’s Fox News show to further discuss what she “found” in Minneapolis.

Steinberg confirmed the plagiarism in another article at PJ Media several weeks later, initially declining to name names. However, Lowe doubled down about a month after the article’s publication, declaring that the original reporters who covered the story “did so without evidence and with malicious intent,” the latter of which apparently being code for “racism.”

Steinberg then called her out, by name, on Twitter, and also shockingly revealed that when he had first confronted the Examiner about the plagiarism, the response from an unnamed editor was that he “should be happy that [Washington Examiner] bothered to help spread our story, even without properly crediting our work.”

This arrogant response from the higher-ups at the Examiner, combined with Lowe ramping up her criticisms of those who dared to point out her plagiarism, seemed to indicate that any “internal investigation” (if there ever was one) ultimately let Lowe off the hook. Lowe apparently interpreted this as a sign that she was officially off the leash, and free to continue falsely claiming the work as her own, even if it meant indirectly slandering the very reporters whom she was plagiarizing.

At that point, with such overwhelming evidence, a sensible person would back off and let that be the end of it. A decent person would come clean and apologize, with a retraction and full acknowledgement of the work by Steinberg, Johnson, and Samsundar. But it turns out Tiana Lowe is neither.

On July 20, she wrote another article tripling down on her self-righteous act. The title says it all: “Trump alt-right hacks” had “hijacked” the Ilhan Omar story. In the article, she did include a link to Samsundar’s work and mentioned Alpha News by name; however, she then proceeded to dismiss Johnson and Powerline completely, accusing them of simply “resharing an anonymous post” from “a Somali-style Reddit iteration,” and nothing more. And once again, she conspicuously refused to name Steinberg or PJ Media.

So apparently, Lowe had a simple, if not outlandish, three-step plan:

Step 1: Blatantly steal someone else’s investigative reporting spanning the course of anywhere from eight months to three years, and claim it as her own.

Step 2: Double down when first called out, and accuse the original reporters of having “no evidence” and “malicious intent.”

Step 3: Triple down, and directly call some of the original reporters “alt-right” and “hacks” (the latter of which is classic projection), and accuse them of “hijacking” the conversation when they’re simply trying to point out that they broke the story in the first place.

And that doesn’t address the more absurd aspects of her second article, such as trying to tie President Trump to the alt-right. She also squeezed in some obligatory bashing of the President, calling him “ham-fisted” and “blockheaded,” and somehow being guilty of “tainting the waters” of this particular story just by mentioning it. She dismissed others who promoted the marriage story early on, labeling them “anti-Muslim activists” and “racists that lurk among the rocks of society.”

It seems as if Ms. Lowe might fit in better at Vox or Mother Jones. But chances are that when it comes to plagiarism, even those sites have higher standards than the Washington Examiner.

Furthermore, like other elitist “conservatives” in her age group, Lowe mistakenly believes that virtue-signaling to the Left and saying “I’m not like those conservatives” will spare her from the eventual conservative ghettos to which the Left wants to condemn all of us, on social media and – if we allow it – in real life.

Lowe doesn’t ever attempt to clarify what exactly makes her so much better and less “Islamophobic” than those who reported the story first; and even if she did, the Left couldn’t care less. She is still, at the end of the day, attacking one of their favorite darlings. This makes her just as much of a target for leftist backlash as any of the others who covered the story months before she did, without plagiarism.

Yet all Lowe wants is to punch right, inflicting not-so-friendly fire on those who would much rather be her allies in the greater cultural war, of which the Omar saga is a key part.

Obsessively Attacking a Minor

More recently, another member of the Examiner’s “best and brightest” who displayed their utter lack of professionalism and preference for petty vendettas is Bradley Polumbo (another alumnus of the dying National Review), who, as “deputy contributors editor,” has near-total control over the Examiner’s editorial section.

Apparently, Polumbo saw it as a suitable use of his time to write not one, but two hit pieces on 17-year-old C.J. Pearson, a conservative African-American who has been seen as a rising star of the Right for several years.

Polumbo decided to make a rather quaint comparison between Pearson and a newcomer to the political stage, the hysterical climate activist Greta Thunberg, with an added insulting caveat: He declared Pearson to be even worse. Using every possible left-wing talking point imaginable, he accused Pearson of “providing cover to a far-right movement,” while also accusing him, without any evidence, of using racist language.

He additionally used demeaning language to declare that Pearson was simply “just a teenager in over his head,” as if Polumbo himself – who is only 21 and graduated from college just this year – is somehow Pearson’s elder. Polumbo also attacked Pearson for a since-deleted tweet in which Pearson appeared to equate “white nationalism” with “loving your country.” Pearson explained in a follow-up tweet that he mistyped and meant to simply type “nationalism;” Polumbo not-so-conveniently left this tidbit out of his article.

But one was not enough, and Polumbo wrote a second article roughly one week later, this time in response to Pearson announcing that he had been hired by Turning Point USA, one of the most significant conservative organizations in the country (which has already faced baseless criticism from the Examiner in the past).

While Pearson took the major step of joining the largest conservative youth advocacy group in the nation, Polumbo again sought to demean him for his age, once more belittling him as “just a teenager” who Polumbo says will “wise up as he grows up.” He also repeated the debunked lie that Pearson allegedly defended white nationalism, and cynically accused Charlie Kirk and Turning Point of seeking to “cash in and exploit” Pearson for his youth and his skin color.

Once again, Polumbo remained completely oblivious to his own youth, at 21, while declaring that the 17-year-old Pearson to be naive, and also failed to see how demeaning – and even borderline racist – it was for him to accuse Pearson of essentially having no independent will or agency with which to make his own decisions. While someone like Greta Thunberg is exploited and bankrolled by wealthy global elites to serve as a vulnerable figurehead for “climate change” hysteria, Pearson is actually defying the indoctrination efforts against our youth and speaking out against racial stereotypes. The difference could not greater, not that it matters to Polumbo.

Such leftist rhetoric from an alleged “conservative” is nothing new, from the Washington Examiner or from Polumbo. He has previously claimed that illegal aliens are “less dangerous” than American citizens, has voiced his support for same-sex adoptions, claimed that pro-lifers should support birth control, called Republican college students “cowardly” for hiding their political views for fear of retaliation, and celebrated the notorious anti-Trump Congressman Will Hurd as “one of the good guys,” whose retirement was symbolic of an alleged “diversity problem” in the GOP.

All of this sounds just about right for a self-described “conservatarian,” who is basically just a leftist who doesn’t hate capitalism. But what marked this particular display of Polumbo’s brand of “Principled Conservatism” was the near-universal and high-profile backlash he received, from Ali Alexander, to the website Liberty Hangout, to David Reaboi. The best criticisms came from professional meme-master and friend of AMERICA First Carpe Donktum, who held nothing back in not one, not two, but three separate tweets calling out Polumbo for his immaturity and hypocrisy. Polumbo later defaulted to one of the most basic leftist tactics and referred to all of his critics as “alt-right Nazis.”

Pearson gave a rather calm and collected response, simply pointing out the lack of journalistic integrity on the Examiner’s part in Polumbo’s personal attacks (since Polumbo does describe himself as a “journalist” on Facebook), and predicting that the Examiner would soon “suffer the same fate of the Weekly Standard.”

Retaliation Pieces for Hurt Feelings

It is understood that reporters should expect some tough interviews over the span of their careers. If they actually do their job and maintain professionalism, they will keep their cool and stick to the facts, as well as adhere to basic journalism ethics. But the Examiner has demonstrated that such standards will all be thrown out the window if one of their minions’ feelings are hurt.

In the most recent episode of the Examiner tripping over its own feet and blaming someone else for the fall, another one of their youngest and newest “reporters,” Caitlyn Yilek, managed to get on the phone with Kellyanne Conway’s assistant, Tom Joannou. At some point during their conversation, Joannou specifically asked Yilek to take the duration of their talk as off the record. Shortly thereafter, Conway apparently walked into the room, found Joannou on the phone with a reporter, and joined the conversation.

What followed was yet another favorite leftist attack against Kellyanne being utilized by an alleged “conservative.” Conway explained her disdain for the fact that in a previous article of Yilek’s, in which speculation was made that Conway could become President Trump’s next Chief of Staff, she went out of her way to mention Conway’s political disagreements with her husband George, who rabidly hates President Trump.

Conway pointed out that this was a cheap tactic for slipping in petty personal attacks, and was demeaning a “powerful woman” by trying to undermine her marriage. Yilek falsely claimed on Twitter that Conway “threatened to investigate my personal life,” even though Conway said no such thing.

But perhaps most damning, the status of the conversation as either off-the-record or on-the-record was never clarified during the call. It was technically still off-the-record after Joannau requested it to be as so; Yilek then claimed that when Conway joined the call, “as per Washington Examiner policy and standard journalistic practice,” the call automatically reverted back to on-the-record.

However, later on in the same conversation, Yilek explicitly asked Conway if she wanted to go back on the record; Conway did not acknowledge the question with a “yes” or “no” answer, which, in professional journalism, would mean that the conversation was still off-the-record. Thus, the Examiner’s decision to publish the full audio and transcript was a direct violation of the most basic standards of journalism.

As Jordan Schachtel of the Institute of World Politics pointed out, this move amounted to the Examiner essentially issuing a “gotcha” hit.  The leadership of the Examiner confirmed this themselves, when editor-in-chief Hugo Gurdon issued a statement on the matter.

In the statement, Gurdon claimed that “off the record conversations…are not, and never have been, blanket coverage to shield people who pull a bait and switch.” Later on in the same statement, Gurdon then accuses Conway of “abusing, bullying, and threatening a reporter,” adding that “other organizations may agree to be played for saps, but the Washington Examiner won’t.”

However, as one Twitter user pointed out, this explanation essentially offered up two contradicting excuses for publishing the off-the-record conversation: Was the conversation implicitly understood to be on-the-record due to “a new person [picking] up the phone,” or was it published as retaliation for Conway being “mean”? Both cannot be true at the same time.

Between regurgitating one of the most basic and one-dimensional attacks against Conway, and retaliating by completely abandoning journalism ethics because of hurt feelings, this whole episode might as well have come from CNN’s “Abilio” Jim Acosta, instead of an ostensibly “conservative” publication.

Another Brick in the Wall

As stated at the beginning of this article, the Examiner may not have as blatantly anti-Trump overtones as the more niche publications seeking to attract the NeverTrump crowd, but the same hateful sentiments are clearly there for all to see.

This should come as no surprise when you consider who owns the Examiner. The paper is owned by MediaDC, which is owned by Clarity Media Group, which is owned by the Anschutz Corporation, named after multibillionaire Philip Anschutz.

Anschutz had previously owned The Weekly Standard after purchasing it from Rupert Murdoch in 2009, and oversaw its hard pivot into anti-Trump madness under editor Stephen Hayes and editor-at-large Bill Kristol. Their obsessive Trump hatred drove the Standard into the ground, and when Anschutz shut down the doomed publication last year, the intent was to see all of the Standard’s subscribers be absorbed by the Examiner.

It was only a matter of time, then, before strands of the Standard’s Trump Derangement Syndrome sneaked into the Examiner. It is unclear whether this occurred as an attempt to appease the handful of subscribers who (somehow) enjoyed the Standard’s anti-Trump virtue-signaling, or the scribblings of rogue agents like Yilek, Polumbo, Lowe, and Hillyer, but the end result is the same.

The Examiner is fast losing its credibility and any semblance of journalistic integrity or decency. As Twitter commentator Brandon Saario succinctly summarized: The Examiner used to be an enjoyable outlet, but has since turned into the likes of “[Lowe] and [Polumbo] always telling people how bad they are and how they are the perfect conservatives,” which “gets old after a while.”

Pearson’s prediction is certainly a sensible one, if the Examiner continues to let such petty ideologues and arrogant ladder-climbers dictate the standards of the editorial section. To that end, if the Examiner does eventually follow the Standard into the trash bin, then one particularly famous phrase would be most fitting as an epitaph for both the Examiner and the careers of some of the culprits mentioned above: “Pride comes before the fall.”

Eric Lendrum graduated from the University of California, Santa Barbara, where he was the Secretary of the College Republicans and the founding chairman of the school’s Young Americans for Freedom chapter. He has interned for Young America’s Foundation, the Heritage Foundation, and the White House, and has worked for numerous campaigns including the 2018 re-election of Congressman Devin Nunes (CA-22). He currently writes commentary and breaking news pieces for American Greatness.

AMERICA First is the newest nationally-syndicated radio show in the United States, part of the Salem Radio Network. The host, Sebastian Gorka PhD., served most recently as Deputy Assistant for Strategy to the President of the United States, Donald J. Trump, and is author of the New York Times bestselling book “Defeating Jihad.” His latest book is “The War for America’s Soul.” You can follow him on Twitter @SebGorka, on Facebook, and on Instagram @sebastian_gorka. AMERICA First is available on the iTunes podcast app, streams live at www.sebgorka.com, and is on YouTube. You can contact him here.