The Guardian distorted the words that WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, spoke at an interview given to La Republica’s Stefania Maurizi last week, according to one of the paper’s former employees.
Glenn Greenwald, writing for the Intercept, argued that The Guardian’s Dec. 24 second-hand report on Assange’s interview, which he had given the day before at the Ecuadorian Embassy, contained “two primary claims – both of which are demonstrably false.”
The first, Greenwald wrote, selectively distorts Assange’s views on Donald Trump’s victory, practically making him out to be a Trump apologist. Assange’s comments had merely stated that a Trump presidency, with “its looseness...means there are opportunities for change in the United States: change for the worse and change for the better.”
But while The Guardian may have wrongly interpreted this as praise, which Greenwald conceded could be construed as “sloppy and deceitful rather than an outright fraud,” their second claim, he argued, is “an even worse assault on basic journalism...and far more inflammatory claim: that Assange believes Russia is too free and open to need whistleblowing."
“But none of that actually happened. Those claims are made up,” wrote Greenwald, explaining that the sensationalist Guardian piece, written by Ben Jacobs, did nothing more than play into the paranoia of Hillary Clinton supporters regarding Russian meddling in the elections, for the sake of traffic.
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“(Ben) Jacobs’s 'work' consisted of nothing other than purporting to re-write the parts of that interview he wanted to highlight, so that he and The Guardian could receive the traffic for (Stefania Maurizi’s) work.”
In the original interview, Assange referred to the plethora of “vibrant” Russian-speaking blogs and media in that country as the reason why WikiLeaks does not see the need to operate there as a Western publication on the losing end of the competition. Additionally, the whistleblowing website has published over 800,000 documents referencing Russia and Putin, hardly a sign of preferentialism or bias, as the Guardian piece purports.
“What (Assange) says...is that Russian whistleblowers and leakers perceive that they have better options than WikiLeaks, which does not speak the language and has no place in the country’s media and cultural ecosystem,” explained Greenwald.
What’s worse, he argued, is that mainstream Western journalists have helped The Guardian’s sensationalist article go viral despite Maurizi repeatedly protesting the false claims being attributed to Assange based on her interview.
“While Western journalists keep re-tweeting and sharing The Guardian’s second-hand summary of this interview, they completely ignore Maurizi’s protests — for reasons that are both noxious and revealing,” he wrote, referring to the apparent abandonment of journalistic standards in the pursuit of selling papers.
While Greenwald admitted the “paper regularly produces great journalism,” he referenced its “blinding hatred for WikiLeaks,” with whom it parted ways after initially working together, as the impulse for such shoddy journalistic work.
“Its deeply emotional and personalized feud with Assange has often led it to abandon all standards when reporting on WikiLeaks,” Greenwald wrote, adding that the reporter’s own biases led him to “generally (bathe) in the immediate gratification provided by online praise for churning out pro-Clinton agitprop all year.”