The Mercury has begun descending into a den of right-wing misinformation. As former editors-in-chief, it is heartbreaking to watch the paper that we worked to make a legitimate outlet become weaponized in this way.
Jimmy Teeling’s Feb. 1 op-ed, “Stability through civility,” is emblematic of The Mercury’s recent habit of publishing opinion pieces that are demonstrably false at best and bigoted at worst.
One often-repeated – but misused – rule of journalism is to always tell both sides of a story. There are not, in fact, two sides to every story. Racism is wrong. The truth is the truth. Facts are not political. These aren’t up for debate.
There was a litany of problems in Teeling’s op-ed, from claiming that only a “few” Trump supporters stormed the Capitol when in fact hundreds were caught on camera doing so, to suggesting that supporters’ suspicion of voter fraud fueled the attack, despite no evidence of widespread voter fraud.
The author then quotes Martin Luther King, Jr. to justify the violence at the Capitol. How would King feel about his words being used to defend domestic terrorists and white supremacists? Teeling also attempts to draw a false equivalency between the Capitol riot and the violence at the Black Lives Matter protests last summer, failing to note that the latter occurred in response to repeated episodes of police brutality, extrajudicial killings and systemic racism.
Teeling’s use of legitimate news articles to support his revisionist claims was particularly problematic. He cites a USA Today article to claim Democratic politicians “encouraged the violent actions” from Black Lives Matter and Antifa protestors. The article he linked made no mention of Antifa, and the only violence discussed in the article referenced threats Rep. Ayanna Pressley received from white supremacists.
Additionally, the other article used to support his point of Democrats encouraging violence shows a tweet from Vice President Kamala Harris with a link to the Minnesota Freedom Fund, hardly a call to arms. Teeling also ignores the fact that several Capitol rioters have since come forward stating that they were following Trump’s orders.
Did The Mercury’s editors read through the sources Teeling cited? If the current Mercury administration is unwilling to engage in basic fact-checking, it has no business publishing opinions.
Teeling is free to rail against the “mainstream media” all he wants, but a cursory glance at the facts of the Jan. 6 attack make one thing clear: the only people responsible were the rioters, Trump and Republican lawmakers who stoked division by repeating false election fraud claims.
As former editors-in-chief, we’ve dealt with opinion contributors who have relaxed relationships with truth. Let us be clear: having the opportunity to write an opinion is not an excuse to peddle conspiracy theories. An opinion requires basis in fact. What we’ve seen from the current administration of The Mercury is a failure to hold opinion writers accountable to this very simple standard.