Vox Apologizes for Labeling Trump Fan ‘Pizza Party Ben’ an ‘Anti-Semite’

Vox Media was forced to issue a humiliating correction and apology today after falsely labelling popular social media figure, Donald Trump supporter, and Breitbart contributor “Pizza Party Ben” an anti-Semite, after Breitbart challenged the website to justify the label.

In an email which can be read in full below, Breitbart asked why Ben, a popular conservative new media figure, was referred to as an anti-Semite with no evidence offered.

“The clear implication of your words is that Twitter user @PizzaPartyBen is an anti-Semite and that Donald Trump lifted a joke about Disney’s Frozen from the @PizzaPartyBen Twitter account,” we wrote to Vox editor Lauren Williams.

Ben is known to Breitbart News and to me personally. We have verified his real-world identity during fact-checking for previous reporting… We have also published him on our site, having verified his identity…

You are of course entitled to the view that Donald Trump has anti-Semitic supporters. You are not entitled to libel specific individuals without evidence.

You will appreciate that careless allegations like this can have consequences for reputations, careers and personal lives. Your allegation that he is anti-Semitic based based purely on a light-hearted joke online about a Disney movie is — to put it charitably — exceedingly flimsy.

Ben says is sometimes associated with the alt-right owing to his enthusiastic support of Donald Trump but that he is not a member of it and does not identify with it. Ben says that he is not an anti-Semite, and that he has a Jewish boyfriend.

Breitbart then put forward the following series of questions:

– What is it about this tweet that your reporter found offensive or bigoted?

– Do you think it is reasonable to allege that any person making any satirical remark or joke related to any Jew, Jewish issue or the Star of David is fair game for allegations of anti-Semitism?

– What steps did you take to verify that the person you accused of anti-Semitism was a real person?

– What steps did you take to confirm or discover his identity?

– What steps did you take to ascertain whether or not he had anti-Semitic intentions or any history of anti-Jewish remarks online? Did you, for example, perform a search of his tweets, approach him for comment or in any other way seek to substantiate your allegations?

– What legal or editorial precautions did you take before publishing this defamatory article? How many editors were involved in making this decision?

– Ben tells us he is considering private legal action as your baseless allegation has the power to do him reputational harm. Will you be offering an apology and retraction for wrongly associating him with anti-Semitism to avoid this?

Minutes after the email was sent, Vox changed the title of the story from “Donald Trump used an anti-Semite’s Frozen meme to defend his other anti-Semitic meme” to “Donald Trump used an alt-right Frozen meme to defend his other Star of David meme”.

The update was labelled with a correction, stating: “The headline has been changed to better reflect the origins of the Frozen meme.”

Williams issued the following apology shortly afterwards.

Thank you for your note. Our editors recognized the issues raised by the headline earlier today, at which time we changed the headline and added a correction to the piece. We have also deleted the tweet with the incorrect headline from our house account, and Matt Yglesias has deleted the tweet from his account. We regret having published the initial version of the headline.

You can read the full request for comment sent by Yiannopoulos below:

Dear Tara, Matt and Ezra,

We are preparing a story for publication about reporting standards at Vox, in particular your accusation that Twitter user @PizzaPartyBen is an “anti-Semite” in a report published today by Tara Golshan, titled “Donald Trump used an anti-Semite’s Frozen meme to defend his other anti-Semitic meme.”

http://www.vox.com/2016/7/7/12116242/trump-frozen-antisemitic-meme-clinton

Similar language was used by your co-founder Matthew Yglesias on Twitter.

https://twitter.com/mattyglesias/status/751059709646503936

Your reporting does not name the @PizzaPartyBen account but links to this tweet.

https://twitter.com/PizzaPartyBen/status/750575432106467329

The clear implication of your words is that Twitter user @PizzaPartyBen is an anti-Semite and that Donald Trump lifted a joke about Disney’s Frozen from the @PizzaPartyBen Twitter account.

Ben is known to Breitbart News and to me personally. We have verified his real-world identity during fact-checking for previous reporting.

http://www.breitbart.com/tech/2016/03/29/an-establishment-conservatives-guide-to-the-alt-right/

We have also published him on our site, having verified his identity.

http://www.breitbart.com/tech/2016/05/18/little-benji-throws-twitter-tantrum/

You are of course entitled to the view that Donald Trump has anti-Semitic supporters. You are not entitled to libel specific individuals without evidence.

You will appreciate that careless allegations like this can have consequences for reputations, careers and personal lives. Your allegation that he is anti-Semitic based based purely on a light-hearted joke online about a Disney movie is — to put it charitably — exceedingly flimsy.

Ben says is sometimes associated with the alt-right owing to his enthusiastic support of Donald Trump but that he is not a member of it and does not identify with it. Ben says that he is not an anti-Semite, and that he has a Jewish boyfriend.

We therefore have a few questions.

– What is it about this tweet that your reporter found offensive or bigoted?

 – Do you think it is reasonable to allege that any person making any satirical remark or joke related to any Jew, Jewish issue or the Star of David is fair game for allegations of anti-Semitism?

 – What steps did you take to verify that the person you accused of anti-Semitism was a real person?

 – What steps did you take to confirm or discover his identity?

 – What steps did you take to ascertain whether or not he had anti-Semitic intentions or any history of anti-Jewish remarks online? Did you, for example, perform a search of his tweets, approach him for comment or in any other way seek to substantiate your allegations?

 – What legal or editorial precautions did you take before publishing this defamatory article? How many editors were involved in making this decision?

 – Ben tells us he is considering private legal action as your baseless allegation has the power to do him reputational harm. Will you be offering an apology and retraction for wrongly associating him with anti-Semitism to avoid this?

 We go to press in a few hours.

 All best,

 Milo


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