Journal Defends Its Role in Alito's Attack on ProPublica

Headline criticized investigation of justice before it was published
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 22, 2023 6:05 PM CDT
Journal Defends Its Role in Alito's Attack on ProPublica
Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito speaks at the University of Notre Dame Law School in South Bend, Indiana, in 2021.   (Michael Caterina /South Bend Tribune via AP)

Journalists, especially the ones at ProPublica, are wondering how the Wall Street Journal could have criticized an investigation into Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito's possible ethics violations before the article had been published. Two ProPublica reporters had emailed questions to Alito on Friday with a request to reply by noon Tuesday, the New York Times reports. Instead, Alito wrote an article of his own defending his decisions to take a fishing trip on a hedge fund billionaire's tab without including it in a financial disclosure report. The Journal published that article Tuesday evening on an opinion page under the headline, "Justice Samuel Alito: ProPublica Misleads Its Readers."

ProPublica published its investigation several hours later, meaning the Journal had printed a shot at the article before anyone had read it. The Journal answered Thursday with another opinion piece, saying it didn't need to read the investigation. "We saw ProPublica's list of 18 questions and had a good idea of where the reporters were going," the piece says. "The story proved us right." ProPublica's editor-in-chief pointed out that the the Journal attacked his publication without asking for our comment, which is pretty standard in journalism. "We're curious to know whether the Journal fact-checked the essay before publication," Stephen Engelberg said.

A Columbia University professor said the Journal could not have factchecked Alito's assertions, of course, because ProPublica hadn't yet published. Rod Hicks of the Society of Professional Journalists called it "quite uncommon for a news outlet to allow an official to use its platform to respond to questions from a different outlet." The Journal's editorial board also accused ProPublica of inventing "a non-scandal built on partisan spin intended to harm the Justice and the current Court majority," per the Hill. (More Samuel A. Alito stories.)

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