The Founders Had a Plan to Deal with 'Fake News' 229 Years Ago


The Daily Signal’s Jarrett Stepman and Fred Lucas in a recent “The Right Side of History” podcast contended the founders were fully aware of so-called “fake news” and created the best mechanism for dealing with it.

“This idea that fake news is a new phenomenon, it’s not really accurate. It’s been around for a long time,” said Stepman, who is an editor with the news outlet.

He noted that at the time of the nation’s founding in the 18th century there were partisan newspapers, with some even owned by the politicians themselves.

Stepman and Lucas discussed in that era and into the nation’s early years false stories were being propagated, with some even involving Russia.

When John Quincy Adams ran for president, one widely reported tales had him providing an American prostitute to the Russian czar, while he was serving as an ambassador in St. Petersburg.

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Meanwhile, his opponent Andrew Jackson’s wife was accused of being an adulteress and reportedly grew so ill from the stress caused by press reports that she died shortly after her husband was elected.

“The founders were no fools. They understood the issue of both the idea of fake news and fraudulent stories and also the idea that newspapers created the American Revolution,” said Lucas, the Daily Signal’s White House correspondent.

“I think the best truth detector against fake news for that matter, just biased news is more free speech, more free press, rather than any kind of commission like is being set up in these European countries,” he also stated.

The conversation on the founders and the press begins around the 25-minute mark in the podcast below.

Do you think the American people are the best judge of what fake news is?

Stepman quoted Thomas Jefferson, who wrote, “I am for the freedom of the press and against all violations of the Constitution to silence by force and not by reason the complaints or criticisms, just or unjust, of our citizens against the conducts of their agents.”

“It is so difficult to draw a clear line of separation against the abuse and the wholesome use of the press that as yet we have found it better to trust the public judgment, rather than the magistrate with the discrimination between truth and falsehood,” the nation’s third president added. “And hitherto the public has performed that judgment with wonderful correctness.”

Lucas pointed out that nearly all the fake news storied over the last year were “smoked out” by other media outlets.

“That’s always been the best check on the fake press is a free press,” Stepman agreed.

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Last month, the Trump administration released its top fake news stories of 2017, Fox News reported.

Among them were New York Times columnist Paul Krugman’s prediction that the stock market would “never” recover if Trump became president.

However, CNN took most of the prizes including its reporting on the Trump campaign having early access to Wikileaks leaked documents and false reports about a Trump campaign associate having ties to Russia.

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Randy DeSoto has written more than 3,000 articles for The Western Journal since he joined the company in 2015. He is a graduate of West Point and Regent University School of Law. He is the author of the book "We Hold These Truths" and screenwriter of the political documentary "I Want Your Money."
Randy DeSoto is the senior staff writer for The Western Journal. He wrote and was the assistant producer of the documentary film "I Want Your Money" about the perils of Big Government, comparing the presidencies of Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama. Randy is the author of the book "We Hold These Truths," which addresses how leaders have appealed to beliefs found in the Declaration of Independence at defining moments in our nation's history. He has been published in several political sites and newspapers.

Randy graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point with a BS in political science and Regent University School of Law with a juris doctorate.
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
Graduated dean's list from West Point
United States Military Academy at West Point, Regent University School of Law
Books Written
We Hold These Truths
Professional Memberships
Virginia and Pennsylvania state bars
Phoenix, Arizona
Languages Spoken
Topics of Expertise
Politics, Entertainment, Faith