Critics are blasting Washington Post fact-checker Glenn Kessler for his analysis of a story about a 10-year-old rape victim.
Earlier this month, Kessler published a fact-check titled, “A one-source story about a 10-year-old and an abortion goes viral.”
In the piece, Kessler mentions a report from the Indianapolis Star.
Kessler explained the article said three days after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, “An Indianapolis obstetrician-gynecologist, Caitlan Bernard, who performs abortions, received a call from ‘a child abuse doctor’ in Ohio who had a 10-year-old patient who was six weeks and three days pregnant.”
He added, “Unable to obtain an abortion in Ohio, ‘the girl soon was on her way to Indiana to Bernard’s care,’ the Star reported.”
Kessler noted the only source cited was Bernard.
“She’s on the record, but there is no indication that the newspaper made other attempts to confirm her account,” Kessler wrote.
Concluding his article, Kessler acknowledged the story is “very difficult” to check.
“With news reports around the globe and now a presidential imprimatur, however, the story has acquired the status of a ‘fact’ no matter its provenance. If a rapist is ever charged, the fact finally would have more solid grounding,” Kessler wrote.
The fact-check was then updated after Gershon Fuentes was arrested.
The Columbus Dispatch reported that “police say he confessed to raping the child on at least two occasions.”
Kessler took to Twitter to defend himself after receiving criticism over his reporting.
“The last line of this fact check was: ‘If a rapist is ever charged, the fact finally would have more solid grounding.’ Now, a rapist has been charged and the story has been updated. Getting lots of angry emails but journalism is an accumulation of facts,” Kessler tweeted.
He added, “And fyi, for more than a year I have had a policy of not reading notifications. It’s made life on this toxic platform much easier. So if you are screaming at [Glenn Kessler WP] I’m not hearing it. I do respond to thoughtful or provocative emails, though.”
And fyi, for more than a year I have had a policy of not reading notifications. It's made life on this toxic platform much easier. So if you are screaming at @GlennKesslerWP I'm not hearing it. I do respond to thoughtful or provocative emails, though.
— Glenn Kessler (@GlennKesslerWP) July 13, 2022
Still, Kessler received significant backlash.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) replied to Kessler’s tweet, saying, “80%+ of rapes go unreported to police. Should those be treated as false too? How do your opinions impact this coverage of assault? What impact have your actions had on that little girl and her family?”
She continued, “As ‘fact checker,’ how do your positions impact [Washington Post’s] coverage?”
This column is horrifying. Kessler contacted the reporter demanding sensitive info about their sourcing, which they have a responsibility to protect esp in a case like this. He wanted the child’s location (!!) & contacted CHILD SERVICES to find it.
How was any of this approved??
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) July 13, 2022
Ocasio-Cortez explained, “Then when he doesn’t get the sensitive information about a 10 year old survivor of sexual assault that he wants but isn’t entitled to, he proceeds to use space in a national newspaper to cast aspersions on her story and they PUBLISH IT! Proving why survivors don’t come forward.”
She argued, “At this point a ‘technically I’m covered’ doesn’t cut it. Those involved, including the leaders who published, should take true accountability for harm. What went wrong and what will change? This is disturbing and raises real questions regarding WaPo’s coverage of assault and abuse.”
At this point a “technically I’m covered” doesn’t cut it.
Those involved, including the leaders who published, should take true accountability for harm. What went wrong & what will change?
This is disturbing and raises real questions regarding WaPo’s coverage of assault & abuse
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) July 13, 2022
Check out more reactions below:
.@GlennKesslerWP denied the existence of a raped, pregnant 10-yr-old girl. Then he whined how he had equivocated in the last sentence. Then he said he wouldn't bother to read comments, unless they were emails. But he didn't provide his email, which is [email protected] https://t.co/VYtSIthHoX
— Shawna Roberts (@RobertsOhioD6) July 14, 2022
They fired Felicia Sonmez, but this guy is considered capable of an unbiased "fact check" on rape. Got it. https://t.co/1YAZhDrFsx
— Kate Harding (@KateHarding) July 14, 2022
If you need police "verification" of rape when most victims are women/girls and most cops are men, you're saying you need a man's word to believe a victim. https://t.co/yr0NKtzxMa
— Wagatwe Wanjuki 🇰🇪 🇧🇸 (@wagatwe) July 14, 2022
So then what differentiates your "fact-checking" from standard analysis and reporting if your "fact-check" gets debunked within hours? Seems like this is just a personal branding exercise that assigns you an artificial authority over "facts." https://t.co/34YIh8PHBE
— Emma Vigeland (@EmmaVigeland) July 14, 2022
Maybe believe victims — and wait it out — instead of taking Fox News bait and perpetuate the smear? https://t.co/dfnbGFcsY3
— Michelangelo Signorile (@MSignorile) July 14, 2022
This is wild and abhorrent misunderstanding of sexual assault, and especially when it involves a minor. https://t.co/r15d6O2e3V
— Elizabeth Spiers (@espiers) July 14, 2022
Fuentes has been charged with rape, a felony in Ohio.
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