Higher Education

Trent England | January 26, 2024

False: Frontier’s phony fact checks

Trent England

As leftist bias and technological change wreak havoc on traditional journalism, some activist scribes have found a new model. They create a nonprofit funded by leftist billionaires and foundations, then make the laughable claim to “produce fair, accurate reporting.”

Such is The Frontier, an Oklahoma-based website. One of its tactics is the “fact check,” something I’ve written about at The Federalist. What caught my eye recently was a claim to fact-check “Oklahoma’s DEI scare.” Not the “DEI debate” or “claims about DEI,” but the “scare.”

They claim to fact-check five statements. To their credit, I suppose, they find four “true.” Except they qualify three of those as “true but misleading.” They might have said, “true but uncomfortable.”

One such claim is that OU “held identity-based graduation ceremonies.” Seems pretty straightforward, they either did or didn’t. And they did, according to The Frontier’s Ari Fife: “OU held five different identity-based graduation celebrations … based on race, gender identity or sexual orientation….” So how can this be “true but misleading”? Because diplomas were not awarded at these events; they were “celebrations” rather than “ceremonies.” Never mind that the words are synonyms and that the distinction is irrelevant to the point being made.

Another such claim: OU orientation included “drag queens and ‘queer tours.’” According to The Frontier’s Clifton Adcock, they did exactly that. But, but, but … they weren’t mandatory, there were lots of other events, and they “were not part of the university’s academic programs.” So the claim is true, but “misleading,” because Adcock is able to muster a few irrelevant facts about it.

The third item found “true” by The Frontier, but then characterized as “misleading,” comes from an OCPA story. The claim: “Oklahoma colleges spent $83 million on diversity programs.” The first line of Brianna Bailey’s analysis: “Oklahoma public colleges and universities reported spending $83.4 million over the past decade on diversity, equity and inclusion programs and personnel.” She basically just rewrites the first sentence of the OCPA article in question—there is no disagreement. But Bailey, like Adcock, has an ax to grind.

Bailey criticizes OCPA for not noting the percentage of total higher ed spending represented by the $83 million—particularly laughable given her recent hit piece on Superintendent of Public Instruction Ryan Walters for spending a whopping $4,000 on travel in a year. What percentage of state education funding is that? (Yeah, you guessed it, her article never says.)

The one “false” fact check was also written by Bailey, and also claimed to respond to OCPA. Yet Bailey apparently failed to do a simple web search, which would have shown that OCPA never made the claim that The Frontier claims to have found on an anonymous flier at the Capitol (for all we know, it could have been made by The Frontier itself—nobody at OCPA had ever seen it). The claim related to an OU group putting menstrual products in men’s bathrooms. That this has happened at OU is not in doubt, and OCPA believes about $8,000 of student fees have gone to the organization that apparently knows nothing about basic human biology.

OCPA has a mission, we advocate for it, and we want everyone to know it. Outlets like The Frontier hide behind preposterous claims of journalistic ethics to mask their own objectives. No wonder trust in the media continues to plummet.

Trent England David and Ann Brown Distinguished Fellow

Trent England

David and Ann Brown Distinguished Fellow

Trent England is the David and Ann Brown Distinguished Fellow at the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, where he previously served as executive vice president. He is also the founder and executive director of Save Our States, which educates Americans about the importance of the Electoral College. England is a producer of the feature-length documentary “Safeguard: An Electoral College Story.” He has appeared three times on Fox & Friends and is a frequent guest on media programs from coast to coast. He is the author of Why We Must Defend the Electoral College and a contributor to The Heritage Guide to the Constitution and One Nation Under Arrest: How Crazy Laws, Rogue Prosecutors, and Activist Judges Threaten Your Liberty. His writing has also appeared in the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Washington Times, Hillsdale College's Imprimis speech digest, and other publications. Trent formerly hosted morning drive-time radio in Oklahoma City and has filled for various radio hosts including Ben Shapiro. A former legal policy analyst at The Heritage Foundation, he holds a law degree from The George Mason University School of Law and a bachelor of arts in government from Claremont McKenna College.

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