Mother Jones’ Stephanie Mencimer Slanders America’s Frontline Doctors, Petition, with Baseless Smears

  • Mencimer’s article slanders and lies about America’s Frontline Doctors and their petition to deny vaccines to children under 16 years of age. 
  • She uses straw man arguments to take down vaguely associated persons, attempting to cast negative light on the petition 
  • Mencimer fails to address or even cite anything from the actual petition she attacks

OUR RATING = #FakeNews. This is what you’d expect on CNN playing to an empty airport.

Indicted Outlet: Mother Jones | Stephanie Mencimer | Link | Archive 

There is so much false and unverified information in Mother Jones reporter Stephanie Mencimer’s article that it is overwhelming to keep track of it all. She throws out names and slanders them left and right, providing no evidence for most of her allegations. 

We will focus on the two most significant journalistic crimes: that she calls America’s Frontline Doctors and its petition to deny COVID vaccines to children under 16 ‘right-wing conspiracy’ theories, and that she uses those unfounded slanders to bait-and-switch topics to mask a lack of information about the vaccine petition that her article indicts. 

Major Violations

  • Opinion as fact 
  • Lying 
  • Bait and Switch 

It’s a bad development in American journalism that anything that is a minority view is now labelled a “conspiracy theory” even when supported by facts, precedent, evidence, and more. This phrase serves to stifle debate, inquiry, investigation, and journalism. It is a loaded phrase that any responsible journalist would seek to avoid applying, and should certainly be alert to using it for partisan and political purposes, but Mother Jones is such a shamelessly partisan outlet that they clearly don’t care about that at all.

The main journalistic malpractice in the article is citing America’s Frontline Doctors as “right wing conspiracy theorists” with no evidence to support that claim. Mencimer pulls the classic liberal trick of assuming that her opinion is fact— she doesn’t feel the need to do any actual reporting, but simply tells her readers what she wants to be true.

The label is the argument. The application of a pejorative phrase constitutes the entire argument. Imagine if, on the right, they simply labelled everything to the left as “Communist” and then acted as though their inappropriate use of the term was evidence in and of itself. 

We say it’s a conspiracy theory, so therefore it is. We say it’s a conspiracy theory, and therefore it should not be believed and should be dismissed.  

Mencimer starts strong, with a lede bathed in bias and lacking any evidence: 

“On Friday, America’s Frontline Doctors (AFLDS), a group [sic] right-wing physicians that has helped spread misinformation about the COVID pandemic, along with a handful of parents and doctors, asked a federal court in Alabama to block the emergency use authorization (EUA) for the COVID vaccine use in 12-to 15-year-olds.” 

She then fails to back any of this up, and fails to elucidate further exactly what “misinformation” they spread. 

In reality, AFL provides information opposed by and suppressed by mainstream media. I am not exactly sure where she gets the ‘conspiracy theory’ idea from, but here at the five latest sensible and informative articles AFL published: COVID-19 PCR-Test: Knowledge is Suppressed [1], “‘Unprecedented’: Adolescents 12 and up may consent to receive a Pfizer Shot” [2], “‘China is about to attack’” [3], “Watch RC the Rapper: Just Say No” [4], “Dr. Zelenco Calls Child Vaccine Mandate ‘coercive human experimentation, crimes against humanity’.” [5]

These do not look like biased, frantic conspiracy theories, but thoughtful reporting. What is more, each article is thoroughly cited with actual SCIENTIFIC evidence for its claims — unlike Mencimer’s article.

Further, other outlets than AFL agree that children should not take the vaccine because it poses more of a threat than a harm. At the height of the pandemic in May, children comprised only 3% of COVID cases, according to the CDC. [6] Meanwhile only 0.04% of COVID deaths are under the age of 18. [7] The CDC also reported that the rates of underlying conditions in children who DID contract COVID were far higher than in adults.  Right from the start, Mencimer uses her opinion as fact to directly lie about AFL and childhood vaccines and to slander anyone who distrusts the brand new medicine. 

The second major problem with the article is that Mencimer employs a bait-and-switch to distract readers from the fact that she provides NO information about AFL’s actual petition. She talks about the character of various individuals affiliated with the AFL, rather than actually discussing the argument behind why they think the vaccine could be bad for young children. 

This tactic is journalistically dishonest. It completely denies the reader an honest hearing of the dissident view.

First she attacks AFLDS founder Simone Gold’s character, introducing her as follows: 

“Gold, an emergency medicine doctor, is also a Stanford-educated lawyer who was indicted in February for taking part in the insurrection at the US Capitol on January 6.” 

Mencimer uses the weasel word “insurrection” and dubs Gold “capitol insurrectionist Simone Gold,” in the subhead to describe the capitol protest January 6 and Gold’s involvement in it. According to an article in American Greatness, the Jan. 6 protest was not an insurrection at all because NO firearms were found on ANY person in the Capitol that day — a requisite for ‘insurrection’ to apply. [8]

Ignoring the definition of insurrection however, Mencimer goes on to create a strawman argument surrounding lawyer Lowell Becraft Jr. who worked on the AFL petition. 

“The tax protest movement, according to the Anti-Defamation League, is the oldest far-right anti-government movement still in existence in the United States. Over the past few decades, it’s been closely linked to the “patriot” and “sovereign citizen” movements and some of its leaders have been affiliated with the anti-Semitic and racist Christian Identity theology.”

That claim is broad, sweeping, and without evidence. Mencimer provides no proof to support this conclusion, nor does she name any of these supposed anti-Semitic leaders or what they said or did that qualifies as anti-Semitic. It is a label without evidence. It is a smear without substance. 

Just because a person is said to be something by a group doesn’t mean that they are that thing. If according to the National Center on Journalism Mother Jones is a known-Communist front, that doesn’t make it so. If according to random person on Twitter that all journalists are racists, that doesn’t make it so. 

Qualifying an extremely toxic label to one group without any evidence is a baseless smear. It’s pure defamation and there’s a reason such actions are protected in law balanced against the right to free speech: you shouldn’t be able to lie about someone, even a public figure, with extreme factual claims you know are false.

Any responsible journalist would avoid doing this, but Mother Jones is trash journalism.

This is a major breach of journalistic trust. Essentially Mencimer took some information that she thought was probably true and asserted it as fact without sourcing it in a straight news piece. 

Mencimer continues on this tirade for SIX paragraphs after making the initial unsupported allegation that AFL is a right-wing conspiracy theorist group. It seems obvious that Mencimer cannot withhold her personal vendetta against these people long enough to focus on the topic at hand: the petition to stop the use of vaccines on children under 12. 

Readers should note when journalists use the smear so recklessly: it always signals that they are sloppy with facts, sloppy with research, and reporters who use these tricks and outlets that play along, should be extremely suspect as to their underlying ethics.

In fact the only evidence she gives to support her indictment is in a bait-and-switch statement comparing the petition to a completely different court case about vaccines which were not COVID vaccines, that a federal judge called “‘a jumble of alleged facts, conclusory and speculative assertions, personal and third-party allegations, opinions, and articles of dubious provenance and admissibility.”’

That journalistic malpractice is so serious it’s worth restating: to prove her point she said all anti-vaxxers are the same: people opposed to a non-COVID vaccine are the same as those opposed to the COVID vaccine. The failure in reporting here, and in giving any opportunity to dissident views to be respectfully presented and understood, is shameful by Mother Jones.

She writes: 

“That’s a pretty good description of the petition America’s Frontline Doctors filed in federal court last week, which puts the word “vaccine” in scare quotes because, as the lawyers explain, “Plaintiffs explicitly reject the term ‘vaccine’ as a description of the injections approved under EUA for use in reducing the symptoms of COVID-19.”

Her vagueries concerning what is actually in the petition makes me wonder if she has actually read it at all. 

The snark with which she relays the fact that the AFL refuses to call the ‘vaccine’ a vaccine reveals Mencimer’s obvious disapproval. But really, the CDC admits that this vaccine is not like other vaccines we have used. They are the first type of vaccine to use mRNA to trigger an immune response inside our bodies [9]. Granted that, the AFL asks an important question: ought these still be considered vaccines? 

By the end of the article Mencimer has still failed to mention any of the actual content of the petition or acknowledge any of the AFL’s legitimate concerns. Instead, she led readers on a bait-and-switch of baseless lies and slander about people involved, directly and indirectly, with AFL and some nasty things they may or may not have done. Who knows? Mencimer certainly doesn’t. 

OUR RATING = #FakeNews. This is what you’d expect on CNN playing to an empty airport.


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