By: Mark Glennon*
The Jacksonville Journal-Courier ran a article February 9 written by The Center Square headlined, “Without income tax tax change, expect cuts.”
Governor J.B. Pritzker’s press secretary, Jordan Abudayyeh, tried to kill the article by having it taken down. She emailed the editor of the Journal-Courier February 10, the full text of which we’ve obtained and copied below. In it, she wrote,
[T]his ‘article’ is filled with mischaracterizations and devoid of any context…it would be prudent to take down this partisan content masquerading as news…. The Center Square/Illinois Radio Network is a partisan ‘news’ service. You can read more about their operations here from this extensive study by the Columbia Journalism Review…. In this time when quality journalism is under attack, I would hope that you would reconsider reposting free content that’s partisan and doesn’t fully explain the complex challenges facing the state.
Journalists across the state should be criticizing Abudayyeh’s effort because it was deceitful, malicious and completely unprofessional. Here’s why:
• The Center Square’s article was factually correct. It’s almost entirely about Pritzker’s statements that, if voters don’t approve a progressive income tax in November, he would reduce state spending across the board in future years.
But that’s exactly what Pritzker had been saying and continues to say today. That’s why opponents have been calling it the “scare tax.” Watch Pritzker, for example, in the video The Center Square posted with its original article. Pritzker now has built it into his proposed budget, which would cut discretionary spending if the tax hike isn’t passed.
• The Center Square is simply not among the publications heavily criticized in that Columbia Journalism Review article, as Abudayyeh claimed. See for yourself. Her claim is flat out false.
• Abudayyeh’s effort was not standard, acceptable criticism of an article but an attempt to discredit The Center Square entirely with a syndication partner. It’s perfectly normal and fair for politicians and their press flacks to call reporters or editors to complain about unfair coverage, but that’s not what Abudayyeh did. She didn’t even contact the author or his editors, according to The Center Square. Instead, she went behind their backs to and tried to smear them.
• Abudayyeh is dead wrong to say that The Center Square is partisan or biased. Its editorials are fiscally conservative and its coverage centers on issues important to taxpayers, but that doesn’t mean their work should be purged because it’s partisan or biased. Left-leaning publications focused on issues important to Pritzker? No problem. Right-leaning publications focused on issues he’d rather not hear about? Partisan and biased. Silence them.
• The article lacked “context,” Abudayyeh says. Ha! Read it yourself. It’s bland news on a narrow subject. If it really did put Pritzker’s claims into context it would take dozens of pages addressing Pritzker’s endless deceit about his Fair Tax and budget.
For example, had the story added context, it would have shown how spending wouldn’t need to be cut if the Fair Tax is defeated because savings from pension reform, if he’d allow them, could far exceed revenue he wants from the tax increase; that his “balanced” budget claims are nonsense; that he has grossly overpromised what can be accomplished with the new revenue; and that he’s been saying that, instead of spending cuts, taxes on everybody would have to go up with without the new tax on high earners, which contradicts his claim that 15 percent discretionary spending cuts would be needed.
I suspect something else set Abudayyeh off. Aside from the goal of smearing The Center Square and poisoning its syndication, I bet the headline on the article touched a nerve because it captures an angle that The Center Square may or may not have even considered. The headline, “Without income tax cut, expect cuts,” probably would elicit a loud “Yes!” from most Illinoisans.
I’ve had an article of my own in the queue for several weeks that I tentatively titled, “Pritzker says he will cut spending if no Fair Tax. Alright then?” Maybe Abudayyeh knows Pritzker’s scare tactics on the Fair Tax can backfire by making its defeat a promise of spending reform.
Abudayyeh has no excuse. She’s a former TV political reporter, anchor and producer. She surely knows better.
Malice, the standard for a defamation lawsuit if it were brought by The Center Square, means something written with knowledge of falsity or with reckless disregard for truth. If The Center Square suffers any damages from Abudayyeh’s email, I hope they know that shoe fits.
Finally, bravo to the Jacksonville Journal-Courier. They ignored Abudayyeh and let the article stand.
*Mark Glennon is founder of Wirepoints
I would like to flag this news article from Center Square/Illinois Radio Network: Without income tax change, expect cuts
This “article” is filled with mischaracterizations and devoid of any context in which the Governor talked about the budget challenges the state faces and how, as he said and is not reported, the state will have to manage through them. Ultimately, it would be prudent to take down this partisan content masquerading as news.
The Center Square/Illinois Radio Network is a partisan “news” service. You can read more about their operations here from this extensive study by the Columbia Journalism Review:https://www.cjr.org/tow_center_reports/hundreds-of-pink-slime-local-news-outlets-are-distributing-algorithmic-stories-conservative-talking-points.php
In this time when quality journalism is under attack, I would hope that you would reconsider reposting free content that’s partisan and doesn’t fully explain the complex challenges facing the state.
Please reach out with any questions or concerns. I’m more than happy to discuss!
Thank you for your time!
Office of Governor J.B. Pritzker