(The following article originally appeared in the July 7, 1993 issue of the now-defunct Lower East Side alternative weekly, Downtown).
The editorial policies of A.P. have long been criticized by U.S. anti-war radicals for their pro-U.S. Establishment political biases. In 1912, for instance, U.S. anti-war radical presidential candidate Eugene Debs wrote the following in a letter of protest to the general manager of A.P.:
“Pardon me if I give you just an instance or two of my personal experience. During the heat of the Pullman strike, when the Pullman cars were under boycott, the Associated Press sent out a dispatch over all the country that I had ridden out of Chicago like a royal prince in a Pullman Palace car while my dupes were left to walk the ties. A hundred witnesses who were at the depot when I left testified that the report was a lie, but I could never get the Associated Press to correct it. This lie cost me more pain and trouble than you can well imagine, and for it all I have to thank the Associated Press, and I have not forgotten it.
“During the last national campaign, at a time when I was away from home, the Associated Press spread a report over the country to the effect that scab labor had been employed to do some work at my home. It was a lie, and so intended. I had the matter investigated by the chief union organizer of the district, who reported that it was a lie, but I was never able to have the correction put upon the wires. That lie is still going to this day, and for that, and still others I could mention, I have also to thank the capitalistically owned and controlled Associated Press.”
After his expose’ of the U.S. meat packing industry in the best-selling 1905 muckraking novel, The Jungle, created some popular pressure for passage of some kind of pure food law, Upton Sinclair attempted to interest A.P. in sending more news about the unhealthy practices of this industry over the A.P. wires. But although “The Associated Press was the established channel through which the news was supposed to flow,” according to Upton Sinclair’s The Brass Check, “the channel proved to be a concrete wall…as thick as all the millions of dollars of all the vested interests of America can build it.” According to Sinclair, “I first telephoned, and then sent a letter by special messenger to the proper officials of the Associated Press, but they would have absolutely nothing to do with me or my news” and “Throughout my entire campaign against the Beef Trust, they never sent out a single line injurious to the interests of the packers, save for a few lines dealing with the Congressional hearings, which they could not entirely suppress…”
In a 1937 article, Fortune magazine also noted that in 1926 “an A.P. reporter, at the insistence of Assistant Secretary of State Olds, wrote a dispatch about the `specter of Mexican-fostered Bolshevik hegemony’ in-between the U.S. and the Panama Canal” which proved to be “a piece of utter claptrap.” Fortune also observed that former Nation publisher Oswald Garrison Villard once declared the A.P. wire service “constitutionally incapable of doing justice to the underprivileged.” (end of part 6)
Next: The A.P. News Trust’s Special Influence: A 1990s Look At The Associated Press—Part 7