By Steve Schuster
New evidence was unveiled this week that the right-leaning Wisconsin Right Now site inaccurately reported a story involving the NAACP and a Wisconsin Supreme Court candidate, according to Clarence P. Nicholas, president of the NAACP Milwaukee.
As previously reported by the Wisconsin Law Journal on March 22, the NAACP sent a letter to Wisconsin Right Now on Wednesday demanding the retraction of a story they called “libelous and false” about their response to a story that Wisconsin Right Now published about Wisconsin Supreme Court candidate Janet Protasiewicz.
Wisconsin Right Now had reported that the NAACP demanded a review of Protasiewicz’s cases and accusations of racial slurs, a letter from NAACP states.
The Wisconsin Law Journal received a copy of the e-mail correspondence that the NAACP sent to Wisconsin Right Now.
In an email, Wisconsin Right Now asked the NAACP:
“Do you think Chisholm should launch a review into Protasiewicz’s cases in Children’s Court and elsewhere to determine whether racial animus affected her cases? Why or why not?”
The NAACP responded to Wisconsin Right Now in an email saying:
“We have a number of cases that are affecting individuals at present that weigh far more than an “accusation,” we hope that he will respond to immediately.”
In an email to the Wisconsin Law Journal, NAACP Milwaukee President Nichloas said:
“I did not respond to the above question as you can see. I used the fact that DA Chisholm has a number of individual cases from the NAACP we would rather have him to investigate instead (not to mention any at this time).”
Wisconsin Right Now had inaccurately claimed that the NAACP had demanded an investigation, Nichloas said.
On March 31, Nicholas told the Wisconsin Law Journal that Wisconsin Right Now still hasn’t responded to their March 22 letter.
Protasiewicz’s campaign told the Wisconsin Law Journal on March 22 that despite a Journal Sentinel story to the contrary, Protasiewicz has no plans to sue over allegations published in the Wisconsin Right Now story.
A Protasiewicz campaign spokesperson said, “there are no plans at this point in time to turn this into a legal matter.”
The Wisconsin Right Now story in question claimed Protasiewicz engaged in elder abuse and used racial slurs, a campaign spokesperson said.
Protasiewicz and several other sources have said the claim is false.
“Spreading outright lies in an attempt to win this election should be beneath any candidate, but it shows how low an extremist like Dan Kelly is willing to sink to distract voters from his pathetic campaign and pattern of corruption,” said Sam Roecker, a Protasiewicz campaign spokesman. “These claims are completely false, devoid of proof and are only being made by a bitter, discredited, drug-dealing felon who will say anything to get attention. Judge Janet Protasiewicz has served the people of Wisconsin with honor and integrity for more than three decades and she is the only candidate in this race who will return integrity to the Wisconsin Supreme Court.”
Wisconsin Right Now issued a statement in response.
“Janet Protasiewicz’s threat to sue is a tactic to intimidate the news media into continuing to censor these stories, which voters have a right to know about and which she is desperate to hide.”
Both the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and the Wisconsin Law Journal did not report the story initially because the allegations could not be confirmed by a credible source.
The Wisconsin Law Journal reached out to three of the sources provided by Wisconsin Right Now; one of the three sources said they had observed the allegations. The source provided inconsistent information and, as the Journal Sentinel described him, he had “a checkered past.” He is a convicted felon who served time on drug charges.
The same source told the Wisconsin Law Journal that these allegations happened in the 1990s, but decided just now to come forward less than two weeks before the hotly contested Wisconsin Supreme Court election.
The source further stated that there was no audio or video recording of the alleged racial slurs or alleged elder abuse. He further stated that there was never any court record or police report about the alleged elder abuse.
Several news outlets across the country have told the Wisconsin Law Journal that they were pressured into doing a story about the allegations by Wisconsin Right Now, but the majority of media outlets passed on pursuing the story because of the initially questionable sources.
Wisconsin Right Now also falsely claimed that the NAACP demanded an investigation by the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s Office, Protasiewicz’s campaign said. The NAACP sent Wisconsin Right Now an official letter demanding retraction of the story.
During a telephone interview with the Wisconsin Law Journal on March 22, Jessica McBride denied ever receiving the retraction letter from the NAACP. McBride was one of the article’s authors.
“We never received any letter or communication from the NAACP,” McBride said.
The NAACP letter said, “Your libel story reporting on behalf of the NAACP and President Clarence P. Nicholas must be retracted immediately.”
“State in your retraction that Clarence P. Nicholas, Milwaukee NAACP President said no to the question “Should DA Chisholm launch a review into Protasiewicz’s cases …”
McBride said if / when she receives a copy of the letter, “there is nothing to retract. We quoted them accurately.”
McBride, who is now a journalism instructor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, said Wisconsin Right Now has won three Milwaukee Press Club Awards for their investigative reporting. She said that if the mainstream media continues to only tell one side of the story, they will lose half their audience.
McBride has been posting social media attacks against the mainstream media, naming some reporters by name.
When asked why McBride felt the need to attack journalists she said, “I am criticizing journalists for their double standards and censorship and I hope they do better.”
In one case, McBride posted a secretly recorded conversations with a New York Times reporter, Reid Epstein.
In response to the Wisconsin Law Journal’s question, McBride admitted she recorded the conversation and said, “Wisconsin is a one-party consent state for recording.”
In response to questions if that was ethical, McBride then said, “I was mostly just recording myself.”
Jim Piwowarczyk, the second author, is also known for his campaign work with Protasiewicz’s opponent, Republican candidate Dan Kelly, a source said.
In a Facebook post, Piwowarczyk wrote “Any active duty police officers willing to public endorse Dan Kelly, Please PM me or email me at …”
Piwowarczyk could not be reached for immediate comment.
McBride continued to attack the media during her interview with the Wisconsin Law Journal.
“Why are you, the media asking me tougher questions than Janet? I’m not running for state Supreme Court,” McBride said.
In the meantime, a screenshot of a Twitter conversation from a group called “Wisconsin Republicans,” a user wrote “I could doctor a couple of videos or articles about how she (Janet) said the N word or something.” Shadow Governor Vos, a member of the chat, responded, “I love the idea.” When confronted about it on Twitter later, the Shadow Governor Vos account confirmed its participation and responded “smear campaigns are part of politics lmao deal with it.”
“In what may or may not be a coincidence, earlier this month a conservative website, Wisconsin Right Now, published (similar) allegations,” the New York Times wrote in a March 31 opinion piece.
It would appear that the Wisconsin Right Now story has been updated and now includes the NAACP letter, the original version of the story did not.