Last Updated on August 4, 2021
Christina Zhao, the Senior news editor of Newsweek, appears to have blatantly manufactured a quote in a smear piece against popular radio host and podcaster Stew Peters.
In an article she recently wrote and ostensibly published, Zhao claims that Peters accused Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis of accepting bribes in exchange for urging Floridians to accept one of the controversial COVID-19 vaccines, and that Peters went on to call DeSantis a “sellout”. In reality, Peters never said the words in Zhao’s article. The word “bribery” was used by Peters’ guest, but neither Peters or his guest accused DeSantis of accepting a bribe. It seems as though Zhao quoted Peters’ guest, then proceeded to willfully butcher the quotes, and falsely attributed the incorrect quotes to Peters.
Zhao wrote for Newsweek: “‘It was all about bribery,’ [Peters] said, calling the governor a ‘sellout.’ … ‘Everybody has a number. When you get someone to fold, you just put a lot of money on the line,’ [Peters] added. ‘We don’t know if DeSantis’ family was threatened.'”
In reality, Peters never claimed DeSantis was guilty of accepting a bribe. His guest, identified by Peters as Carlos Cortez, the founder and CEO of Cortez Wealth Management, said, “Everybody has a number. Stew, I like playing poker, I know you do too. When you get somebody to fold, you just put a lot of money on the line, and everybody has a number… Bribery is a real, real thing. We don’t know if DeSantis, his family is threatened, I don’t know. He just has to speak to the Floridian, the Florida citizens”.
In the video, available on the Red Voice Media website, it is clear that neither Peters nor Cortez accuse DeSantis of taking bribes in exchange for modifying his beliefs about the COVID-19 vaccines. Cortez, instead, expressed disappointment in DeSantis’ stance, and wondered aloud what could be causing the popular governor to embrace the controversial vaccines. While the beliefs of Cortez and Peters regarding the COVID-19 vaccines may be outside the mainstream opinion of journalists writing at Newsweek, neither Peters nor his guest accused DeSantis of breaking the law.
After Newsweek published its article, other left wing outlets ran similar stories with nearly identical headlines falsely claiming that Peters claimed DeSantis was a “sellout” and accused DeSantis of accepting a bribe. On July 26, Politico ran its piece titled “‘Sellout’: Anti-vax conservatives come for DeSantis” that claimed Peters suggested DeSantis accepted a bribe and called him a “sellout”. On July 27, Alternet published a similar article, claiming that Peters called DeSantis a “sellout” but stopped short of claiming Peters accused DeSantis of bribery.
National File contacted Newsweek and Zhao and gave the publication a full day to respond and did not hear back in time for publication. National File also contacted Alternet to determine whether the author of that story, Alex Henderson, misheard and incorrectly attributed the “sellout” quote and did not hear back in time for publication.
Politico journalist Matt Dixon replied to National File asserting that “If there was a quote misattributed, then I’ll take a look and fix it.” National File also asked Dixon if his article was dependent on Newsweek’s flawed reporting, and in response, Dixon said that it was “Not dependent on Newsweek” and said that any errors made were “an honest mistake.” At the time of publication, Politico had not amended its article.
The Stew Peters Show is the third most popular podcast in the United States according to Apple Podcasts, ranked above Louder with Crowder, the Tim Pool Daily Show, the Verdict with Ted Cruz, and John Solomon Reports. It stands to reason that these articles could impede a growing show from attaining new listeners, who may support the Florida governor, and new advertisers, who could be seeking to connect with conservative audiences who support DeSantis.