Conservative College Students Derail ‘Disinformation’ Conference in Chicago By Calling Out the Media’s Hypocrisy

In the past couple of days, two conservative college students have managed to fluster two left-wing panelists at the University of Chicago’s “Disinformation and the Erosion of Democracy” conference, forcing them to give weak, evasive answers to their incisive questions.

The conference, hosted by the University of Chicago Institute of Politics and The Atlantic April 6-8, feature panelists such as CNN host Brian Stelter, Atlantic reporter Ann Applebaum, The Dispatch co-founder Jonah Goldberg, New York Times reporter Ben Smith, and former president Barack Obama. The purpose of the three day event was to discuss “the organized spread of disinformation and strategies to respond to it.”

On Wednesday, college freshman Daniel Schmidt threw a wrench into the proceedings by exposing the hypocrisy of the panelists, including  Russia hoaxer Applebaum in a discussion about what to do about “disinformation” in the media.

“In 2020, you wrote, ‘those who live outside the Fox News bubble do not, of course, need to learn any of this stuff about Hunter Biden'” Schmidt began. “A poll later after that found that if voters knew about the content of the laptop, 16 percent of Joe Biden voters would not have voted for him.”

Schmidt appeared to have cited a poll from the Media Research Center.

“Now, of course, we know a few weeks ago, the New York Times confirmed that the content is real,” the student continued. “Do you think the media acted inappropriately when they instantly dismissed Hunter Biden’s laptop as Russian disinformation, and what can we learn from that in ensuring that what we label as disinformation is truly disinformation, and not reality?”

Applebaum responded by stating arrogantly that she found the story “totally irrelevant,” and not worthy of being “a major news story.”

“My problem with Hunter Biden’s laptop is I think it’s totally irrelevant. I mean, it’s not whether it’s disinformation… I didn’t think Hunter Biden’s business relationships have anything to do with who should be President of the United States,” Applebaum said, refusing to acknowledge that Joe Biden was mentioned repeatedly in emails, and is implicated in the family’s corrupt, potentially illegal business deals. “I don’t find it to be interesting, I mean, that would be my problem with that as a major news story,” she added.

Former Obama advisor David Axelrod quickly ended the session with the promise to “get back to that.”

“Ann Applebaum, who we are supposed to believe is some esteemed and highly intelligent journalist, cannot even answer a basic question posed by me, a college freshman,” Schmidt later tweeted. 

On Thursday, another freshman stumped “disinformation” expert Brian Stelter, who was a member of a panel discussing “political polarization, the power of mis- and disinformation, and the reach of algorithms.”

Christopher Phillips began his question by noting that members of the panel had repeatedly assailed Fox News for being a “purveyor of disinformation.” Addressing Stelter, Phillips said CNN is “right up there with them.”

“They [CNN] pushed the Russian collusion hoax. They pushed the Jussie Smollett hoax. They smeared Justice Kavanaugh as a rapist, and they also smeared Nick Sandmann as a white supremacist. And yes, they dismissed the Hunter Biden laptop affair as pure Russian disinformation,” the freshman argued.

Phillips went on to accuse corporate journalists of becoming “little more than apologists and cheerleaders for the regime,” and asked: “Is it time to finally declare that the canon of journalistic ethics is dead or no longer operative?”

He then pointed out that “all the mistakes of the mainstream media and CNN in particular seem to magically all go in one direction,” and asked Stelter: “Are we expected to believe this is all just some sort of random coincidence or is there something else behind it?”

The “Reliable Sources” host answered, “too bad. It’s time for lunch,” drawing a few chuckles from the audience. He then said weakly, “I think you’re describing a different channel than the one I watch,” and dismissed Phillips’ concerns as a “popular right-wing narrative about CNN.”

Stelter then blathered on about “shared reality and democracy,” and claimed that every news outlet “has to defend democracy” and “when they screw up, admit it,” suggesting that CNN has owned up to all of the examples of disinformation cited by Phillips.

He then pivoted to a subject totally unrelated to the question: the rescue of a Fox News correspondent who was shot near war-torn Kyiv while covering the war in Ukraine.

“But when Benjamin Hall, the Fox News correspondent was wounded in Ukraine, the News crews at CNN and the New York Times stopped what they were doing and they tried to help. They tried to help him get out of the country, they tried to find his dead crew members,” he said. “That’s what news outlets do. That’s how they actually do work together to your question of sharing those kinds of connections and trust.”

“And with regards to the regime, I think you mean President Biden, the last time I spoke to a Biden aide, we yelled at either. So that’s the reality of the news business. The people don’t see. The people don’t hear. They imagine that it’s a situation that it’s simply is not. I think your question: It speaks to the failure of journalism to show our work and show the reality of how our profession operates,” Stelter said, adding: “We have a lot of work to do, I think.”

Phillips later thanked Stelter for taking his question, but noted that his question remained unanswered.

“thank you @brianstelter for taking my question and having a conversation with me afterwards, but i am STILL wondering: if CNN is truly unbiased, WHY is every mistake they make an overstep in favor of democrats and against republicans??” he tweeted.

Phillips also clapped back at Jonah Goldberg on Twitter, after the Dispatch cofounder said he didn’t buy Schmidt’s (“the kid’s) “theory” that the corporate media’s suppression of the Hunter Biden laptop story affected the outcome of the election.

“he doesn’t buy the kid’s theory!! Phillips wrote. “meanwhile the “kid” @RealDSchmidt had a more valuable contribution to the disinformation conference than @JonahDispatch did for his whole seminar!! say his name: DANIEL SCHMIDT.”

Both Phillips and Schmidt write for the conservative college paper, the Conservative Thinker.

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About Debra Heine

Debra Heine is a conservative Catholic mom of six and longtime political pundit. She has written for several conservative news websites over the years, including Breitbart and PJ Media.