|Type||Online news site|
|Managing editors||Sonny Bunch, Victorino Matus, Stephanie Wang|
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the United States
The Washington Free Beacon is an American conservative political journalism website launched in 2012. It states that it is "dedicated to uncovering the stories that the powers that be hope will never see the light of day" and producing "in-depth investigative reporting on a wide range of issues, including public policy, government affairs, international security, and media."
The Free Beacon was founded by Michael Goldfarb, Aaron Harrison, and Matthew Continetti. It launched on February 7, 2012, as a project of the 501(c)4 organization Center for American Freedom. In August 2014, it announced it was becoming a for-profit news site.
The site is noted for its conservative reporting, intended to publicize stories and influence the coverage of the mainstream media, and modeled after liberal counterparts in the media such as ThinkProgress and Talking Points Memo. The site has roots in the neoconservative wing of the Republican Party. Jack Hunter, a staff member of U.S. Senator Rand Paul's office, resigned in 2013 after a Free Beacon report detailing his past as a radio shock jock known as the "Southern Avenger" who wore a luchador mask of the Confederate flag. The publication also broke several stories about former First Lady and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's successful 1975 legal defense of an accused child rapist that attracted national media attention. In May 2017, it received an award from The Heritage Foundation for its journalism.
From October 2015 to May 2016, the Washington Free Beacon hired Fusion GPS to conduct opposition research on "multiple candidates" during the 2016 presidential election, including Donald Trump. The Free Beacon stopped funding this research when Donald Trump had clinched the Republican nomination. Fusion GPS would later hire former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele and produce a dossier alleging links between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin. Paul Singer, a billionaire and hedge fund manager, who is a major donor to the Free Beacon, said he was unaware of this dossier until it was published by BuzzFeed in January 2017. On October 27, 2017, the Free Beacon publicly disclosed that it had hired Fusion GPS, and stated that it "had no knowledge of or connection to the Steele dossier, did not pay for the dossier, and never had contact with, knowledge of, or provided payment for any work performed by Christopher Steele."
The Free Beacon came under criticism for its reporting on Fusion GPS. Three days before it was revealed that it was the Free Beacon that had funded the work by Fusion GPS, the Free Beacon wrote that the firm's work “was funded by an unknown GOP client while the primary was still going on." The Free Beacon has also published pieces that have sought to portray the work by Fusion GPS as unreliable "without noting that it considered Fusion GPS reliable enough to pay for its services." In an editor's note, Continetti said "the reason for this omission is that the authors of these articles, and the particular editors who reviewed them, were unaware of this relationship," and that the outlet was reviewing its editorial process to avoid similar issues in the future.
Ben Howe wrote in The Daily Beast that The Washington Free Beacon established "itself as a credible source of conservative journalism with deep investigative dives and exposes on money in politics," but that after Trump's election "shifted away from the template they were establishing and more towards the path of least resistance: spending their time criticizing the left and the media, along with healthy doses of opinion writing." McKay Coppins in the Columbia Journalism Review writes of the Free Beacon that while the website contains "a fair amount of trolling... it has also earned a reputation for real-deal journalism...If a partisan press really is the future, we could do worse than the Free Beacon."
Jeet Heer writes in The New Republic of the Free Beacon, "Unlike other comparable conservative websites, the Free Beacon makes an effort to do original reporting. Its commitment to journalism should be welcomed by liberals." In 2015, Mother Jones wrote positively of the Free Beacon, commenting that it is far better than contemporary conservative outlets such as The Daily Caller. Mother Jones however said that "the Beacon hasn't always steered clear of stories that please the base but don’t really stand up," and that it pieces inflammatory pieces that "push conservatives’ buttons". That same year, the Washingtonian wrote that "The Beacon’s emphasis on newsgathering sets it apart among right-facing publications".