The unfounded claim of “paid protesters” fighting the Dakota Access pipeline has run rampant, including in the pages of North Dakota’s major newspapers.
So far, the newspapers haven’t done any reporting assessing the claim. Instead they’ve let it fester in the opinion pages despite a total lack in evidence.
Fargo Forum pundit Lloyd Omdahl recently devoted an entire column to a “paid protester” rumor involving BNSF Railway.
Omdahl admits there’s no evidence to support it. But he calls for “a fact-finding investigation” anyway. You know, just to make sure.
Today an executive at BNSF wrote a letter to the Forum, spanking the newspaper for highlighting a rumor with no factual basis.
“We are in no way connected to the protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline,” BNSF executive Zak Andersen wrote. “Until this column, ridiculous rumors to the contrary were limited to fringe posts on social media.”
Just last month, a member of Forum Communications management, Agweek Publisher Katie Pinke, wrote a column claiming that pipeline protesters are “are being paid,” without citing any evidence. Mean Read asked her for the source of her claim, but she never answered us.
On Dec. 2, the Forum published a long column by University of North Dakota student Austin Emineth, who claimed without evidence pipeline protesters are “well-paid.” We reached out to him for comment, but he refused to defend his claim.
And early last month, the Forum and two Fargo television stations reported on an anonymous Craigslist.com ad that promised to pay people to protest the pipeline at the West Acres Mall on Nov. 18 at 4 p.m. The protest never happened.