NewsBusters Interview: How College Freshmen Disrupted the ‘Disinformation’ Conference

Between Thursday and Friday the left-leaning voted Atlantic magazine and the Democratic-connected Institute of Politics (IOP) of the University of Chicago held a conference to warn and find solutions to so-called “disinformation.”

Following two viral moments with liberal speakers, NewsBusters reached out to Daniel Schmidt and Chris Phillips, who sparked said headlines with questions about Hunter Biden’s laptop and other instances of media disinformation; and they say it appears the liberal media were not interested in fixing their broken system.

On the first day of the conference, Schmidt, senior editor for the conservative/libertarian campus publication The Chicago Thinker, attended a discussion with Anne Applebaum of AtlanticDavid Axelrod, IOP chief. During a Q&A period, he took his turn to ask about Hunter Biden’s laptop:

We know this now because we knew it a few weeks back The New York TimesIt has been verified that the content was real. Do you think the media acted inappropriately when they instantly dismissed Hunter Biden’s laptop as Russian disinformation? How can we learn from this and ensure that disinformation that is called disinformation does not become reality?

Applebaum’s reaction should lead to questions about her news judgment since she found the story “totally irrelevant” and didn’t “find it to be interesting.”



Schmidt told NewsBusters he thought Applebaum would’ve “at least admit the media made a mistake in immediately declaring” the story “Russian disinformation.”

“Her answer was as arrogant as it could get—the story doesn’t matter to her, so whatever the media did doesn’t matter. Axelrod’s answer was similarly condescending,” he said.

This interaction with the campus’s “premier publication” seemed to have rubbed Applebaum the wrong way, seeing as The Chicago Thinker reported she blocked them on Twitter.

From his position standing in the crowded room, Schmidt described the reaction as, “practically half the room looking at me like I just said a bunch of cuss words. It felt like what I asked is off-limits and should not be brought up again.”

Although, he noted he’s been approached by other students on campus from different political persuasions who felt he asked a “very fair question and that Applebaum’s answer was insane.”



Schmidt said it also AtlanticJeffrey Goldberg, editor in chief of The Chicago Thinker accused him of spreading misinformation about the conference. Schmidt responded, saying that at a conference dedicated fighting disinformation it turned out that those spreading disinformation were not the ones falsely claiming Hunter Biden’s computer was Russian psyop. Instead they are college students asking questions.”

Phillips, who also writes for The Chicago Thinker, made a splash on day two when he torched CNN’s Brian Stelter by calling out CNN as a hotbed of disinformation:

You’ve all spoken extensively about Fox News being a purveyor of disinformation. CNN ranks right alongside them. They promoted the Russian collusion hoax and the Jussie Mollett hoax.

Stelter’s deflections and inability to answer the camera asked Phillips if he was interested to talk to him after the panel had ended. Phillips recounted to NewsBusters how a “group of 12-15 people formed” around them as Stelter proceeded to “gaslight” him.



According to Phillips’s description of the conversation, it seemed as though Stelter essentially did his Twitter shtick of rattling off instances where he purports that CNN covered certain stories but doesn’t address the liberal tilt:

Although he responded to my question enthusiastically and encouraged me on the panel he behaved completely differently when he wasn’t in front of the camera. I began to question him about the lies that CNN has been telling me. He started listing dates when CNN covered different stories and then he stopped. “When was that?” “No! We covered that story!” So we should not cover a story that we don’t believe is legitimate?

In a 12-minute back-and forth, he delivered a series of quips similar to this that were intended to make me laugh and to use disinformation and logic to convince everyone listening that CNN wasn’t full of it.

Stelter seemed to slip when Phillips again brought up Hunter’s laptop and admitted that CNN only recently started investigating it:

He said something about Hunter Biden’s laptop. I then asked him again. That is a sign of how dishonest his tactics were.

As for the response from the room, Phillips said he received “side glances as well as full-on looks,” which he chalked up to shock that a tough question like that was asked. Although, he said “[a] few people of various ages come to me and shake my hand and congratulate me on a well thought out question.”

He said he even received support from some of his more liberal peers:

Many people were supportive of my question. Daniel and me were sitting in the dining room when someone approached us. She said she didn’t like what we have to say on politics but she enjoyed our question since we mentioned the corporate Democrats. This group was something she strongly opposed.

Phillips was also “not optimistic” going into the event citing the fact it was organized by Axelrod and panelists included Stelter, former President Barack Obama, Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), and Congressman Adam Kinzinger (R-IL). But he told NewsBusters he “wanted to give them the benefit of the doubt[.]” But he suggested the talk of wanting the media to get more credibility was just to “score some points[.]”

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