When Sunlight publishes a report, we send it to a press list that we have complied over the years. One of the reporters on the list is Jay Lassiter of InsiderNJ. Reporters are the filter through which many people get their news, and it is our view is that reporters should be unbiased and report the news without fear or favor. Maybe some would see that as naive, but that’s our expectation.
So we were surprised and disappointed at Lassiter’s response to our distribution of our report on NJEA President Sean Spiller using teachers’ dues to fund his personal political career. Here it is:
“I agree with you on this but f–k off anyway. Unsubscribe me immediately from this garbage.”
First, putting Lassiter’s incivility aside, he is wrong about Sunlight’s research. What Sunlight publishes is factual. We defy Lassiter — or anyone — to find one example of an assertion by Sunlight that isn’t factual. We research thoroughly and invariably provide the sources for our factual assertions. They can be checked. When we are make assumptions, we say so. We categorically reject Lassiter’s characterization as utterly meritless. Please prove otherwise, Mr. Lassiter.
But we also ask: why? Why Lassiter’s prejudice? Why is he dismissing our research in such a rude and offhanded manner? He’s a reporter. Isn’t he supposed to embrace the facts from wherever they emerge? Why is he unwilling to hear all the facts about Sean Spiller, who is a prominent political figure in New Jersey and reportedly a gubernatorial candidate?
This is hardly the behavior of an unbiased reporter, and now we have some apparent confirmation that Lassiter may well be biased.
At least that’s how NJ21United, a dark-money Super PAC closely aligned with the NJEA, views Lassiter. Sunlight believes there is a strong circumstantial case that NJ21United is a NJEA/NEA front
, but it is indisputably true that the NJEA Delegate Assembly pledged to provide NJ21United’s Honesty in Education
Toolkit as a resource for teachers to fight the culture wars in their local school districts (not to be confused with the NJEA’s Center for Honesty in Education
In NJ21United’s Toolkit #2
, listed under the heading “List of Potential Allies,” is this entry:
Jay Lassiter, InsiderNJ
We understand that Lassiter does not control what NJ21United writes and may not even know that he is listed as the sole “Friendly Media,” but there he is. What is certainly true is that NJ21United perceives Lassiter as friendly to their cause. That cause is closely aligned with the NJEA, an organization that regularly tries to disparage Sunlight’s research. And, of course, the Sunlight research that Lassiter dismissed was about Sean Spiller, the president of the NJEA. Coincidence? Perhaps.
Going forward, Sunlight can probably count on never being published in InsiderNJ, but perhaps Mr. Lassiter can explain why all of this shouldn’t be construed as bias.