Associated Press Coverage of Courts, Climate Bankrolled by Dozens of Left-Wing Foundations

Billed as purveyor of 'unbiased news,' wire service strikes lucrative sponsorship agreements with progressive charities

(cropped from Mario Tama/Getty Images)
August 29, 2023

The Associated Press, the country's top wire service, is now bankrolled in part by millions of dollars from left-wing foundations, including one founded by "1619 Project" author Nikole Hannah-Jones.

The news organization last year announced a series of "partnerships" to subsidize reporters covering climate change, race, and democracy. A review of the donor roster shows that the vast majority fund left-wing political causes, while none are supporters of conservative initiatives.

The Ida B. Wells Society, founded by "1619 Project" lightning rod Hannah-Jones, has teamed up with filmmaker Steven Spielberg's Hearthland Foundation, for example, to foster "more inclusive storytelling" at the Associated Press.

In some ways, it was a natural partnership: The AP's global investigations editor, Ron Nixon, serves on the Ida B. Wells Society's board of directors. In others, it may prove more problematic, given that Hannah-Jones's own reporting has been disputed by historians, who have argued—among other things—that her account of the motivations of the American revolutionaries is factually inaccurate.

The funding, much of it from these sorts of overly political actors, will make it more challenging for the Associated Press to swat away accusations of political bias. In one high-profile example, critics blasted the organization for revising its style guide to instruct reporters to avoid the use of terms like "the French," which the AP indicated was "dehumanizing."

AllSides, a group that tracks media bias across the industry, last year changed its rating for the AP from "center" to "leans left," citing what it said was an increase in "word choice bias" and "bias by omission of views" in its coverage. AllSides says it closely monitors the Associated Press's content because the AP's content is "broad and far-reaching."

The Associated Press is also taking nonprofit money to fund coverage of race and climate. The organization's "democracy journalism initiative," a division whose reporters cover "the intersection of race and voting," is bankrolled by nonprofits such as the Jonathan Logan Family Foundation. That organization also funds Stacey Abrams's New Georgia Project and the left-wing activist group Take Back the Court, which advocates for expanding the Supreme Court.

A recent AP article on the topic asserts that the Supreme Court in a 2013 landmark decision "tossed out the heart" of the Voting Rights Act, when in reality the Court ruled that nine southern states would no longer have to "pre-clear" election law changes with the federal government. The AP lamented in another story that "far-right conservatives" in Tennessee were elected to city council seats. A February news report said that "GOP election tactics" intentionally disenfranchised black voters in Wisconsin.

Though the Associated Press is funded largely by subscriptions from the thousands of news organizations that pay to license its content, its donors shell out millions to subsidize coverage of some of the country's most divisive political issues. It is unclear when the AP began entering such partnerships, but they have proved lucrative in recent years.

The Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, for example, provided $500,000 in 2022 to the Associated Press's "democracy journalism initiative." The foundation recently blasted the Supreme Court decision to overturn affirmative action, saying the decision "impedes colleges and universities from selecting their own student bodies and fully addressing systemic racial inequalities that persist."

The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation spent $2.5 million on the AP's climate and education reporting verticals and sent $400,000 to its democracy journalism initiative. The foundation also funds Planned Parenthood and organizations such as Advocates for Youth, which promotes transgender ideology to kindergartners.

The AP takes in millions more from philanthropies—the Hewlett Foundation, Walton Family Foundation, and others—to fund reporting on climate change, such as stories that this summer's heat wave is due to global warming, that President Joe Biden's Inflation Reduction Act boosted America's "climate credibility," and that climate activists have ramped up protests against the "emissions-spewing lifestyles of the ultrawealthy."

The Rockefeller Foundation, one of the country's largest private philanthropies, in 2021 awarded the Associated Press $750,000 for a climate change initiative to increase reporting "on the increased and urgent need for reliable, renewable electricity in underserved communities worldwide."

The Outrider Foundation has donated in a bid to help the AP beef up its coverage of climate change and nuclear weapons. Outrider has embraced an apocalyptic view of both issues. In recent years, the foundation launched an app that simulates the effects of a nuclear detonation. One of its advisers is Michael Mann, the climate researcher behind the controversial "hockey stick" graph, which claims global temperatures spiked dramatically around 1900 due to manmade global warming.

The Public Welfare Foundation, which gave the Associated Press a $200,000 grant this year for investigative reporting on crime issues, funds organizations that supported legislation in Washington, D.C., to drastically reduce penalties for various crimes.

Associated Press spokeswoman Nicole Meir told the Washington Free Beacon that the organization maintains "complete control" over content produced through its philanthropic partnerships, and that "no funder has any influence over AP journalism."