I’ve only spoken to John-Rice Cameron ’20 once, for a longform story on Stanford College Republicans. Though the group had been written about in relation to Robert Spencer’s speech, my piece was the first time they had been profiled in five years. Cameron seemed eager to talk to me, albeit cautiously so; he remains the only interviewee who’s ever notified me that he would be recording his end of our phone conversation. After publication, he messaged me, thanking me for what I wrote and hoping that it might lead to a more trusting relationship between SCR and The Daily.
It didn’t last. Whatever relationship The Daily had with SCR fell out in spectacular fashion last week when The Daily wrote about SCR’s endorsement of political candidates—an action that, if not in violation of Student Activities and Leadership’s partisan political activities policy, highlighted the policy’s vagueness. SCR did not respond to multiple requests for comment, but they left the following comment on The Daily’s Facebook pageafter publication: “Thank you for vindicating us, by telling everyone what we knew all along. Nice try, fake news!”
I’d like to say how proud I am of The Daily’s Editorial Board for responding in the way that they did, heeding The Boston Globe’s call for a “coordinated editorial response” with a thoughtful reflection on The Daily’s history of upholding the freedom of the press. In “reaffirm[ing] our commitment to First Amendment principles and an unswerving commitment to truth,” The Daily pledged to take the high road. SCR, on the other hand, was happy to keep to the low road, calling the Editorial Board’s article “laughable” and repeating the accusation of “fake news” in another Facebook comment.
At first, I was indignant at SCR’s swipe, but after thinking it over, I’m just disappointed. SCR, no doubt, is Stanford’s most prominent conservative group in years, which is all the more impressive considering that nobody was talking about them this time last year. They’ve rubbed elbows with young conservative leaders like Charlie Kirk and Candace Owens. And they’re capable of almost Nixonian acts of sabotage, whether they’re conspiring with a Hoover fellow to conduct “opposition research” on an ASSU Executive candidate or accusing a Stanford professor of leading a “terrorist group.” (The latter article, published in The Stanford Review, was co-authored by Cameron—and it’s worth noting that these accusations resulted in the professor receiving death threats.) They demand to, and should, be taken seriously. But when they use the president’s favorite epithet, it undermines all of that.
Donald Trump uses “fake news” in an attempt to discredit unfavorable, but honest reporting of his administration’s actions. It’s an unconvincing front for him, as it is for SCR, who shouldn’t resort to underhanded tactics if they can’t handle being called out on them. For SCR to respond to their own negative coverage by adopting the president’s empty bombast makes them look as impotent and desperate as him; they disgrace themselves by parroting this spineless, craven rhetoric.
— Jacob Nierenberg, 17′ BA American Studies, ’18 MA Journalism, Former Daily Staff Writer