A March 12 Politico article bizarrely attempted to scandalize 2020 presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) accepting individual campaign contributions from employees of Amazon, Google, and Facebook, suggesting was hypocritical for her to accept the donations while criticizing tech companies. 

The article, headlined “Warren took tech’s money while ripping its biggest players,” clearly points out that the $90,000 in donations came “from employees of Amazon, Google and Facebook” over the course of seven years, but the headline’s sloppy and simple reference to “tech’s money” leaves the impression that the donations come from the corporations themselves — not individuals they happen to employ. The article’s lede: “While Sen. Elizabeth Warren was railing against big tech companies, she was taking their money — plenty of it.” Politico went on to criticize Warren for running ads on Facebook and selling books on Amazon, saying, “At the same time, Warren hasn’t weaned herself off of tech employee money — or their services.” The article failed to actually explain its argument for why it would be an issue that, “While the donations flowed to Warren’s committee, she was accusing Google, Amazon as well as Apple of using their powerful platforms to ‘lock out smaller guys and newer guys,'” beyond a vague and unarticulated intimation of hypocrisy.

This careless framing by Politico closely resembles the bad-faith accusations of hypocrisy that crop up in right-wing media. Saying that Warren takes “tech’s money while ripping its biggest players” only sounds hypocritical with the omission of critical context — it’s not really “tech’s money,” it’s tech employees’ money.

While the article fails to really make its case, it’s the headline that is most at issue. As Media Matters’ Parker Molloy has explained, headlines are arguably the most important part of any news article because most people only read the headlines. A 2016 study estimated that 59 percent of the time someone retweets an article, they actually never clicked on it first. Molloy spoke to Upworthy co-founder Eli Pariser, who said that “the headline [of an online news article] lives separately from the content and needs to be evaluated on its own” for truth and accuracy. Politico’s Elizabeth Warren article failed that test.

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