Rochester Post Bulletin retracts hit piece portrayals of conservative policy fellow

Castle Work's story made a comparison between the American Experiment and the Ku Klux Klan and called Van Nest's conservative views "fringe."

Left: Monday's print edition of the Rochester Post Bulletin, which featured the retraction. Right: Jeff Van Nest (Photos courtesy of the Center of the American Experiment)

A major local newspaper has issued a front-page retraction after inaccurately and negatively portraying a conservative policy fellow in two articles.

The Rochester Post Bulletin had published two stories on Mar. 14 and 15 about the Center of the American Experiment’s scheduled event on crime levels and Minnesota’s criminal justice system. The first was written by a new reporter named Molly Castle Work and titled “Are ‘crime wave’ claims out of place in Rochester?” The second was written by reporter Emily Cutts and titled “Lawsuit filed after Center of the American Experiment event canceled.”

The stories erroneously claimed that Jeff Van Nest, American Experiment’s public safety policy fellow, was “attached” and “tied to” the Pizzagate conspiracy theory. Popularized during the 2016 presidential election, this theory alleged that a child sex ring was operated by Democratic Party officials out of Washington D.C.’s Comet Ping Pong pizzeria.

Van Nest was slated to serve as a panelist at the event hosted at the Rochester Golf and Country Club on Mar. 15, but the country club breached its contract and canceled the event at the last minute due to outside leftist pressure. American Experiment is now suing the country club over its breach of contract.

Going even further, Castle Work’s story made a comparison between the American Experiment and the Ku Klux Klan and called Van Nest’s conservative views “fringe.” These characterizations were drawn from Castle Work’s interviews with others. She conducted a brief interview with Van Nest on Mar. 11, but the conservative think tank says she mainly asked why he chose to hold the event in Rochester.

Following back-and-forth dialogue with the American Experiment, the Rochester Post Bulletin issued a full retraction of their hit piece portrayals of Van Nest and published the retraction on the front page of Monday’s paper.

“The articles inaccurately linked Mr. Van Nest to a discredited conspiracy theory with which he has no connection,” the retraction reads. “The March 14 article also included a subheading and a quote from a third party which improperly attributed non-mainstream policy views to Mr. Van Nest and a similarity between Mr. Van Nest and a racist political organization. The Post Bulletin regrets this inaccuracy and these portrayals and unconditionally retracts them in full.”

“To the extent this subheading and this quote could be interpreted as suggesting that CAE holds policy views out of the mainstream, or that the CAE event was in any away comparable to that racist organization’s meetings, those interpretations are unequivocally false. As noted above, the Post Bulletin unconditionally retracts these portrayals,” it adds.

Bill Walsh, the American Experiment’s director of communications, commended the Post Bulletin for fessing up and issuing its retraction.

“In the Wild West of social media attacks, it’s nice to see a news organization own up to their mistakes and print a serious retraction,” he said. “Hopefully the Post Bulletin and other Minnesota news outlets will think twice before printing outrageous allegations that can harm the reputations of good people and organizations.”


Evan Stambaugh

Evan Stambaugh is a freelance writer who had previously been a sports blogger. He has a BA in theology and an MA in philosophy.