AP Photo/Steven Senne, File

The Associated Press (Lean Left bias) significantly edited an article about former Harvard president Claudine Gay’s resignation on Wednesday after the original piece was accused of media bias. The piece employed types of bias including opinion presented as fact and slant.

AP Edits Its Headline and Copy

The original headline can be viewed via internet archive tools and also seen in AP’s X post (formerly known as a tweet) containing the article. It read, “Harvard president's resignation highlights new conservative weapon against colleges: plagiarism.” It has since been changed to, “Plagiarism charges downed Harvard’s president. A conservative attack helped to fan the outrage.”

People on the right objected to the original headline’s framing, arguing that plagiarism violates Harvard’s policies, and accusations of plagiarism therefore cannot be considered a weapon. This logic appeared underneath AP’s post on the matter in X’s community notes feature.

Fox News Digital (Right bias) quoted Lauren Easton, the VP of AP Corporate Communications, "The story doesn’t meet our standards” as AP was in the process of updating the headline.

Some commentators felt  AP’s definition of “scalping” was slanted. AP reported on an X post by Christopher Rufo, (Senior Fellow at the Manhattan Institute, largely responsible for the campaign against Gay elevating the allegations of plagiarism). AP reported that Rufo “wrote ‘SCALPED,’ as if Gay was a trophy of violence, invoking a gruesome practice taken up by white colonists who sought to eradicate Native Americans.”

Commentators argued this characterization was biased and gave the impression that white colonists alone scalped enemies, pointing to sources that say archaeologists found evidence of scalping that predated European contact in America. The type of media bias they see could be considered slant — when journalists focus on only one angle or piece of information and ignore another perspective, in this case, ignoring that Natives also engaged in scalping.

AP has since edited this paragraph, adding, “a gruesome practice taken up by white colonists who sought to eradicate Native Americans and also used by some tribes against their enemies.”

Numerous AllSides media bias analyses by reviewers on the left, center, and right — including blind analyses in which readers did not know they were rating AP — have found AP has a Lean Left bias. It shows its bias via types of bias such as word choice, slant, story choice, and analysis presented as fact.

AP Article Underscores Polarization Over Diversity, Equity, Inclusion Practices

This single AP article showed media bias, the bias is merely the tip of the iceberg. Beneath any instance of media bias is much deeper polarization — in this case, over the issue of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) practices.

Underscoring the entire story — the campaign against Gay (who is black) and AP’s coverage of the issue — is the fundamental polarization over Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI), a philosophy and practice that has been seen in top American institutions in the past decade or so.

RELATED: AllStances: Critical Race Theory

The right believes that by exposing a lack of integrity in top power players like Gay, it can also expose the downfalls of DEI hiring and mindset, which they argue focuses on arbitrary metrics like skin color instead of merit, to the ultimate demise of our institutions. Rufo popularized the term “critical race theory” and has led a charge against the belief system, which largely underscores the practice of DEI.

In describing the influence of activists on Gay’s resignation, AP’s characterization of plagiarism accusations as a “weapon” rather than an upholding of objective conduct standards led readers to see the publication as aligning with left-wing views on the issue.

The AllSides Red Blue Translator describes how Americans are of two minds about DEI. Proponents believe in the need for DEI initiatives because of their belief that straight, white men generally have an unfair advantage in society, as evidenced by their disproportionate employment in top positions in the realms of wealth and power, which they attribute to a harmful power dynamic and oppression of women and racial minorities. They see DEI as ensuring that everyone feels included and as correcting historical injustices that led to current inequality. This belief is somewhat reflected in AP’s characterization of scalping.

On the other side is the belief that DEI is a harmful revolutionary force. As the Red Blue Translator describes, this side views DEI as “a radical movement to dismantle our current system, in which people gain status and power in society based on competence, hard work, capability, and individual merit — not perceived victim status — and to instead implement a system in which claiming victimhood or membership in a supposedly oppressed group will award someone unearned advantages.” This belief is underscored in conservatives’ issue with AP calling their plagiarism exposure a “weapon.”

One side argues that Gay fell victim to a right-wing attack on progressive-minded higher education, and that Gay’s critics were motivated by politics and other grievances, not a genuine concern for academic integrity. The other side, while acknowledging that this was indeed a political campaign, argues that Gay's actions alone led to her downfall — that rules against plagiarism are objective and should be enforced no matter the context. They argue the motivations of the critics are ultimately irrelevant if the accusations are true.

When the Associated Press deemed plagiarism accusations to be a “new conservative weapon,” it appeared to take the side of those who believe the allegations were merely elevated for political reasons and not out of genuine concern for academic integrity.

Rufo, for his part, has been open about his activism driving forward the campaign against Gay, giving an interview to Politico (Lean Left bias) in which he outlined his playbook and stated, “my job as a journalist and even more so as an activist is to know the political conditions, to understand and develop relationships with all of the political actors, and then to work as hard as I can so that they’re successful in achieving their individual goals — but also to accomplish the shared goal, which was to topple the president of Harvard University.”

Understanding an individual news article can be difficult if you only are exposed to one side. To get a deeper understanding of the news, make sure to check AllSides Media Bias Ratings™ and use our balanced newsfeed to get multiple perspectives.

Julie Mastrine is the Director of Marketing and Media Bias Ratings at AllSides. She has a Lean Right bias.

This blog was reviewed and edited by Editor-in-chief Henry A. Brechter (Center bias) and News Editor and Content Designer Joseph Ratliff (Lean Left bias).