It’s Getting Ridiculously Easy to Intimidate Journalists

On Wednesday at 1:22 pm (eastern time), USA Today pet blogger Janice Lloyd wrote a perfectly lovely two-paragraph piece about the ad we recently ran in The New York Times. It wasn't opinionated. It didn't take sides. Lloyd just reported some facts. Here's what she wrote:

Pet donations: What to know before your next contribution
1:22pm

The nonprofit Center for Consumer Freedom took out another ad recently in a national newspaper criticizing the way the Humane Society of the United States doles out its dollars. The headline says "Shouldn't the Humane Society do Better?''

If you contribute to shelter groups, you might want to read more here.  According to the advertisement, HSUS gives less than one-half of one percent of its $100 million budget to hands-on pet shelters and socks away over $2.5 million of donations in its own pension plans.

That was the whole piece. Pretty standard stuff. But by 5:00 pm, things got a little weird.

It apparently took HSUS less than four hours to find Janice Lloyd and strong-arm (a kinder word might be "persuade") her into "updating" this little story and removing her link to this website.

(An "update," by the way, usually involves only adding things to a story. This wasn't an update. It was a rewrite.)

Here's how the piece reads now. All the blue text is new, and all the red text is what she got rid of..

Pet donations: What to know before your next contribution
Story UPDATE 5 p.m.:

The nonprofit Center for Consumer Freedom took out another ad recently in a national newspaper criticizing the way the Humane Society of the United States doles out its dollars. The headline says "Shouldn't the Humane Society do Better?'' Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of HSUS, said Wednesday the attack is "unjustified and fraudulent."

If you contribute to shelter groups, you might want to read more here. According to the advertisement, HSUS gives less than one-half of one percent of its $100 million budget to hands-on pet shelters and socks away over $2.5 million of donations in its own pension plans. Pacelle says working with shelters is only a small part of what HSUS does for animals.

HSUS director of publicity Heather Sullivan said HSUS has the highest rating from charity watchdog groups such as Charity Navigator and the Better Business Bureau and added HSUS was named to Worth magazine's elite list of the top 10 most fiscally responsible charities.

Why would CCF attack HSUS? Sullivan says because "by threatening animal abuse, we are threatening their bottom line."

It makes perfect sense to us that HSUS's lawyers would send an attack dog over to USA Today as soon as they realized someone dared to criticize the mother ship. (History teaches us that this is what arrogant people with power tend to do.)

But here's what we don't understand: Why didn't USA Today call and ask us about that ad? Why pretend 26 of the original story's 85 words never existed? Why let Wayne Pacelle label our work "unjustified and fraudulent" without at least asking us if we could back up our assertions? It's easy to do, by the way—it just requires five minutes with HSUS's own tax return.

And as for that snark about threatening someone's bottom line, well … the lady doth protest too much, methinks. Our organization's balance sheet is tiny. Smaller than HSUS's annual pension contributions, in fact. Could it be that Pacelle is the one feeling a bottom-line threat? Someone should ask him. Someone like USA Today pet blogger Janice Lloyd.

Oh—And if you want to see how classy some of HSUS's most ardent fans can be, we dare you to visit Lloyd's blog post and read the comments. Truly "humane" stuff.

Posted on 03/04/2010 at 10:57 am by humanewatch.

Topics: Fundraising & Money

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