A leftist, Trump-bashing assistant professor in Massachusetts who specialized in “fat studies” is declaring a “fake news” war on conservative and established news sites – labeling sites such as the Drudge Report, WND, Breitbart, Red State, the Daily Wire and Project Veritas as “not credible.”
As WND reported, Merrimack College Assistant Professor Melissa Zimdars, a 30-something self-identified feminist and activist who has expressed great dislike for President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, has been behind the effort to target and discredit legitimate news organizations.
She’s only actually held her teaching position at the private college in North Andover, Massachusetts, for about 19 months.
“Our database is maintained by professionals who have analyzed each source, looking for overall inaccuracy, extreme biases, lack of transparency, and other kinds of misinformation,” the website states.
In addition to some satirical and bogus sites, her error-riddled downloadable list, labeled “Not Credible,” attacks the credibility of well-established news organizations.
For example, Zimdars now claims the Drudge Report is “not credible” and classifies it under the terms “political” and “bias.”
OpenSources.co defines “bias” as websites using “sources that come from a particular point of view and may rely on propaganda, decontextualized information, and opinions distorted as facts.”
“Political” websites, it states, are “sources that provide generally verifiable information in support of certain points of view or political orientations.”
OpenSources.co labels WND as “bias,” “clickbait” and “unreliable.” Zimdars’ project offers no explanation for her “unreliable” tag. The “clickbait” designation, the website states, is used for “sources that provide generally credible content, but use exaggerated, misleading, or questionable headlines, social media descriptions, and/or images.” (See Zimdars’ other classifications.)
Her list of more than 700 websites also includes the following sites and classifications:
- Washington Examiner: “unreliable,” “bias” and “conspiracy”
- Breitbart: “political,” “unreliable” and “bias”
- Daily Caller: “political,” “clickbait” and “bias”
- Daily Signal: “bias”
- Daily Wire: “bias”
- Foreign Policy Journal: “political”
- Washington Free Beacon: “bias”
- FrontPage Mag: “bias” and “hate”
- Independent Journal Review: “bias” and “unreliable”
- LifeZette: “clickbait”
- Live Action News: “bias”
- Newsmax: “unreliable” and “bias”
- PamelaGeller.com: “conspiracy,” “fake” and “bias”
- Project Veritas: “bias,” “unreliable” and “political”
- Red State: “political” and “clickbait”
- Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity: “political”
- The Blaze: “political” and “clickbait”
- Twitchy: “clickbait” and “rumor”
- Weekly Standard: “political” and “bias”
At the time of this report, Zimdars’ project also included a short list of the following websites she deemed “credible.” She offered no classifications or explanations for why she determined each of the publications to be “credible”:
- Boston Globe
- Chicago Tribune
- The Independent
- Los Angeles Times
- New York Times
- New York Daily News
- The Oregonian
- Salt Lake Tribune
- Scientific American
- San Francisco Chronicle
- USA Today
- Washington Post
- Wall Street Journal
Ironically, Zimdars’ own fake-news project includes a disclaimer indicating she doesn’t take responsibility for the reliability of her information. It states:
The information contained in this site is for informational and educational purposes only. We have made every attempt to ensure that the information contained in this site and in our downloadable data is reliable; however, we are not responsible for any errors, or for the results obtained from the use of this information. All information in this site is provided “as is” and “as available,” with no guarantee of accuracy, reliability, completeness, or of the services or results obtained from the use of this information. By using OpenSources, you expressly agree that the use of OpenSources and its data is at your sole risk.
As WND reported, in November, the mainstream media went wild circulating earlier versions of Zimdars’ “fake news” list. The Los Angeles Times headlined its story, “Want to keep fake news out of your newsfeed? College professor creates list of sites to avoid.” The Times offered no details concerning Zimdars’ qualifications or background. News organizations such as CNN, the Washington Post, Boston Globe, New York Magazine, USA Today, Business Insider, the Austin American-Statesman, the Dallas Morning News and others spread the list like gospel and cited it in their reports.
But nearly none of them considered Zimdars’ political leanings or questioned her criteria or qualifications for determining which news sources should be included on her list.
Zimdars teaches courses in radio production, mass communication, feminist media studies, television criticism and new media and digital communication. She received her doctorate in communication and media studies in 2015.
Zimdars has not responded to WND’s request for clarification on her expertise or criteria for deciding which news sources to include on her list. Harvard University President Dew Gilpin Faust has not returned WND’s request for comment concerning the school’s inclusion of Zimdars’ list in its research guide.
However, on Monday Zimdars tweeted: “I wish my skin could grow 3 inches thicker so I could better ignore the recent influx of mostly false and misleading ‘news’ stories about me,” and “Again and again ‘news’ websites prove my criticisms to be warranted and true. The only defense they have is to try [sic] discredit me.”
In November, WND asked Merrimack College President Christopher Hopey if he stands by Zimdars’ decision to publish the list and use it as teaching material for her classes. However. Merrimack Vice President of Communications Jim Chiavelli replied: “Thanks for your question to the president about professor Zimdars [sic] pedagogy. The college has no comment for this story.”
Sean Hannity’s website warned that Zimdars’ list includes “mainstream conservative sources” and “is giving us insight into just what kind of websites the left plans on targeting for censorship.”
In addition to her new job as an assistant professor, Zimdars is also a columnist and contributor for Little Village Magazine – a left-leaning magazine that says it’s focused on issues such as “racial justice,” “gender equity,” “critical culture,” “economic and labor justice” and “environmental sustainability.”
Newsbusters found tweets from Zimdars harshly criticizing Trump and Mike Pence during the vice-presidential debate in October.
“Undocumented workers contribute more to this country (beyond taxes) than Drumpf ever has or ever will,” she tweeted on Oct. 4.
The same day, she tweeted to Pence that Hillary’s “basket of deplorables” comment does not equal “Trump’s constant sexist, racist, homophobic, and xenophobic comments.”
Just after Trump’s first week in the White House, Zimdars tweeted that she was “completely paralyzed by anxiety and fear.”
In response to February’s news that actress Rosie O’Donnell offered to help “Saturday Night Live” “drive Donald Trump over the edge” by playing the role of Trump adviser Steve Bannon, Zimdars tweeted: “This would be AMAZING.”
In February, after Education Secretary Betsy DeVos ripped universities for telling college students what to think, Zimdars tweeted: “No, we teach them how to think.”
Zimdars says she’s an expert on the media’s portrayal of “fat” people. In 2015, the same year she received her doctorate, Zimdar published a paper on “fat acceptance TV” in the journal Popular Communication. The paper critiqued the TLC television miniseries “Big Sexy.” It’s unclear whether the paper was Zimdar’s doctoral dissertation.
In an interview with the “Feminist Killjoys Podcast,” Zimdar talks about her “fat studies” research.
“I mostly focus on media representations of fatness, or any kind of body that deviates from the normal health prescription,” she said.
She enthusiastically declares that she’s “less self-conscious of my own rear end than I used to be” and participates in an extensive discussion of the Kardashians, a reality TV family. She further suggests women should “celebrate eating pizza.” Zimdars praises actress Amy Schumer for stating, “I’m probably like 160 pounds right now, and I can catch a d–k whenever I want, like, that’s the truth. It’s not a problem!”
Zimdars published a 2014 article in Little Village Magazine on the TV series “Girls,” starring Lena Dunham.
“Girls is meaningful to me mainly for one reason: Lena Dunham’s naked body,” Zimdars writes, praising Dunham’s “body confidence.”
At a University of Notre Dame conference in June of 2016, Zimdars gave a presentation titled, “Failures of the Self or Failures of Fitbit?: Gendered Fit/Fatness, Tracking Technologies, and Self-SurveillingPost-Feminist Subjects.”
Zimdars racked up about $60,000 for her degrees in communication and media studies, according to the Iowa Gazette.
As a graduate student, she also complained about tuition costs in a 2014 interview with the Des Moines Register, telling the newspaper she was joining a protest because, “We wanted to all work together to bring awareness to the fact that it doesn’t have to be an issue if the state would start funding higher education again. Then we wouldn’t be acquiring so much debt as individuals.”
As for her list of “fake news” sites, one Twitter user offered up the following “list of journalists who colluded with the Clinton campaign.” He tweeted, “Here’s the actual list of fake news sites from WikiLeaks. Melissa Zimdars is a troll.”
Follow Chelsea Schilling on Twitter @ChelsSchilling.