“Veritas.” It’s the Latin word for “truth.” A new media website, Verrit, carries a derivative of the term in its name. A startup created by Peter Daou, the former digital strategist for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, the site operates under the motto “Media for the 65.8 Million.”
That number ostensibly refers to Clinton’s popular vote total in the 2016 election, which she lost to President Donald Trump through the Electoral College.
The site works by creating authenticated digital placards of quotes from either Democratic Party leaders or current conservative pundits and Trump Cabinet officials that contradict the administration’s policies. Users can either download these placards or share them on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter.
Clinton herself promoted the new website in a tweet on Sept. 3:
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) September 3, 2017
Critics of the startup quickly mobilized and called out Daou for creating Verrit. Kate Knibbs of The Ringer wrote in a column, “As one of the 65.8 million people who cast a ballot for Clinton in the general election, I am confident that the audience will count far fewer than that figure.”
She complained that the website offers little analysis or commentary and continues to stoke the flames that linger from the election cycle that ended nearly a year ago.
Ben Mathis-Lilley of Slate magazine interviewed Daou himself, who claimed not to know how Clinton became aware of Verrit. He considers the project a funny one. He stands by the notion that Clinton received the worst media coverage of the candidates in the election, citing a Harvard study and Gallup poll as examples to corroborate his view.
What’s unique about Verrit, though, is that it isn’t categorically equivalent to any other media outlet. A website that only uploads quotes for one side of the political aisle to prove a point and shares them among similar followers hasn’t been presented in such a fashion before.
Vox ran a piece on Verrit’s launch and described this exact predicament in detail. Jeff Stein noted that the website is more focused on defending Clinton than the Democratic Party.
“Opinions masquerading as ‘objective’ is, of course, nothing new to either the Right or Left,” Stein wrote. “What makes Verrit so unusual is that … the site is not loosely affiliated with an ideology aimed at advancing a particular political belief-set out of some conviction about the world. Instead, Verrit is explicitly created as a community for supporters of Hillary Clinton the person.”
What makes Verrit so controversial? Some of it may be because Clinton herself continues to be a controversial figure. Many of her surrogates in the Democratic Party feel that instead of promoting her loss and new election memoir, What Happened, she should fade into the rear-view mirror and allow others in the party to elevate their leadership.
Daou is already aware of the blowback against Verrit. He’s been criticized on Twitter and continues to tweet out defenses of Verrit periodically. Here’s what he said most recently:
To anyone on the left slamming a startup for Clinton voters instead of rightwing hate sites: YOU are the problem, not us.
— Peter Daou (@peterdaou) September 10, 2017
Whether you are a supporter or opponent of “Hillary Clinton the person,” it is undeniable that she has not publicly moved on after her election loss.
She sat down with Jane Pauley on “CBS This Morning” and spoke about what errors she believe she made, which she has done for several months through various outlets. The New Yorker even published a story in July that, although satirical in nature, offered the same point: Clinton needs to trail off into the sunset.
But Verrit itself is a manifestation of the anger that Clinton and her supporters still feel about losing last November. It’s tangible evidence that her supporters would rather stick to their political guns than bridge the gap with Trump’s constituency and mend divides within the Democratic Party. And it suggests that Clinton, despite her detractors, isn’t going away anytime soon.
Thus, it begs the questions: Is Verrit dishing out the truth, or a version of truth appealing to a certain audience? Does it have a partisan mission? Is there room in the media sphere for an outlet like Verrit? The media has spoken, but the American people must make their own judgment call.
Correction: The original version of this piece identified The Ringer as being owned by Vox Media. The Ringer uses a Vox Media-owned platform for its site, but Vox Media does not own them nor do they have a say in The Ringer’s editorial decisions.