As soon as the Washington Post told me they wanted to do a story on Outkick I knew what was coming.
The usual far left wing smear job to try and make me — and Outkick — look awful.
Been there, done that.
In fact, all of you knew what was coming as well. As a prelude to the story I polled you guys on Twitter and asked if I’d be painted in a positive light.
— Clay Travis (@ClayTravis) August 14, 2020
30k of you voted in my Twitter poll and a whopping 94% of you said the story wouldn’t paint me — or Outkick — in a positive light. The public is not dumb, they know the sports media has picked a side and I’m not on the “right” side so I don’t get positive media coverage.
I know this too.
But the reason I agreed to participate in the story was because I thought you guys would enjoy a behind the scenes perspective to illuminate just how biased hit pieces like this are. So I decided to record every minute of my conversation with the Washington Post reporter and post the portions of our conversation he decided to use as quotes to demonstrate how fundamentally artificial and devoid of context those quotes truly were.
The Washington Post’s story about Outkick is just shy of two thousand three hundred words and is on the front page of the Thursday edition of the Washington Post sports section. Do you know how many of those words are direct quotes from me?
Here they are:
“I’m in regular touch with the White House press office,” Travis said in an interview. “I have a lot of fans in the White House.”
“There’s a knife fight for the 20 percent of sports fans that I would say are woke or are left-wing,” he told The Washington Post. “I think people are cutting each other left and right, battling to be the media company that serves that left-wing component.”
“I wasn’t the source,” he said, then asked: “How is it political to want sports to come back?” (This is referencing a Sports Business Journal piece that ran on me Tuesday). The second part of my quote is a response to the allegation that by fighting alongside the president — and others — for Big Ten football to be played this fall that I’m somehow interjecting politics into sports. My position is simple: wanting sports be played isn’t political at all.
“If I agree with something, then I’m happy to amplify it.”
“I don’t see anything that is immediately political.”
(Jason Whitlock is quoted once: “I was attracted to the business opportunity and the freedom to say exactly what I think without worrying about some scared executive.” He just published his full quotes for The Washington Post’s questions that I’d encourage you to go read.)
Putting how minimal these quotations are in context, the transcript of my conversation with the Washington Post was 28 single-spaced pages.
We talked for over an hour nearly a month ago.
That’s tens of thousands of words. The Washington Post picked less than 100 of them and lifted those quotes out of context and placed them in a negative light in their story. Now there are many flaws and outright lies in the piece written about me yesterday that I could spend a ton of time on beginning with the title of the piece itself, “Clay Travis Is Trump’s Secret Weapon in the Fight Over College Football” — how am I a secret weapon when I’m as open and transparent as possible about my efforts to fight for college football? — but I’m choosing to focus on my quotes in the article.
I’m going to show all of you how bias and lack of objectivity — in a piece that’s supposed to be unbiased and objective — can occur in a news profile.
The first quote above: “I’m in regular touch with the White House press office,” Travis said in an interview. “I have a lot of fans in the White House,” doesn’t appear in our interview. I suppose it could have come from another source, but it’s sourced as if it came from an interview.
Here’s the relevant portion of our transcript.
Washington Post: “Are you like in regular contact with the White House Press Office at this point?”
Clay Travis: “They reach out quite a bit. Yeah, there’s a lot. We have a lot of listeners in the White House. I mean, the White House reached out to put Donald Trump on back in March or April of this year, and said the president likes the show. I don’t know if that’s true, I hope he listens to the show all the time, just like I hope everybody listens to the show all the time. But they said he likes the show and wanted to do it. Would we be interested in having the President on the show? And of course, I said 100%, yes.
I was thrilled, I would have Joe Biden, if Joe Biden wins the election and is president, or if Barack Obama was president, and they had reached out and said, “Hey, can the president come on? And the answer is always gonna be 100%, yes.”
(Later I also said) “I can’t presume to tell you why Joe Biden would not come on the show maybe he will, I mean, if he’s smart, he would, but the offer is out there, so he has the ability to come on, just like the President does.”
Then the Washington Post followed up and asked the same question again later:
Washington Post: “How did the I guess we sort of touched on this, but how did the Trump interview come about? You know, they reach out to you and say, we want to talk about this, or how did that come about?”
Clay Travis: “They reached out to me in March or April and said the President was a fan of the show and that they had mentioned the idea of doing it to him and that he was excited about the idea and was I interested in having the President of the United States on my radio show? And my answer was immediately, “Yes.” And I was ecstatic to have him on the show Tuesday.”
In reading the transcript, there’s actually no quote from our conversation that directly matches what he wrote in the piece. Now the quote is roughly accurate — and I don’t have any problems with it — but it doesn’t appear in the transcript of our conversation that I have.
The next question that led to a quote was about the audience Outkick was trying to reach. And somehow I managed to answer this question which is transcribed as follows:
Washington Post: Jason Whitlock, speaking to “Front Office Sports,” described it as like, we’re gonna treat sports as like, you know, this masculine endeavor, that other places don’t. Is that right? And what is the sort of ethos of the site or sort of what is the audience for? Well, so bring in other sports sites, is it you know, going for, you know, the same audience what is, you know, sort of?”
Clay Travis: I think we are serving the 75 or 80% of sports fans who feel like sports has become far too serious and political. And I think there are in the sports media industry, I think there’s a knife fight for the 20% of sports fans that I would say are woke or are left wing. I think that people are cutting each other left and right. Battling to be the media company that serves that left wing component. I hope the left and right, all of them, I hope they read Outkick. I hope 100% of all sports fans and frankly, I wish 100% of everyone in the world of American internet life visited our website. But to me what is driving the force behind Outkick is to be smart, to be fearless and to and to appeal to a large audience that doesn’t feel like they’re being served by the marketplace.
And by the way, that’s nothing new.
When I launched Outkick back in 2011, I was like, “Hey, you know, I love SEC football.” That was our launch, right? That was always our foundation was I love college football. And I felt like college football was under covered on the internet compared to the Yankees Red Sox or compared to the Redskins, the Dallas Cowboys. You know, there were certain teams that were wildly over indexed. And I looked around as a kid who grew up in Nashville and I said, “Man, I love sec football. There’s really not that much good stuff to read on the internet about SEC football.”
So that was my initial foundation was just serving the audience of people that I knew. People who were dyed in the wool college football fans. And so I don’t think what we do is crazy, right? I think you produce content that you yourself would want to read. And that’s why the people that I’ve hired are all people that I would want to read. And then you keep producing more of that content. And you find more people who are good at producing that content. And that’s how you grow. But that’s been sort of the site ethos since 2011. And if you talk to my wife, when I started Outick, I thought it was going to be super easy to find younger versions of me. I’m 41 now. I thought there was going to be tons of talent out there. And we even had a bullpen portion (reader submission) of Outkick, we had an editor reviewing all the submissions, and what I found was talent’s rare. There are lots of people who can write one good article, but then they’re like, they just want to sit back and rest on their laurels. I’m like, “Man, you got to be able to produce day after day, month after month, year after year,” and most people don’t want to put the time or the effort or the energy into doing that. And and so I’m glad I’ve got people who want to do that now that are working at Outkick.”
Again, which answer is more interesting about who we are targeting?
No contest, right? And, again, I specifically say in that answer that I hope every sports fan reads our site.
Next, I was asked about whether I’m propaganda for Trump, which is where this quote comes from, “If I agree with something then I’m happy to amplify it.”
And here was my answer in full detail to that question about my opinions on Trump and whether I propagandize for his administration.
Washington Post: “Yeah. Pretty, you know, out front on the NBA in China, I guess they think that there are people who wonder both about, I guess I’d put you in the category. But also, you know, some Republicans have been very critical of the NBA but perhaps not of President Trump for you know, his friendship with China. You know that he wasn’t going to press them on, you know, concentration camps because, you know, he’s working on a trade deal.”
Clay Travis: So I believe that Donald Trump has been the most difficult president on China of any in my lifetime. That doesn’t mean that every single thing he said on China I’ve agreed with. Because I think unless you’re the president of the United States, you’re not going to 100% agree with anything that any president says. But I, specifically on Tuesday (during our radio interview), asked the President about Hong Kong. I specifically asked him about China and even specifically asked him about his relationship with Chairman Xi. And I thought that was actually maybe the most newsworthy thing that he said,
Washington Post: He didn’t mention sort of the human rights aspect of it at all. He talked about the virus, I think.
Clay Travis: Well, he said that he didn’t have the same relationship with Chairman XI anymore, that they used to have a good relationship.
Washington Post: Right. And he talks about it very specifically in relation to the virus.
Clay Travis: Look, I think that’s where you look at his actions. I mean, he’s been pretty aggressive in trying to — again I’m not an expert in Hong Kong policy with China — but based on my understanding of American policy with Hong Kong, we have taken pretty substantial actions against China, whether it’s shutting the consulate down in Houston, whether it is trying to support the basic human rights of the protesters and letting it be known that we’re not as a country supporting the actions that the Chinese are taking in Hong Kong. And so, what if President Clay Travis was in charge of everything in the United States? Would I make different decisions than Donald Trump? Probably. Would I make different decisions than Barack Obama? Probably. I mean, I think every single human who has any kind of political beliefs, the only person you’re going to agree with 100% of the time is yourself.
Washington Post: I guess I would say sort of right. Like when you think of sort of Republicans, I, you know, I have asked some people about the site and I think that there are, you know, are people who view it, you know, you’ve said, anybody on it, you know, there’s people who view it, you know, can this be the Fox News of sports? And I think somebody, you know, mentioned to me that it’s, you know, become Trump propaganda, essentially. And I guess that’s sort of what I’m asking about.
Clay Travis: I think that’s funny. I mean, we’re not propaganda for anybody. Outkick is and I 100% believe this to be true, and I think this is why we are growing so fast, we represent the First Amendment wing of the First Amendment. I don’t think there is a single sports media company in the country that has as expansive of a range of opinions, smart opinions on a day to day basis, as we do on the internet.I 100 billion % believe that and certainly, that’s something that we’re working to build going forward.
But look, the reason why I started Outkick was to have the ability to say exactly what I want to say every single day. Not everybody has that. But that’s literally the foundational reason of why I started Outkick. So you should talk to people in positions of prominence in sports and media and be like, “Hey, do you think you can convince Clay Travis to put something up on his site under his name that he disagrees with?” I think they all would say, “Hell no.” And I think they probably would say that about me more than almost anybody out there. If I agree with something, then I’m happy to amplify it and continue to give attention to people that have ideas that I think are important that aren’t getting discussed enough.”
Now which is a more interesting answer, the one I just quoted in detail or the half of a sentence the Washington Post took out of the middle of a thought to make it appear that I’m a propagandist for President Trump?
The final quote used in the article came at the end when I said, “I don’t see anything that is immediately political,” while scrolling through all the current articles on Outkick.
Washington Post: I feel like you’re more like, at least lately, like since the relaunch it’s been more politics that the site has been known for.
Clay Travis: I don’t think that that’s true. I mean, I’ll just look at the articles that are up on the site. All right, so we’ve got the anonymous mailbag, which I’ve been doing for a long time. A story about the Cubs and something that happened with them. Another MLB story. Dr. Chao on three reasons why the NFL will play in 2020. James Conner says his choice to play was easy with Pittsburgh Steelers. Pennsylvania lawmaker makes poignant argument for high school football. A Chicago Tribune sportswriter, which is an interesting story, asked how many reporters were furloughed for an ad at Wrigley. Then we’ve got Charles Barkley, Shaq, Kobe. I mean, I don’t really see anything that is immediately political. As I’m scrolling through, looking at our looking at our storyline — here are NBA futures odds now that the NBA Playoffs are set. You know, we’re an opinion site, right. We are primarily a sports opinion site, but sports and the return of sports has obviously at times become supremely political during this period.
So I define us as a sports opinion site with a broad mandate where we can have strong opinions about “Game of Thrones,” which I wrote about for years and it was one of the most popular things I wrote about, or on what might happen in the presidential debates, which I imagine we will cover as if they are a sporting event and an election in many ways does kind of feel like a sporting event as well. But I think if you look at the, at the political if you want to classify them as that, stories that we’re covering, most of the time, they are connected to sports.
Last week we had Ron Desantis, the governor of Florida on, and my questions for him were about whether he supports college football being played at the University of Miami, Florida State and Florida. We have the governor of Texas on and my questions for were about whether he supports college football being played at all the Big 12 schools and all the SEC schools. And we have the President of the United States and a lot of my questions were about the NBA, the NFL, Major League Baseball, and all of those things that now they touch on other subjects as well. But all of the focal points of those I would say were sports related, certainly, first and foremost.”
So that was my answer about the site’s current content.
And here’s the final paragraph of the Washington Post piece.
“Regardless, Travis insisted that politics won’t get in Outkick’s way. Because, he claimed, Outkick doesn’t do politics.
“I don’t see anything that is immediately political,” he said one day in August, scrolling through the day’s headlines. Had he scrolled a little further he would have found that week’s “Outkick Election Pollwatch” and a story headlined, “President Donald Trump on Joe Biden’s VP Options.” Both stories quoted only one person, Trump, from an interview he gave to Travis.”
Is that an accurate reflection of what I said at all?
Of course not.
I never claimed we don’t do any politics. I specifically responded to a question about why we had so much politics on the site by looking at the site and reading all the stories that we’d published on the day he was asking those questions. Most of our articles have nothing to do with politics. Sure, if you look, you can find articles like the ones he referenced. And what’s the point, that we shouldn’t publish an article about the President of the United States opinion on college football when he came on my radio show and gave it?
Of course we’re going to write that story. You know who else wrote that story? Every major sports website in America.
But, and here’s the clear point, I specifically referenced why we would have those stories that the Washington Post ended their story with like it was some great and amazing revelation demonstrating my hypocrisy. I led my interview with President Trump with sports questions. We cover the gambling odds for the presidential race because the presidential race gambling odds can make it feel like a sporting event.
My point here is pretty straightforward: the Washington Post’s profile of me is fundamentally dishonest.
Which use of quotes do you think gives a better sense of me and Outkick? My own words responding to the actual questions of the Washington Post that I’ve just published here or the quotes they pulled out of context to write a piece designed to denigrate me, Whitlock, and the site?
It’s important to read the news aggressively and realize that you’re being propagandized, often without knowing it. Even in “news” pieces that claim to be devoid of politics. This wasn’t an opinion piece written by a columnist. This is the work of a supposedly “objective” and “unbiased” reporter who is just there to give you the news right down the middle.
Did the Washington Post do that with these out of context quotes? And if these quotes weren’t objective and unbiased, which I think just about everyone reading this will agree they weren’t, how many other stories are occurring just like this every day? Stories that reporters claim are unbiased and objective, but clearly have a partisan slant.
Now the benefit of owning Outkick is way more people will read this piece than will read the Washington Post piece on Outkick. Since I own my own media company I have the ability to fight back, to fight media fire with media fire.
But most people don’t have that ability. They’re held hostage by the power of the Washington Post.
Which is a shame.
Because I used to be a huge fan of the Washington Post.
Don’t believe me?
Check the transcript.
Washington Post: So I guess before sort of like as we start, so you, I don’t like it’s totally your prerogative to record it. I’m just like, are you planning to then release it or what?
Clay Travis: I have found that I like to do live media, right. So if I’m going to talk for 20 or 30 minutes, I would rather do it live so that everybody can hear it entirely in context. If I give a long interview answer to a question and one sentence gets pulled out, and everybody’s like, “Oh, my God, Clay, Travis said x,” and I’m like, well, actually, when you look at the context of it, it’s not exactly as it was portrayed. I want the context.
I get a lot of media requests now. So most of them I just say no to but I grew up reading the Washington Post, I really deeply respect the newspaper.
I think I might have told you this before, but I went to George Washington and so one of the best things about going to GW was reading the Washington Post every day, and that was before the days of PTI. But I think the Washington Post sports section, getting to read (Mike) Wilbon and (Tony) Kornheiser every day, I was like, “Oh my god,” you know, as a kid growing up in Nashville, we had a local newspaper, but we didn’t have guys who were talented, like the guys who write in the Washington Post, were. Not on the same caliber. And so I loved it. I mean, I was a subscriber to The Washington Post. And I loved reading it for the four years that I spent in DC.
Washington Post: So it’s like, don’t quote me out of context. And I have the receipts to prove it. And then also potentially, I want to share it with my audience.
Clay Travis: 100% percent.