The mainstream media are going wild circulating a viral list of so-called “fake news” websites – and the list includes established news sites like WND, Breitbart, Red State, the Daily Wire and Project Veritas – but WND has found a leftist, Trump-bashing assistant professor in Massachusetts who specialized in “fat studies” is behind the effort to target and discredit legitimate news organizations.
Meet Merrimack College Assistant Professor Melissa Zimdars, a 30-something self-identified feminist and activist who has expressed great dislike for President-elect Donald Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence.
She’s only actually held her teaching position at the private college in North Andover, Massachusetts, for 15 months.
Zimdars published and circulated a list of “fake, false, or regularly misleading websites that are shared on Facebook and social media.” She said she began writing the list because she didn’t approve of the sources her students were citing.
In addition to some satirical and bogus sites, her list attacks the credibility of well-established news organizations such as Breitbart, BizPac Review, Red State, the Blaze, the Independent Journal Review, Twitchy, the Daily Wire, WND and James O’Keefe’s Project Veritas. In many cases (such as with her WND listing), she offers no explanation for why the news organizations were included on the list.
Mainstream media outlets such as the Los Angeles Times circulated Zimdars’ growing list. The 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. (Editor’s note: Zimdars removed her list following publication of this WND article. However, versions of it continue to be circulated in the mainstream media and online.)
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 just last year.
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. 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 pedagogy. The college has no comment for this story.”
In response to the list, PJ Media’s Stephen Kruiser wrote, “It’s no surprise that a college professor compiled this list; what’s galling is that the Los Angeles Times ‘reported’ on it without mentioning that it’s complete garbage.”
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.”
But Newsbusters found tweets from Zimdars harshly criticizing President-elect Trump and Vice-President elect 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.”
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 this year, 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.” The reporters and news organizations in his post were not included on Zimdars’ list.
He tweeted, “Here’s the actual list of fake news sites from WikiLeaks. Melissa Zimdars is a troll.”
Follow Chelsea Schilling on Twitter @ChelsSchilling.