MintPress News is an independent Minnesota-based news website launched in 2012. It covers political, economic, foreign affairs and environmental issues. It is most well known for a story alleging that Syrian rebels were responsible for the Ghouta chemical attack in 2013.
MintPress News was founded by Mnar Muhawesh, a broadcast journalism graduate of St. Cloud State University. She began her career as an intern at Minnesota television station KARE and as a freelance journalist. After posting her own work on a blog, in 2011 she decided to launch her own news site. Muhawesh said she believed "our media has failed us very miserably," and spoke of her aspirations for MintPress, citing uninformed public debates around issues like Iran's nuclear capabilities, or intervention in Syria. "We are in a crucial time in American history where most Americans don't know what's going on in the world around them."
MintPress News said it was a for-profit "regular news organization," with an initial business plan where advertising revenues would exceed costs after three years. MintPress' anonymous initial investors would fund MintPress operations until 2015. However, in 2013 in an email to BuzzFeed, Muhawesh said she restructured the business plan and was now the sole investor financing MintPress: "MintPress was originally funded by angel investors when I was first putting the company together over a year ago, but that route fell through last year as I restructured the business plan."
Coverage of the Ghouta chemical attacks
On August 29, 2013, a MintPress article attributed to Dale Gavlak and Yahya Ababneh said that Syrian rebels and local residents in Ghouta, Syria alleged that the Al-Nusra Front was responsible for the chemical weapons attack on August 21. The allegation was based on interviews conducted in Syria. The article's sources claimed that weapons had been delivered to untrained fighters and "some of the fighters handled the weapons improperly and set off the explosions." The article was widely circulated and cited by other news outlets, such as Military.com, the Voice of Russia, Press TV, the Spanish newspaper ABC, and ConsortiumNews.com.
On September 20, the Brown Moses Blog published a statement from Gavlak saying that "despite my repeated requests, made directly and through legal counsel, they have not been willing to issue a retraction stating that I was not the author. Yahya Ababneh is the sole reporter and author of the Mint Press News piece." The dispute was also covered by the New York Times' news blog The Lede and McClatchy.
MintPress added an editor's note at the top of the article stating Ababneh was the sole reporter on the ground in Syria, while Gavlak assisted in researching and writing the article. It said that Gavlak was a MintPress News correspondent who had freelanced for the Associated Press in Jordan for a decade. A note at the bottom of the story says: "Some information in this article could not be independently verified. Mint Press News will continue to provide further information and updates." On September 21, 2013, MintPress published a statement by Muhawesh saying soon after the article was published, Gavlak retracted her involvement due to pressure from third parties, which Gavlak believed was prompted by Prince Bandar. The statement also claimed that Abadneh was being threatened by Saudi officials.
Claims and counter-claims of Pro-Assad coverage
In October 2015, the StarTribune published a citizen op-ed by Terry Burke in which she accused MintPress, among other alternative Internet news sites, of pro-Assad coverage which includes polls in Assad support, articles about rebels and ISIL abuses in addition to blaming US for the civil war in Syria. In November that year, Mnar Muhawesh replied saying funding came from donations, sponsorships, grants and ad revenue and that the site is open to whomever is behind it including staff, correspondents and syndication partners. She explained being against U.S. intervention in foreign wars does not mean one is pro-dictator. She adds "President Obama is President Bush on steroids. Why then, do people in the progressive community suddenly support 'spreading democracy' when it is a Democrat carrying out Republican policies?" Later, Brian Lambert of MinnPost wrote a blog stating that MintPress lists 20 of its writers, which he labeled as 'far-flung activist bloggers,' and a mission statement. He further claimed that MintPress does not disclose information of its funding despite the fact that Mint Press regularly conducts fund raising campaigns.