MS-NBC and Politico Get the Brewer Lie All Wrong. Yeah, I’m Shocked, Too.

| August 22, 2009 | 12 Replies

MS-NBC issued a statement on its dishonest reporting earlier this week. As you might expect, it wasn’t an apology and it didn’t even bother to acknowledge the actual lie in the report.

An MSNBC spokesperson responded to POLITICO: “Contessa was speaking generally and not about that specific person with the automatic weapon.”

Yeah, okay. I’ll get back to that.

Michelle Malkin isn’t buying the terse response either and has handed out yet another Cone of Shame. Donald Douglas notes that the Americans for Limited Government has called on the network to fire everyone involved with the report (Skye at Midnight Blue has the full statement as well). I think that is the most appropriate action. MS-NBC is, at least in theory, a news organization. If it can’t report the news accurately, then it has no reason for existing. Its credibility is in tatters and it needs to do something big to at least begin to restore it.

Okay, now back to the statement, and Michael Calderone’s story.

If, in fact, Contessa Brewer was speaking generally, why didn’t the report have more examples and use more footage from other protests? If the only footage the network had was of a black man, doesn’t that cut against Brewer’s theory that there are hordes of angry white men toting guns to protests? Of course it does. Contessa Brewer wasn’t speaking generally. She was speaking of that man at that protest (indeed, she mentioned him specifically) and the only way he would work as an example of Dangerous White Man Rage if he he was, well, white. That’s why MS-NBC had to crop the footage, and please note that they were the only media outlet to do so. Every other report I saw on the protest that included footage, including an AP story carried on the MS-NBC website, clearly included all of the rifle-toting guy.

Now, to Calderone. This is his opening paragraph.

Several conservative bloggers, including Hot Air, RedState, and NewsBusters, have taken MSNBC to task for not identifying a man with a gun at an Obama event as an African-American in a segment that discussed the “racial overtones” of those packing heat at presidential town halls.

First of all, what am I over here, Mike, chopped liver? Second, you got it wrong. We didn’t condemn MS-NBC for not showing him as black. We condemned them for intentionally and painstakingly obscuring his race then using him to build the “racial overtones” point. One of them is simply bad journalism but the other is journalistic malfeasance. Here’s how they’re different.

If Brewer had said (without footage), “A man at an Arizona protest, who refused to give his name to reporters, carried both a semi-automatic rifle slung over his shoulder and a pistol in a holster on his hip”, she would have been guilty of not identifying the man as black. Sure, we could have dinged her for it, and the criticism would have been fair, but that sort of thing happens all the time. There are plenty of incompetent journalists out there who routinely miss important facts and if we got all het up about all of them, we’d stroke out from high blood pressure. But that’s not what she did.

Contessa Brewer and her news team took video footage that clearly identified the protester as black and edited it so that it was impossible for anyone to know what color he was. Then, she mentioned that man specifically while the footage played, asain without even letting on that he wasn’t white. Then, she and the dishonest duo of Dylan Ratigan and Toure went on the air and talked about white people and growing violence.

Do you see the difference? Calderone soft-pedaled the criticism as just another gripe about sloppy journalism, but he’s wrong. We’re not angry about another crappy journalist getting the facts wrong. We’re angry that MS-NBC created a lie on which it hung a well-used and tattered smear and played it off as real news.

UPDATE: Dan Collins knocks the real story (sorry to my leftist troll in the comments, but the real meat’s here) out of the park.

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