Accuracy in Media

I was reminded recently of the quote, sometimes attributed to Mark Twain, sometimes to Winston Churchill, that “A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is still putting on its shoes.” One version of the quote can be traced back to Jonathan Swift in 1710.

National Public Radio (NPR) recently aired a story in which they made an egregious error concerning the number of people killed as a result of the Fukushima nuclear power plant meltdown in Japan in 2011. The story was told in the context of President Obama’s apology at Hiroshima for America’s role in ending World War II—a war that the U.S. entered after being bombed by Japan at Pearl Harbor.

The NPR reporter said, “Japan is quite pacifist, as you know, given its experiences with nuclear war and with nuclear energy. It was just five years ago that Fukushima’s power plant melted down, which killed tens of thousands in Japan.”

NPR later added a correction at the end of the transcript of the story on its website, and they removed seven words from the audio. Those seven words were, “which killed tens of thousands in Japan.” But the words are still in the written transcript on the page.

This is their correction:

“[POST-BROADCAST CORRECTION: An earlier version of the audio of this story mistakenly referred to the 2011 Fukushima nuclear power plant accident causing ‘tens of thousands’ of deaths. The large death toll was caused by the earthquake and tsunami, not the nuclear accident. The incorrect reference was removed for subsequent airings of the broadcast and on our digital platforms.]”

This story played to millions of people across the globe who were tuned in to NPR. Maybe one one-thousandth of that number, if that, will ever see the correction. And again, those who read the transcript will still see the original mistake.

The point of that error was to provide support for President Obama’s argument that we need to rid the world of nuclear weapons, and that even nuclear power plants pose an unacceptable risk. After all, the U.S. has been the only nation to use atomic bombs, when we dropped them on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. The Oliver Stone view of the world is that it was unnecessary, and that Japan would have surrendered anyway because they feared a Soviet invasion. Yet it was widely believed by military and diplomatic experts at that time—and, I would argue, to this day—that it saved hundreds of thousands, maybe even a million Americans, who would have otherwise died invading Japan in order to force them to surrender.

Claudia Rosett wrote a column about President Obama’s recent speech at Hiroshima, and the message he sent. Since he never said the words, “I apologize,” most media stories highlighted the angle that there was no actual apology. But the weight and the meaning of his full speech was in and of itself an apology.

“What’s missing from Obama’s ‘logic’ is the reality that mankind—no matter what Obama says at Hiroshima—is unlikely to un-invent nuclear weapons,” writes Rosett. “The practical question is how to minimize the chances that they will be used, and the main question for an American president should be how to ensure they are not used against the U.S. and its allies. It matters whether it is Britain that has the bomb, or North Korea.”

But President Obama doesn’t want responsible nations to have nuclear weapons. He argues that all nations should shed “the logic of fear” and get rid of their nuclear arsenals. “How easily we learn to justify violence in the name of some higher cause,” said President Obama in his speech.

How easily, too, NPR justifies a throwaway correction for what is a major factual error.

NPR needs to figure out a better way to correct a story. They should have announced the correction on the air, and made the change within the transcript, with an asterisk—rather than count on the very few people who might read the correction at the very end of the transcript—in order to fulfill their journalistic obligation.

Some news reports do speculate that there will eventually be deaths of people who will get cancer as a result of Fukushima. That may be true. But as Accuracy in Media reported with regard to the 1986 nuclear accident at Chernobyl in the Soviet Union, those reports are likely to be greatly exaggerated.

NPR got their shot in. The lie traveled halfway around the world, but the correction sits as a little noticed blurb at the end. The correction should have included the fact that there were no known deaths as a result of the Fukushima nuclear meltdown.

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  • Kelly

    Gee do you think that ‘error’ and it’s so-called correction was an accident??? I don’t think so. To correct it in such a way that the same people that heard that it was caused by a nuke plant melt-down also hear the correction that it was actually an earthquake or other natural disaster that caused all those deaths would go against their objective to help Obama make his case! This is why I think American’s in general can’t trust the media!

  • biilyjoe

    Obama and his fiend-friends( such as Jarrett, Sharpton, Bill Ayers, Dyson, blackLIES, AlinskyLIES, TaqiyyahLIES , the whole left/marxist -run Democrat Party) have been doing everything possible not only to re-write , via his revisionist lies, not only American History but the entire History of Western Civilization.
    Every military and political expert of the time advised DEMOCRAT President Harry Truman that the Japanese Army and Emperor were ready, willing, and able to extend the War in the Pacific against us until at least 1947 and were fully ready for the invasion of Japan which our military was ready to carry out — in 2 parts –Nov. 1945 and March 1946. This invasion was estimated ,by every military/political expert, to have resulted in the deaths of another 250, 000 American servicemen/women and another million Japanese (mostly citizens– because the Emperor and his army had armed/trained these civilians and demanded they fight for their Sun-god Emperor — much like jihadis today— part of their “faith”). The Emperor did NOT want to surrender even after 2 bombs had been dropped — hiroshima/nagasaki. It wasn’t til the Emperor was informed that the 3rd bomb was to be dropped on his palace in Tokyo that made him record a surrender for the next day to be played on radio stations all over Japan– but at same time many of his officers opposed him and wanted to continue the war regardless.

  • jg collins

    Even after Hiroshima and Nagasaki were demolished, the Japanese military wanted to continue the war. They went so far as to attempt to intercept the recording made by Hirohito announcing the surrender. A clever radio station manager convinced army officers that the recording had been sent to another studio for broadcast. When they left, he played the message over the air, as scheduled, ending the war.

    Nobody with any common sense believes anything that NPR says. They’re strictly a propaganda outlet in the tradition of Josef Goebbels.

  • Robert F

    I served with Marines in 1957 who would have been in the invasion of Japan. All said “Thank you, President Truman”. Also, he could have visited Pearl Harbor on his way back to the U.S., but chose to dishonor the ones who were so dastardly attacked. He has no honor.

  • BakkenBill

    This presidential ‘impersonator’ has taken every opportunity to speak on behalf of “Our” nation and apologize around the world for our being ‘United States of America” citizenry.
    We The People, to a degree were the unwanted of the world. The starved immigrants who had nothing left to lose, for the most part. The persecuted scourge of societies that wanted these dissidents silence in order to rule them. But these stubborn survivors refused to give up.
    They built an empire of sweat, blood, and determination. An industrialized nation, the envy of many. A functioning thriving democracy of the people, by them people. A nation unequalled in its time. A FREE, God fearing nation.
    So yes, we are seen as arrogant, we walk with swagger, hold our heads proud, and bow our proud heads humbly in prayer. By God’s grace we have such a right to do so. We have fought, and died around this world for Freedom. We, are melted and melded from every corner of this world, to be Americans. The watered down sons and daughters of lesser nations Built this nation.
    How DARE this Kenyan idiot apologize for this country, My/Our country for being the nation we are! Don’t EVER apologize for me Little Barry O!!!
    I am an American! A Veteran! Born and bred! You sir, are welcomed to go elsewhere so far as I, and many, many of my countrymen are concerned.
    This country is a Super power! Not an apologist state. Where men are men and transgendered are merely confused homosexuals in defiance of God Almighty, the True Living God’s law. They Little Barry O., like you, are an obomination.
    May God have mercy on your soul.


    There is no doubt that NPR is flat-out regime propaganda. There is also no doubt that this kinky-headed quisling proclaimed that the United States was immoral in using the atomic bomb to end the war without a prolonged and bloody invasion of the home islands, and that our history since that time has been a slow progression from moral depravity to the elevated state of having his miscegenated drug-sodden you-know-what in the presidential chair. There should have been an uprising against this demon mulatto during his first term, before he stole a second one with the aid of the Black Panthers and La Raza; the best we can do now is keep his successor the Bloody Lesbian out of power. Civil war is unfortunately getting closer and closer.

  • Steven Barrett

    Boy oh boy, everytime Hiroshima comes up, I wind up feeling a great amount of kinship with the fictional Don Michael Corleone, who just before having a massive stroke in his kitchen following a botched hit on his life, is angrily pulling in his arms saying “every time I want to get out … they keep pulling me back in…” (Forgive me, I’m quoting from memory, or more accurately, by the seat of my pants.)
    Nothing ever changes. Same old lines, same old lies. The forces that have been at work ever assiduously trying to besmirch our nation’s and its late President Truman’s motives and reputation for his decision to drop atomic bombs on Japan, are at it again. And they will be for years to come. Just remember the nuclear freeze movement and how rapidly it crumbled with Reagan’s Star Wars proposal and how exposed that freeze nonsense was exposed for what it was all along when its author and chief funder all of a sudden crumbled in 1991. Just attending the damn ceremony was tantamount to an apology by a sitting president.

  • Roland

    Japan at the time was a warrior culture, they were brutal and inhumane to any enemy. The idea they were pacifists could not be further from the truth. The U.S. was justified in what she had to do in WWII, sadly this was the only way to actually save lives, with a people who were prepared to fight down to the last Japanese grandmother! I’m so tired of revisionist history and blame America first that I could puke!

  • IronChefSandwiches

    “The point of that error was to provide support for President Obama’s
    argument that we need to rid the world of nuclear weapons, and that even
    nuclear power plants pose an unacceptable risk.”

    Errors are errors, you incredible dolt. Only a right wing moron would conflate a minor error with supporting the president’s goals. You’re hated of NPR makes you really, really dumb.

  • disqus_smWiOrvPtd

    I stopped listing to NPR the day I realized there was little difference between NPR and Moscow state-run radio.

  • RichardToes

    Bakken Bill whoever you are that comment was brilliant. Thank you. Richard

  • Steve Burstein

    I just can’t help but be reminded of the Tom Lehrer “We Got the Bomb” song.