Accuracy in Media


Given the week he’s had, Democrats couldn’t be blamed for hoping Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam would just join the Republican Party already.

CNN tried to put him there Friday night – misidentifying Northam as a Republican on a chyron that appeared on Anderson Cooper 360.

Cooper was showing video of a speech the governor had delivered earlier that day in which he tried to apologize for a photo that appeared on his page in his medical school yearbook of two people standing side by side – one in blackface and one in a Ku Klux Klan robe.

The governor has issued conflicting denials on the photo, saying at one point he apologized for the hurt it has caused, then denying he was either of the people in the photo or that he had been the person to choose it for his page in the yearbook during his senior year at Eastern Virginia Medical College in Norfolk.

On CNN, Cooper said, “A few minutes ago, Governor Northam posted this video on Twitter.”

The scene then cuts to Northam, with a chyron that reads: “Gov. Ralph Northam (R) Virginia, saying, “My fellow Virginians, earlier today I released a statement apologizing for behavior in my past that falls far short of the standard you set for me when you elected me to be your governor. I believe you deserve to hear directly from me.

“That photo and the racist and offensive attitudes it represents does not reflect that person I am today or the way I have conducted myself as a soldier, a doctor and a public servant. I am deeply sorry. I cannot change the decisions I made, nor can I undo the harm my behavior caused then and today. But I accept responsibility for my past actions, and I am ready to do the hard work of regaining your trust.”

Cooper previously had identified Northam correctly as a Democrat, and the incorrect chyron appeared for only about 15 seconds. He had tweeted out the segment with the R in the chyron but sent a corrected version along with a tweet that read: “A previous tweet had a video misidentifying Gov. Northam’s party affiliation, it has been removed and the video has been corrected.”

It was the end of a terrible week for the governor. He was busily working his way through the state’s General Assembly session when a video went viral of Del. Kathy Tran, D-Springfield, testifying about an abortion bill she had introduced. The bill would have removed restrictions on third-trimester abortions, and a Republican delegate got her to admit her legislation would allow abortions to be performed after the mother had begun to dilate with the approval of one medical provider.

Appearing on the “Ask the Governor” program last Wednesday on WTOP radio in Washington, Gov. Northam explained how third-trimester abortions worked.

He said such abortions are done with the consent of the mother and more than one physician – a requirement that would have been erased under the legislation Tran and other Democrats had proposed – and they are mainly done when infants have severe deformities or the fetus is non-viable.

“So, in this particular example, if a mother is in labor, I can tell you exactly what would happen,” the governor said. “The infant would be delivered. The infant would be kept comfortable. The infant would be resuscitated if that’s what the mother and the family desired, and then a discussion would ensue between the physicians and the mother. So I think this was really blown out of proportion.”

On Thursday, the medical school yearbook pictures emerged, and since then, officials of both parties, including all the announced Democratic presidential candidates for 2020, called for his resignation.




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