Accuracy in Media


It was a zinger – the kind of non-answer that makes news and lifts fortunes in presidential debates. But in the case of Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), it might have been a little too perfect.

The question that led to this zinger might have been a setup in which the media took part by ignoring obvious signs.

At a CNN town hall for LGBT issues, a questioner posed a hypothetical: “Suppose a supporter approached her and said: ‘Senator, I’m old-fashioned and my faith teaches me that marriage is between one man and one woman.’ How would she respond?” wrote the New York Times summarizing the event.

“’Well, I’m going to assume it’s a guy who said that,’ Warren replied without offering a reason why she assumed it was a guy. “’And I’m going to say, then just marry one woman. I’m cool with that.’”

Warren let several seconds pass before adding, “assuming you can find one.”

After what appeared a takedown, the man at the podium continued to beam. Perhaps, say other outlets, that’s because he was in on it from the start.

Before the man asked his question, he was identified by Chris Cuomo of CNN as “Morgan Cox, real estate investment firm in Dallas, Texas. He is the chair of the Human Rights Campaign board of directors.”

The Human Rights Campaign bills itself as “America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer equality,” which would make it odd for Cox to ask such a question. Moreover, this particular questioner appears to be a maxed-out donor to Warren’s campaign – a fact not acknowledged by CNN during or after the debate.

He gave $2,700 to Warren’s Senate primary campaign in 2017 and made two donations adding up to the same amount to her general election campaign. He also donated $2,700 to the Elizabeth Warren Action Fund PAC.

CNN has not commented.

It wasn’t the only example of fake news on the day.

In its efforts to attack President Trump over his decision to withdraw 50 American troops from near the Syrian border, ABC News used footage from a military show in Kentucky to depict the savage bombing of civilians by Turkey.

“The video, obtained by ABC News, appears to show the fury of the Turkish attack on the border town of Tal Abyad two nights ago,” foreign correspondent Ian Panell said to anchor Tom Llamas on the air. “Turkey’s military bombing Kurd civilians in a Syrian border town,” Llamas responded.

The media rallied around ABC. They noted that a “far-right” social media user who supports Trump brought the problem to light.

“This ABC News broadcast is obviously bad news for people who value accuracy in journalism and it’s sure to provide even more ammunition to pro-Trump supporters who insist that mainstream news outlets are deliberately trying to deceive people,” wrote Matt Novak of Gizmodo. “Most news outlets, believe it or not, are trying to tell the truth and know that they’ll pay dearly if they lose the trust of their readers and viewers.

“To be clear, there’s no question that Turkish forces are currently slaughtering the Kurds, as countless journalists and civilians on the ground can attest. But this particular video is fake, and it’s a shame that it was broadcast.”

Brian Stelter of CNN acknowledged this was “a big black eye for ABC News.”

But, without acknowledging the error benefits the anti-Trump crowd, he quoted Mike McIntire of the New York Times on “’the difference between journalistic mistakes and fake news’”:

  1. It actually IS a mistake and not willful propaganda;
  2. It’s acknowledged and corrected;
  3. Partisan opportunists seize on it anyway to claim bias.



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