Accuracy in Media


Brit Hume charged Tuesday that journalists and their employers have abandoned all pretense of objectivity when they referred to President Trump’s tweets about the “Squad” of newly elected far-left Democrat congresswomen, suggesting they try their policies in their countries of origin before visiting them upon the United States.

“The Post has decided to simply call Trump’s comments racist on its news pages,” tweeted Hume, a senior political analyst on Fox News Channel. “Why not simply report what he said, report the reaction to it, and let the readers decide if the comments were racist?”

Hume’s tweet linked to a story in the Post by Paul Farhi, its longtime media reporter, entitled “‘Racist’ tweets? News media grapple with how to label Trump’s latest attacks,” in which Farhi provided an overview of how media is handling the issue.

“When is it time to call a statement ‘racist,’ and when is it time to let others characterize it that way?” Farhi’s story began. “News organizations wrestled with that question Sunday and Monday after President Trump tweeted a series of statements aimed at four members of Congress, all women of color. Trump’s comments – ‘Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime-infested places from which they came?’ – drew a thunderously negative reaction, with many people, especially Democrats, calling the tweets straight-up racist.”

Farhi then provided a roundup of how various news organizations approached the situation. ABC News’ “World News Tonight” anchor Tom Llamas “attributed the word to others: ‘Tweets critics are calling racist,’ he reported.” An on-screen banner read: “’Racially charged tweet.’”

By Monday morning, George Stephanopoulos, a former Bill Clinton White House aide, “was more explicit, introducing a news story by referring to ‘a series of racist tweeting’ by the president.”

CBS Weekend News “also sidestepped the issue,” on Sunday, saying Trump had “’stepped up his attacks on Democratic women.’” But by Monday, the network was referring to them as “’racially charged’ tweets.”

At Fox News, Bill Hemmer spoke of “’what they call racist comments,’” and White House correspondent John Roberts of tweets that were “’drawing cries of racism.’”

CNN “wasn’t so shy,” Farhi wrote. A chyron on the network read: “’Trump defends his racist attacks on U.S. congresswomen,’” and another read: “’GOP lawmakers mostly silent on Trump’s racist attack.’”

Networks are getting more comfortable calling Trump racist, just as they previously grew more comfortable referring to statements they disagree with as “lies,” Farhi wrote. He then quoted an Arizona State University journalism professor as saying news organizations are “guilty of ‘weasel wording’ when they avoid characterizing the president’s tweets as anything other than racism.

“’My favorite [phrase], in a grind-your-teeth sense, is ‘racially tinged,’ which he called ‘visibly timid,’” Farhi quotes the professor as saying. “’It demonstrates journalistic weakness at a time when we need news organizations to be undaunted by the escalating attacks on the craft.’”

Farhi then quotes Marty Baron, executive editor of the Post, saying his paper “traditionally has been cautious in the terminology it uses to characterize individuals’ statements because a news organization’s job is to inform its readers as dispassionately as possible,” but in the case of Trump’s “use of a longstanding slur against African Americans and other minorities” of the ‘go back’ trope is deeply rooted in the history of racism in the United States. Therefore, we have concluded that ‘racist’ is the proper term to apply to the language he used Sunday.’”

Farhi then pointed to the Associated Press’ stylebook entry that says writing on issues of race “calls for thoughtful consideration,” but that “in this case, the AP had no qualms about how to refer to the tweet controversy.”

He then unfurled two AP headlines: “’Many people agree with me’: Trump digs in on racist tweets” and “President Trump, unbowed by criticism of his racist tweets targeting Democratic congresswomen, says ‘If you’re not happy here, then you can leave.’”

Photo by safoocat




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