Busted by Daily Show, Hannity Apologizes for ‘Inadvertant’ Use of 9/12 Crowd Footage – 1st draft

This is a first draft of an article I posted at Mediaite. Here’s the final version.

As we reported yesterday, the eagle eyes of The Daily Show noticed that Sean Hannity substituted news footage from the 9/12 rally for last week’s much-lower-attended Super Bowl of Freedom. The effect was to make the latter event seem like a much bigger deal than it was.

Last night, Hannity apologized. Let’s see if his explanation washes, and try to figure out which is the legitimate news organization.

Here’s what Hannity had to say:

(video 1)

“And finally tonight, although it pains me to say this, Jon Stewart? Comedy Central? He was right. Now on his program last night, he mentioned that we had played some incorrect video on this program last week while talking about the Republican healthcare rally on Capitol Hill. He was correct, we screwed up, we aired some video of a rally in September, along with a video from the actual event. It was an inadvertant mistake, but a mistake nonetheless, so Mr. Stewart. you were right, we apologize. But by the way, I wanna thank you, and all your writers, for watching. (Laughter)”

Hannity says they “played some incorrect video,” but that’s not really accurate. The video they played was a pre-edited clip package. This wasn’t a case where the technical director hit a wrong button, this was edited together in advance. Someone had to seek out that older footage to add it in with the footage from that day. Who would do such a thing? Here’s the original segment. Pay close attention to the opening seconds:

(video 2)

Griff Jenkins, hmmm, where have we heard that name before? Wasn’t it also his crew that was “reprimanded” for whipping up a 9/12 crowd for the cameras?

While the White House took some lumps over their treatment of Fox News, incidents like this certainly seem to underscore their overall point. One of the linchpins of Fox News’ defense is the idea that there’s a wall between their news and opinion programming. Problems with their news programming notwithstanding, this defense is leaky at best.

The “opinion show” defense is only really operative when it comes to opinions. When it comes to news content on opinion shows, they retain some duty to present facts accurately and fairly. When I asked Fox to clarify those standards in the past, they refused.

Aside from that, the bleed-through of Fox’s opinion programming to their news desk extends beyond driving their news editors to cover certain stories. Fox’s news personnel are frequent guests on these opinion programs, blurring the line and attaching their credibility to the likes of Hannity or Bill O’Reilly.

But in this case, there was no-one from the newsroom to act as ombudsman for Hannity. His show’s producers edited Fox News footage together in a false way, and they played the package twice. It is legitimate, then, to ask whether the news desk is convinced by Hannity’s explanation. It is their credibility at stake.

The recent dustup over the Treasury Department’s attempt at excluding Fox News’s Major Garrett from a round-robin interview revealed apparent walls-within-walls within Fox’s news operation, too. Their original report, which stated that the Obama administration was behind an attempt to freeze Fox out of the interviews with Feinberg, contained no documentation or direct quotes from any of the principles. Why didn’t they interview Major Garrett for that spot? When Garrett finally did tell his story, only after Fox News had capitalized on the story, it turned out that Fox’s original report was incomplete and misleading.

This was underscored by the fact that Fox News’ Senior Vice President for News Michael Clemente had just spent the weekend filling in the gaps in that original report.

It would appear, then, that apart from their opinion arm, there are actually 3 distinct chambers of the Fox news operation: The news desk, the reporters, and the executives. It seems they would like us to judge the credibility of each separately.

We asked Fox News if their news operation satisfied with Hannity’s explanation of the misuse of their footage by an opinion show, if we could get an explanation from the video editor and/or the technical director explaining how this accident occurred, and if we could get Fox News Channel’s editorial standards with regard to presentation of news content during opinion programs. We await their response.

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ACORN Worker From Pimp Video Reported Incident to Police?

acorns2

Someone tweeted the link to this AP story this morning (I don’t remember who), and wondered if Fox News would be reporting this.  The headline is “Police: ACORN worker in video reported couple.”

With a hed like that, I wouldn’t expect Fox News to report that story, but if they actually read the story, I’m thinking they would.  As a defense of ACORN, this story is a miserable failure.  Here’s the meat:

National City police said Monday that Juan Carlos Vera contacted his cousin, a police detective, to get advice on what to with information on possible human smuggling.

Police say he contacted law enforcement two days later. The detective consulted another police official who served on a federal human smuggling task force, who said he needed more details.

So, he didn’t actually “contact authorities” as much as he called up his cousin for advice.  And, he waited 2 days to do it.  Not exactly a slate-wiper.

No, the real defense of ACORN is that this story isn’t what the right is saying it is, and that its trajectory is a dangerous one for anyone the right doesn’t like.

ACORN isn’t perfect, that much is clear, and they’ve done a poor job of fending off this attack.  However, the willingness of the media, and the US Senate, to accept the findings of a partisan activist and his sponsor is truly frightening.  That willingness, according to a just-released study, extends back as far as the eye can see on the ACORN story.

Rachel Sklar posted a good summary of that report yesterday, which brings into stark relief that which most reasonable people who followed the 2008 campaign already know: coverage of the ACORN story has been uniformly unfair.  This report just gives us the numbers to prove it.

The shame of the current iteration of the ACORN smear is that the media, and the US Senate, have allowed ACORN’s enemies to be both prosecutor and judge, letting James O’Keefe and Andrew Breitbart decide which evidence can be seen, and how to interpret it.

Sure, O’Keefe’s tapes are damning, but he and Breitbart have refused to answer legitimate questions about O’Keefe’s “investigation.”  While ACORN has been defensive and evasive, O’Keefe and Breitbart have been given a pass for stonewalling, and even for apparent lying.  They went on record as saying that O’Keefe wasn’t turned away at any ACORN offices, a claim contradicted by police.  While Breitbart is happy to comment on self-serving aspects of this story, he refused to respond to questions raised about O’Keefe’s selective editing of transcripts, or O’Keefe’s funding.

The point is, O’Keefe’s reporting, as it has been presented, wouldn’t have gotten past any news editor in the country.  Breitbart is well aware of this.  He told me in a phone interview that his “strategy” of tightly controlling information about O’Keefe’s investigation, and rolling them out on a careful timetable, was specifically designed to force the mainstream media to cover this story.  In his view, he’s getting around some kind of bias.  In mine, he’s circumnavigating the editorial process, and doing it beautifully.

What’s more incredible is the contrast between the media’s response to O’Keefe’s tightly-controlled, factually light videos, and the work of Michael Moore, an activist filmmaker who is much more transparent about his methods.

Even more disturbing than that is the contrast between the Senate’s response to the decades-old health care crisis, versus the days-old ACORN crisis.

The problems at ACORN may, indeed, run deep, but we’ll probably never know, since they’ve been prematurely convicted in the public eye.  What we do know is that the Democrats in the Senate and the mainstream media have set a course for our country to be led around by the nose by the likes of James O’Keefe.  I guess the pimp costume really worked on them.

President Obama Zings Fox News on CNBC, Fox News Alleges ‘Man Crush’

In an interview on CNBC yesterday, the President made an Earth-shattering observation about Fox News’ coverage of him:

Think Progress ably points out the inherent contradiction in John Harwood’s question, versus his assertion that CNBC has been slapping Obama around for awhile.

As soon as I saw this, I knew there would be some kind of whiny outcry, kind of like the one by CNBC’s own Rick Santelli not long ago, and I didn’t have to go too far to find it:
Continue reading

Sarah Palin Tells Hannity Less Money is Good For Alaska

This is the latest Sarah Palin attack (no, not the toenails) being forwarded around the internet.  She’s talking to Sean Hannity, and the awkward subject of oil prices comes up.  It’s awkward because high oil prices=good for Alaska, bad for lower 48, whereas low oil prices=bad for Alaska, good for everyone else.

Sean notes that the price is rising, but could be much higher.  Now, I guess Sarah could have said that lower oil prices are good for everybody, but I guess that would have sounded too spread-the-wealth-y?  Instead, she says this:

Hannity: …The price of oil is going up again. It’s not quite at $140 a barrel, but it’s on its way up to $70 and $80…

Palin: Yeah, well and I thank God it’s not at $140. You know people say, “Hey, Alaska! 85% of your state budget is based on the price of a barrel of oil. Aren’t you glad the price is going up?” I say, “No!” The fewer dollars that the state of Alaska government has, the fewer dollars we spend. And that’s good for our families and for the private sector.

There is a measure of redemption to be had here, though.  The blog reporting the gaffe, The Mudflats, committed a gafflet of its own.  When you write a headline, whatever you write first becomes the URL, even if you change the headline later.  The headline embedded in Mudflats’ URL?   “governor-palin-we-can-still-here-you-up-here”

Damn, nothing undermines snark like a typo.