When reporters refuse to see the forest for the trees

Anchorman Contributor
Font Size:

As I sat down to read the teleprompter in my newscast the first day after the House’s passage of the health bill, I could have predicted this story would be included, produced by the late-night writers and producers, all of them vetted for the “proper” way of thinking. Here it is for your reading pleasure: obligatory, boilerplate unquestioning mainstream media stuff, in the exact form it scrolled across the teleprompter today.




<“It’s ugly, but there are some elements who remain unreconstructed, and yet we must not react to that, because you use that language, it’s like a snowflake on a hot stove.”> [Duration:0:18]

[TAKE: ON CAM ]{***ON CAM ***}


Forgive me if I yawn at yet another accusation of racism directed at Tea Partiers. Shouldn’t we be at least mildly skeptical? Or should we take Jesse Jackson— he of the “Hymie Town” remark—at his word. Jesse, who as recently as the campaign season of 2008, whispered this remark on a hot mike that he thought was off.

“Barack been talkin down to black people on this faith-based … I wanna cut his nuts off.”

After our newscast today, in an attempt to verify the accusation that members of the Congressional Black Caucus were spat upon, and insulted with racially derogatory remarks, I called the U.S. Capitol Police Public Information Officer. Here’s what I learned:

Two people were arrested at Saturdays Tea Party protest. The charges in both cases were DUI. No one was arrested for assaulting, spitting at or calling a member of Congress a racially derogative name.
I asked the PIO if such an act did occur, is it possible that the member of Congress could stop an investigation by simply asking that charges be dismissed or not pursued? This has been reported by some liberal blogs. The PIO said that members of Congress have no say in whether criminal charges are investigated. It is solely a Capitol Police responsibility.

The Capitol Police P.I.O. did say that one man was detained briefly, after a congressional staffer made the accusation of someone spitting at Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, (D-Mo.) and yelling a racial epithet at Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), but that a positive identification could not be made by police.

So, we’ve got an accusation by a staffer, corroborated by two members of the Congressional Black Caucus. But no proof by police and no video proof, despite the many media and citizen cameras present.

The only electronic representation of the alleged events that exists—at least that I’ve seen—is a cell phone camera video with very good audio, during which nothing out of the ordinary can be seen nor heard as John Lewis passes by the crowd of protesters. You can see it here.

Six months or so ago, the mainstream media went into another collective fit over racism and Tea Parties, when Jimmy Carter suggested that much of the rancor directed against President Obama’s agenda was racism. His remarks were delivered about the time of the huge Tea Party rally at the Capitol in September. My network covered that rally in a piece that aired on their morning show, a piece which painted Tea Partiers in grotesque distortion as racists, yahoos, and mindless Limbaugh zombies. It so infuriated me that I e-mailed the million-dollar, highly regarded correspondent whose voice accompanied the piece. And she wrote back. I’m leaving her name out this private e-mail correspondence, but here’s the key part of the exchange:

Dear XXXX,
We’ve met a couple of times and I’m really fond of your presentation. I
say this, knowing full well, that you may have just tracked the piece
on racism that I just watched on XXX, as we all do, and may not have
written it yourself. But I have to say it might as well have been
written by the Obama Administrations Communications Director.

The ominous shots of Obama-as-Hitler that you showed repeatedly were
mass-produced by the Lyndon Larouche campaign. Larouche’s wild
conspiracy theories (google it) qualify him as a classic nutjob. He is
also a Democrat. The ominous poster of the Obama-as-Joker were produced
by one of the President’s fellow Chicagoans. His name is Firas
Alkhateeb. He is a student at the University of Illinois , and he is a Democrat.
In an interview, he said he didn’t vote in the last presidential
election , but if he had, he would have voted for Dennis Kucinich. Add
to that the obligatory Rush Limbaugh sound bite taken out of context
(has there ever been a Limbaugh sound bite on network TV that wasn’t
taken out of context?) and voila: there’s your propaganda.

Here’s her response:

Hello XXXX,

I reported and wrote this morning’s piece. Indeed I was up until 1am
writing it.
I stand by my reporting and the context I offered. There is a dialogue
about race happening in this nation-like it or not-and we covered that
dialogue today. Is it the only thing happening? Of course not. Is it
the prevailing reason why people are protesting the administration?
Absolutely not. And I said so in the spot.


Fifteen years ago, I covered the Million Man March for another television station. I was there right at the foot of West Front of the Capitol in the early morning as the huge crowd began to gather. I’ll never forget what happened as I did my first live-shot that day. I opened with these words—or something to this effect. (only one phrase matters) “Here we are…right at Ground Zero as we begin our coverage from the Million Man March…”

No more than a few seconds had elapsed after I finished that shot, when an urgent call came from my news director, “Don’t call it Ground Zero.” He said.

Later in that day I was listening to Minister Farrakhan’s keynote speech. Farrakhan said this:

“There in the middle of this mall is the Washington Monument , 555 feet high. But if we put a 1 in front of that 555 feet, we get 1,555, the year that our first fathers landed on the shores of Jamestown ,Virginia , as slaves. In the background is the Jefferson and Lincoln Memorial. Each one of these monuments is 19 feet high. Abraham Lincoln, the 16th president, Thomas Jefferson the third president, and 16 and 3 make 19 again. What is so deep about this number 19? Why are we standing on the Capitol steps today? That number 19, when you have a nine, you have a womb that is pregnant, and when you have a one standing by the nine, it means that there’s something secret that has to be unfolded.”

Farrakhans speech went on and on with weird and embarrassing numerology connections and conspiracies. It was seriously crazy stuff. I kept thinking, “How am I gonna describe this in my next live shot?” I decided that if I wanted to keep my job, it would be best just not to mention it at all, so I didn’t report anything about the words that were spoken in the key note speech, by the march organizer, of one of the largest gatherings ever on the National Mall.

When I got back to the TV station that evening to write a wrap-up piece of the Million Man March, a cameraman pulled me aside and said, “Did you see this stuff we shot down there today?” He and I walked up to a monitor, slid in the tape and watched as four or five young African-American men approached a Korean vendor who had parked her truck outside the Air and Space Museum on Independence Avenue. She was open for business, the side of her panel truck festooned with Washington, D.C., t-shirts and baseball hats with FBI logos, snacks and drinks in large display cases and coolers. The men screamed at her, “No Koreans. Black businesses only!” The berating escalated, based on nothing more than the fact that was Korean. She argued back in broken English, “I’m here every day!” Tears began to flow down her cheeks. She carted the trinkets, t-shirts and drinks back inside, closed the panel truck up and drove away. We had it all on videotape.

Toward the end of my wrap-up piece about the Million Man March that night, I included a brief reference about that incident, in the context that the March was remarkably peaceful for such a huge throng, but not entirely without incident. As I sat down to track the piece in the audio booth, the assistant news director opened the door, and said, “No.” She took the tape of the confrontation with the Korean vendor away and destroyed it.

Democratic Rep. John Lewis is a true hero of the Civil Rights movement. But in more recent times, he has demonstrated an entirely different side to his character. In 1994, after Republicans had recaptured the House and began the process of successfully overhauling welfare, he took to the House floor and called the Republicans Nazis. “They’re coming for the children. They’re coming for the poor. They’re coming for the sick, the elderly and the disabled,” he said. As recently as the campaign of 2008, he again drew upon totalitarian metaphor in describing the McCain/Palin ticket. He said they’re, “sowing the seeds of hatred and division” and that it reminded him of the segregationist era of Alabama Gov. George Wallace.

Now, it may well be that some Gomer let loose with an epithet at John Lewis, or a spitball at Emanuel Cleaver. When you get a crowd of 30,000 or more, there are always going to be some bad apples. In the coming months expect the accusations of racism to grow and grow. Forgive me if I yawn.

Anchorman is a well-known news anchor from a top-10, big city station. The Daily Caller has elected to redact his identity to protect his anonymity.