When The Huffington Post Religion wrote a story on a viral video depicting an act of police profiling, it was literally too good to be true. The video, posted on YouTube and titled “Racial Profiling Experiment,” depicted an NYPD officer ignoring two Muslim men walking by, only to stop and frisk them when they walked past in traditional Muslim garb.
In the video, two Muslim men dressed in jeans and T-shirts walk past an NYPD officer. In plain view, they began to fight and yell at each other, while the officer does nothing. Twenty minutes later, the same two men walk past arguing while dressed in traditional Muslim garb. This time the officer stops them. “Why are you dressed like that?” he asks one man, while pulling him aside and frisking him.
The video appears to be clear-cut evidence of racial profiling by the NYPD, and predictably liberal outlets jumped. “Watch NYPD frisk man in ‘Muslim clothes’ — moments after letting him walk by in ‘western clothes,” the Huffington Post Religion tweeted. The Council on American-Islamic Relations and CNN contributor Reza Aslan also tweeted out the story with a similar headine.
But the exposé journalism site The Smoking Gun cast serious doubt on the video, saying that two NYPD sources told them the video was an “obvious hoax.” Among their reasons for doubting the video:
- The officer frisks one man by putting his back to the second man, exposing him to attack. “That’s not how they teach you in the academy.”
- The officer is apparently patrolling a deserted street in the middle of the day, by himself, contrary to NYPD protocols.
- Despite posting the video to “expose” the NYPD, the officer’s face is blurred.
- It would be “inconceivable” that a NYPD officer would approach someone and ask, “Why are you dressed that like?”
The Huffington Post updated its piece, which is now headlined “Cops Frisk Muslim Man in Unverified YouTube Video.” A disclaimer has been posted at the bottom of the article, reading,”This article has been updated to reflect the fact that this video has not yet been verified by the NYPD.”
But there is no reason to wait for NYPD verification. The description of the YouTube video has been changed to admit the video was staged. “This video is a Dramatization of previous events that occurred with us in our tradition clothing while filming in NYC. This video is not against the NYPD, it’s just an example of what we have to go through sometimes when filming in NYC.”