The Difference Between Newsweek’s Reporting Of Smollett Hoax Vs. Conservative Activist Attacked On Video

Mike Brest | Reporter

Newsweek’s initial coverage of the Jussie Smollett hate crime hoax and the alleged assault that took place Tuesday on UC Berkeley’s campus drew skepticism Friday from many, though Newsweek defends its reporting as appropriately “cautious.”

Smollett alleged that two supporters of President Donald Trump assaulted him and poured a bleach-like substance on him while shouting racist and homophobic slurs last month. He was arrested for allegedly orchestrating the entire hoax earlier this week.

Newsweek published, “‘Empire’ Actor Jussie Smollett Hospitalized For Possible Hate Crime With ‘Unknown Chemical Substance’: Report,” by Kelly Wynne, the day after the alleged attack on Jan. 29.

The article’s lede reads: “Empire actor Jussie Smollett was hospitalized Monday in Chicago after being attacked by two men who allegedly screamed praise to President Donald Trump.”

The way the article is written appears to confirm that the attack happened. The detail of the attackers screaming “praise to President Donald Trump,” however, was left as uncorroborated.

Now, the Chicago Police Department believes the entire attack was self-orchestrated by Smollett, and he has been charged with submitting a false report.

In another incident Tuesday, Hayden Williams, an employee of the nonprofit Leadership Institute, got into an altercation that ended with him being punched in the face. The tail end of the incident was caught on camera.

The Newsweek article about the incident is titled, “Conservative Student Allegedly Assaulted At UC Berkeley While Recruiting Other Conservatives.”

The article, which was written by Scott McDonald, uses the word “allegedly” in the headline, despite the fact the article includes a video of the incident and a statement from the university police department.

“The suspect then knocked over the table the victim was at and the two men struggled over the phone. During the incident, the suspect punched the victim several times causing injury to the victim’s eye and nose,” reads a statement from the University of California Police Department, Berkley.

Nancy Cooper, the editor in chief of Newsweek, defended the publication’s handling of each story.

“I am comfortable with the cautious approach we took to both stories, although I agree that the shorthand ‘allegedly’ doesn’t provide sufficient nuance in many cases. By saying Smollett’s attackers were ‘allegedly’ praising President Trump, the reporter was trying to avoid characterizing the individuals or ascribing motive as a matter of fact,” Cooper told The Daily Caller.

“As for the Berkeley story, we’ve seen examples — such as the Covington High School story — where a video clip appeared to tell one story that was contradicted by fuller video or later information,” she continued. “Especially in a headline, it was appropriate to be cautious. Newsweek’s editorial guidelines urge reporters to be conscious of any assumptions they may be conveying in their stories.”

UPDATE (February 23, 12;31 PM):

This article previously referred to Hayden Williams as a “UC Berkeley student.” He is actually a field representative at the Leadership Institute, a conservative nonprofit group that works with student activists.

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