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Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Fake News Flashback: Media got attempted Reagan assassination wrong

Months before the press credited President Obama for coining "Fake News," Smithsonian magazine ran a piece: "The Media Learned Nothing After Misreporting the Reagan Assassination Attempt."

The shooting was on the afternoon of March 10, 1981, nearly 36 years ago. John Hinckley shot Reagan (the bullet to the chest nearly killed him) and wounded Reagan spokesman James Brady, paralyzing him. A Secret Service agent and a policeman also were wounded.

Television coverage was limited to ABC, CBS, CNN, and NBC.

Frank Reynolds, anchor of ABC News, broke the story about 2:45 p.m., saying, “The president was not hit.”

He was.

The other anchors followed at 3 p.m. They, too, insisted Reagan was not hit.

He was.

From Smithsonian:
On CNN, Bernard Shaw had a one-sided telephone conversation with White House correspondent Bob Berkowitz, who was near the scene at the hotel. Between long pauses and uncomfortable glances at the camera, Shaw shared what he knew with Berkowitz.
“I’ve just been told in my [opposite] ear that Jim Brady is still on the ground,” Shaw relayed to Berkowitz. He hung up and looked at the camera.  “That’s just how confused it is,” he said.
“We cannot say it too many times, the President of the United States is okay,” repeated Shaw, citing a White House statement as producers off camera pushed paper after paper onto his desk.
“And now I’m told,” Shaw said after touching his left ear, “The President sustained a bump while he was being pushed into the car.”
The bump was a bullet.

From Smithsonian:
Monitoring one another’s broadcasts, anchors repeated one solid refrain: “The president was not hit.”
Rather than admit they knew nothing, the anchors fed the nation rumors. Dead air was a bigger sin than getting the story wrong.

From Smithsonian:
Off camera, someone handed him a yellow slip of paper. “He was wounded!” Reynolds stated emphatically. Putting his hand to his head, he said, “My God!” and then, “The President was hit! The typed information that I have is that he’s okay.” He turned to someone off camera. “Speak up!”
“All of this that we’ve been telling you is incorrect,” said Reynolds, shifting his gaze back and forth. “We must redraw this tragedy in different terms.”
Back at the hospital, reporters booed doctors on live television for giving exclusives to other news outlets. Senators huddled in front of a television in a cloakroom as television news reports jumped from Reagan having only been grazed to being in surgery for hours to undergoing open-heart surgery. 
And later, there was this:
Dan Rather, in his first major event as anchor for CBS News, noted on air that the Secretary of State was fifth in line to succession (after the Speaker of the House and the president pro tempore of the Senate), not third. Some might look at Haig’s delivery “somewhat patronizingly,” said Rather, but “anyone could be forgiven today in the chaos of the moment.”
Shortly thereafter, at 5:10 p.m.,  Rather told the nation that James Brady had died. A White House spokesman responded quickly, saying the report was false. 
At that point, someone at CBS should have realized Dan Rather was not fit to be the face of CBS News.

Thirty years later, having learned their lesson they...

...made the same damned mistake:
Networks in 1981 faulted “new ‘instant’ reporting” expectations for the dissemination of misinformation, writes cultural sociologist Elizabeth Butler Breese in an essay published in The Crisis of Journalism Reconsidered. Thirty-five years ago, networks allowed advancements in satellite technology and the first continuous cable news channel (CNN) to push them into premature reports. Breese draws parallels between the coverage of the 1981 assassination attempt to that following the shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in 2011, when NPR incorrectly reported her death on air and over Twitter, sending the headline to its (then) two million followers. Taking note of the NPR tweet, CNN, the New York Times, and Fox News carried the story. 
Giffords lived.

What can be done to prevent this to happen again?


If CBS had fired Dan-O in 1981, it would not have had to fire him in 2005 after he lied on air for weeks on end about President Bush's military service.

Until Fake News carries consequences, expect more of it.

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  1. Getting things wrong is one thing, it happens no matter how hard we try. I have no problem with screw up like that.
    When the media feeds us lies knowing full well they are false, that is another thing. This garbage floating around now about President Trump's mental health is worse than garbage. Those are actions deliberately undertaken to undermine the power of the President, and erode national trust. To me, that is akin to treason.

    1. Roger that, Jeremy. And back in the good old days, treason was an offense punishable by hanging. If we strung a few of these jokers up, there's no doubt the media would start toeing the line again.

  2. An inch from his heart. Imagine what the world would look like today if he'd died...

    Favorite story:

    Reagan (to the doctors and nurses wheeling him in for emergency surgery): I hope you're Republicans.

    Doctor: Mr. President, we are ALL Republicans today.

    1. What a guy, right? Bullet in his chest and he's joking w the doc. Great man.

  3. I remember Frank Reynolds getting visibly angry on air and saying something to the effect of "we've got to get this nailed down before we report it." He died two years later and reporters hounded Reagan to make a public statement about his death, as if he were a former vice-President or some such. They didn't do that when Edward R. Murrow died in '65, which goes to show how vitally important they had become in their own minds.

  4. I watched that coverage live. Al Haig never claimed that he was the acting president. All he said was that as the senior administration official at the White House he was in charge at the scene.

    1. The media tars him with a quote and the feathers stick. Kinda like "I can see Russia from my back porch".

  5. The consequence is that so many of us have no trust in the media.

    1. It was Walter Cronkite's coverage of the fighting in Vietnam that turned me against the media. I was small when in the midst of the Tet debacle, he proclaimed the war unwinnable. A few years later, I realized we had been on the verge of victory when he and his communist pals conspired to undermine our troops.
      Zregime above said to hang them all, I think that or a firing squad is a good start.

    2. I was in Viet Nam during Tet. It was a disaster for the Viet Cong and the NVA but Walter "the most trusted man in America" Cronkite claimed we were losing. We won the warover there but lost it over here and the Fake News Media was one of the reasons.

    3. While you were in Nam, Denny, was when I first realized Cronkite was a rat bastard commie.

    4. Hey Denny -- What's going on with Grouchy Old Cripple?

  6. Last night on Fox J Pace, the AP reporter who asked Trump about Kelly and the Russians 3 times after he answered her question, said the media has no agenda to destroy Trump. The problem they face she said was not having enough information about things because it was hard to get, hence the appearance of false reporting. This was not their fault, implying cover-up by the Trumpers. She said this in complete sincerety.
    Personally I have never believed in the sincerity of the media except in their chosen role as slaves devoted to stateless corporate masters. Maybe Ms Pace had been munching Peyote and had become transcendental. Or perhaps some like her believe what they say is true and would be Pulitzer worthy all the time were it not for the deception practiced by DT. Either way their failure to ever admit error condemns a priori them to the liars circle.

  7. I've posted it before, I'll post it again: journalists need to have skin in the game, something it costs them if they screw up. I've suggested their pinky finger, but you can come up with suggestions of your own. And whatever it is, it's got to HURT.

    1. Truly the only way but they are just slaves. Better the master should hurt

    2. @Iapetus, there's that yarn about the nervous lady in the dentist chair who reaches out, unzips his trousers, and takes a firm hold of the kiwifruits.

      "Now", she says, "we're not either of us going to HURT the other, are we?"

  8. How many Leftards have said to you, as if reading their resume, "We stopped the Vietnam War". To which I reply, "And then Pol Pot got in and killed millions of people. Look how well that worked out!"

    Guy once told me, "The step's the same, on the Moon or on a mine."