CNN, Assuming Facts Not in Evidence

bsAmong several eyebrow-raising moments on Sunday’s Reliable Sources there was this Brian Stelter interview with a fellow who calls himself DeRay McKisson, a “social media activist.” What caught The Cable Gamer’s attention was how McKisson made several claims that got scarcely any pushback from the interviewer—because it was Mr Stelter who fed him questions with the implications pre-installed for his answering convenience:

STELTER: Let me take it to the next step. Are the journalists who are involved in these stories subconsciously racist?

McKisson replied with a word salad about power, race, and the media “criminalizing” people to suggest that, yes, the coverage was racist. To which Stelter replied:

STELTER: DeRay, thanks so much for being here.

That pretty much put a bow on it! A little earlier it was even more blatant, as Brian Stelter led his witness with a question loaded like a freight train:

STELTER: What we saw in Waco earlier in the week, the coverage of this biker — this biker gang madness — I don’t even know what to call it — the coverage of this biker gang madness that happened in Waco, there wasn’t the use of the word thug in the media coverage.

Flag on the play! For what seemed to last for a week, CNN dined out on this “controversy” to fill hours of air time, and apparently Brian Stelter drank the Kool-Aid. What exactly is the basis for the notion that biker gangs aren’t referred to as “thugs?” The Cable Gamer thought something like that should at least be Googled for 30 seconds before it becomes a “fact” on CNN, and that’s all the time it took to find numerous examples:

But never mind the history. Brian Stelter alleged a specific fact: the word “thug” was not used in the media coverage of Waco. That’s the sort of definitive statement which, if not clearly documented, can come back to bite you. Because it isn’t true:

  • Take away the motorcycles and the vests (“cuts”) and the hieroglyphic patches and you have your basic gang-banger. A thug.
  • One Image Shows Just How Many Thugs Were Involved in the Waco Biker Shootout That Claimed 9 Lives
  • Those bikers in Texas – those gang members – they knew there would be trouble. They went there looking for trouble and guess what, they’re thugs.
  • An argument between biker thugs inside a restaurant bathroom ignited the bloody gang brawl that left nine hoodlums dead over the weekend in Waco, Texas, authorities said Monday.

And there’s more, like these published or aired well before Sunday’s Reliable. The use of a word isn’t hard to verify. It took me 30 seconds: 30 seconds that would have prevented a news anchor from basing a question on a “fact” not in evidence—not in evidence because it’s simply not true.

Never mind the sources; how reliable is the host of Reliable Sources?

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