Having been involved in the news business in one role or another for 66 years, it is only natural that I take offence at U.S. President Donald Trump’s claim that the media, with possibly the exception of the Fox cable news network, produces “fake: news.
Then along comes one with which I would have to agree with him that it is indeed “fake” news and what does he do? He ignores it.
CNN reporter Randi Kaye assembled a group of eight Republican women in Texas who had voted for Trump in 2016, ostensibly to see how they felt about him now, would they vote for him again, considering the racist remarks that were being attributed to him after he suggested some members of Congress should return to their country of origin.
All the Republican women, indicating they still liked him and denying he was a racist, said they would.
But The Washington Post poked what seemed to me to be a pretty big hole in the CNN presentation.
It turns out all was not quite what it seemed. It was not a disparate group of Republican women, something the network did not pass on to its viewers.
“The seemingly random group of eight women were, in fact, members of an organized group dedicated to promoting Trump,” reporter Paul Farhi wrote after watching the program. “The group calls itself the Trumpettes of America, although CNN and correspondent Randi Kaye didn’t mention anything about such a group. Nor did the anchors, including Anderson Cooper, who introduced Kaye’s report.
“The network simply identified the panelists individually, with their names appearing on screen next to the word ‘Republican.’ Kaye also gave no hint that the women knew one another and had a common cause.
“As a result, the segment left the impression that CNN had assembled a panel reflecting a cross-section of opinion from Republican women about the crossfire between Trump and four freshmen Democratic congresswomen of color, whom Trump told to “go back” to their own countries in his Sunday tweets despite all four being American citizens.”
And three of them were born in the United States and one had been there since she was about 15.
I was interested in the story in the Post because I had watched a portion of the Kaye interview when it was replayed the following morning.
At that time I fully believed the women had been chosen at random.
According to Farhi, the network also neglected to mention that the Trumpettes had been interviewed on CNN twice before and that they came up reliably in support of Trump on those occasions, too.
Neither Kaye nor CNN’s representatives responded to multiple requests by The Post for comment.
The paper pointed out The Society of Professional Journalists’ Code of Ethics advises journalists to provide proper context for news stories and to “Take special care not to misrepresent or oversimplify in promoting, previewing or summarizing a story.” It also says: “Identify sources clearly. The public is entitled to as much information as possible to judge the reliability and motivations of sources.”
In an interview, Fred Brown, a member of the SPJ Ethics Committee, told Farhi, “I don’t see any good reason for CNN not to identify the affiliation of these women. It’s a useful bit of information to help viewers evaluate the women’s motivation and mind-set.”
But he said, “It doesn’t seem to me to be a conscious attempt to conceal anything. It’s just incomplete reporting.”
Incomplete reporting? Hogwash.
These Republican women had been interviewed by CNN three times. They were never identified as being part of a group.
That is not just incomplete reporting. It is not even just incompetent reporting.
It goes far beyond both.
If CNN had had a defence it would have responded to The Post, just as it would expect people it queried to respond to it.
Trump had CNN dead within his sights but didn’t pull the trigger. I can only think that this was because some Republican women would have been caught in the crossfire that would result.
It was a sad piece of journalism, if it can be called journalism, on CNN’s part.
I was happy to The Post pointed out what CNN had done. I was sad that only a couple of other media outlets picked up on it.
If we are going to decry the lack of ethics in President Trump, then we better not be shy in pointing out when one of our own goes astray.