The headline sounds sensational: "Cop punches girl in face during jaywalk arrest." That's how the June 17 NBC "Today" show began what might appear to be an even-handed story. But a closer look at what the network aired and what it left out show a far different result.
The morning segment repeatedly played a clip highlighting what Matt Lauer referred to as a "violent arrest" - a police officer punching a young woman who interfered in the arrest of the jaywalker. That clip was shown 14 times during the segment.
After the first showing of the clip, Lee Cowan told viewers, "Watch again, he closes his fist, winds up and lands a hard right to her face." Time and again, the segment returned to the video clip showing the police officer punch the 17-year-old.
Here's what they left out.
(full video below the fold)
The punch didn't end the incident at all. The YouTube video of the arrest tells a far different tale. After the punch, the 19-year-old continued to wrestle and resist being handcuffed for approximately another minute and 44 seconds.
The 19-year-old jaywalker was also confrontational. Prior to the punch, she used the phrase, "get the f--- off me" four times. While resisting arrest the young woman used the same expression another 10 times. On "Today", the phrase can only be heard twice prior to the punch and Cowan talked over the second time.
So what really happened was a young woman resisted arrest. Her friend, roughly the same height as the police officer, interfered and shoved the officer. He then punched her to subdue her. That punch was shown by "Today" 14 times. The original woman who fended off the police officer, told him to "get the f--- off me" 14 times and that was clearly audible only once during the report.
The story spin didn't end there. "Today" interviewed Don Van Blaricom, a former Bellevue, Wash., police chief who consults on police litigation. He said the punch was a reasonable force to subdue the situation. Lauer asked both Blaricom and Rev. Al Sharpton if the event had been racially motivated.
Blaricom said this: "I saw no evidence of racial animus whatsoever and that's usually signaled by racial overtones, some racial epithet. This officer was calling the crowd ‘sir.'" That clip also never appeared on the broadcast but it was clearly in the original video at 2:30 in. The man filming the incident asks the officer why he punched the young woman and the officer says, "Step back, sir."
But "Today" drove the racial point home by relying on Sharpton, a "civil rights activist," as Lauer described him. Nowhere in the piece did it detail Sharpton's own racial controversies. In the 1987 Tawana Brawley case, he slandered an innocent man in the course of defending an infamous "race crime" hoax. He was sued and lost a judgment for $345,000, without ever retracting or apologizing for his accusation.