CNN Panelist Calls Out Media for ‘Rush to Judgment’ With Smollett Claims

Just a few days after the liberal media were burned by the hoax that was the claims against the Covington Kids, the liberal media proved they didn’t learn a lesson by running right back to the stove to ultimately get burned by the Jussie Smollett apparent hate crime hoax. During CNN’s Reliable Sources on Sunday, libertarian commentator and podcaster Kmele Foster called out folks in the media for their “rush to judgment” based on their preconceived notions of Trump supporters.

Host Brian Stelter put off the Smollett story until after the first commercial break, choosing instead to bemoan President Trump’s “distractions” from other stories about his administration.

When they finally got around to Smollett, Foster was up first and immediately pointed out that “there were a lot of reasons for skepticism from very, very early on here.” After noting the “rush to judgment”, he explained where that bias came from: “I think in a lot of speculative controversies where the media is necessarily reporting on a story really, really early when we don't know much, folks have to go with what we suppose. And what we knew at the time was the President’s supporters are racist.”

“My heart goes out to anyone who gets attacked, but it's totally appropriate to exercise a bit of skepticism and exercise a bit of patience in waiting for the facts to develop around this story. And as they have developed, this story looks very different than what most people suspected,” Foster added after pointing out some of Smollett’s unbelievable claims.

Next up was Vox Media host Liz Plank, who was ready to spread fake news to defend the liberal media from themselves. Regarding the media’s rush to push Smollett’s claim the attackers yelled “this is MAGA country” and a report about them supposedly MAGA hats, Plank suggested that it wasn’t part of the story for legitimate outlets:

I mean, the MAGA quote, I remember reading about this story and looking for a real reputable media outlet reporting on that, and I could not find one. Right? The people who were repeating that quote were not news outlets, were not media outlets. It was repeated by, sure, people who maybe had good intentions of wanting to spread the story and had empathy for what they thought was a real story. But we can't confuse celebrity tweets with the media and the press.

 

 

But that’s just a lie. As the NewsBusters managing editor Curtis Houck reported on January 29, MSNBC was on-air with the accusations shortly after they broke. They were even spreading the claim about the MAGA hats, which was quickly debunked by the Chicago Police Department. Later that evening, ABC’s World News Tonight also pounced on the MAGA quote.

Interestingly, Vox’s one and only report on the Smollett case (from January 29) didn’t use the word “alleged” (or any skeptical language) to describe the attack. Vox described the attack as a matter of fact and has yet to update the story with any of the developments.

Things actually got a little bit heated between Foster and Plank when they spared over the frequency of “hate crimes” (click “expand” to read):

PLANK: Exactly. It is different. And we don't know what happened to Jussie, but what we do know is that racism is alive and well in this country. Homophobia is alive and well in this country. 2017, the U.S. set a record for the number of hate crimes and the President and his rhetoric has been cited by people who -- there is real evidence of people who have done the crimes who cite that the President has inspired them.

STELTER: But is that why people just went ahead and believed?

[Crosstalk]

FOSTER: This might be part of the problem here. I think this is part of the problem. We're establishing the trend whether or not it’s there.

PLANK: We’re not establishing it, there’s evidence of it.

FOSTER: When you say like “it's alive and well”, there is far less racism in America today than there has been.

PLANK: There has been an increase in hate crimes against the LGBTQ community, and against Muslims, against black people.

FOSTER: When we talk about hate crimes, we’re talking about 15 percent increases in these things.

PLANK: So what? It’s an increase.

FOSTER: A hate crime is not the sort of thing we simply look at and it is absolutely positively a hate crime. There's some supposition about that.

PLANK: So, you don’t believe the FBI? The FBI is not an expert? You’re an expert?

FOSTER: I’m saying there's some supposition about hate crime. Define hate crime. Define hate speech.

PLANK: That’s why I leave it to the FBI, to the experts on it.

FOSTER: And I’m suggesting that even the FBI statistics; there's a great deal of ambiguity about what makes something a hate crime. There are subjective determinations there.

PLANK: What makes those ambiguous is that most don’t get reported so there are actually more.

After their sharing, CNN media analyst Bill Carter bizarrely suggested that the media didn’t have an opportunity to question Smollett despite ABC’s interview with him. “Instead of what really happened, it was not a news interview. He didn't do a news interview. The media was not able to really question him closely about this. And when they did, his story started to fall apart because it was full of red flags.”

But they did have that chance and ABC blew it. As Carter noted, ABC treated it like a “celebrity interview more than a news person interview.” But, as this author noted on Thursday, even as it became increasingly clear that something was fishy, ABC was still carrying water for him.

The transcript is below, click "expand" to read:

CNN’s Reliable Sources
February 17, 2019
11:17:00 a.m. Eastern

BRIAN STELTER: Kmele, what's your reaction to how this story has unfolded and evolved this weekend?

KMELE FOSTER: Well, I think there were a lot of reasons for skepticism from very, very early on here. If this had happened in the way that Jussie described, it would have been extraordinary. And what we're seeing now, however, as the story starts to degrade a bit is -- I do think a lot of frustration on many sides, and even some cheering on other sides. Because there was a lot of rush to judgment. I mean, I think a lot of --

STELTER: From who?

FOSTER: I think in a lot of speculative controversies where the media is necessarily reporting on a story really, really early when we don't know much, folks have to go with what we suppose. And what we knew at the time was the President’s supporters are racist. Of course, there's a desire almost, a credulousness about a story like this where we're not sufficiently skeptical when we're confronted with facts that don't really seem to fit together too well. 2 a.m. in the morning. Almost the coldest night of the year. You were attacked and someone conveniently had a rope.

My heart goes out to anyone who gets attacked, but it's totally appropriate to exercise a bit of skepticism and exercise a bit of patience in waiting for the facts to develop around this story. And as they have developed, this story looks very different than what most people suspected.

STELTER: The narrative was set so early on that January day because TMZ first heard about this alleged attack. TMZ were the first to say they heard the “MAGA country” quote came from a source close to Jussie. So, immediately this was political a fight, immediately there were political steaks to this story. Liz, do you think that distorted it?

LIZ PLANK: Right. I mean, the MAGA quote, I remember reading about this story and looking for a real reputable media outlet reporting on that, and I could not find one. Right? The people who were repeating that quote were not news outlets, were not media outlets. It was repeated by, sure, people who maybe had good intentions of wanting to spread the story and had empathy for what they thought was a real story. But we can't confuse celebrity tweets with the media and the press.

STELTER: So you're saying actors and activists, who were rushing to his side because they were friends with him and they support him and concerned about a possible hate crime, are not the same as Chicago reporters who are trying to find out what happened?

PLANK: Exactly. It is different. And we don't know what happened to Jussie, but what we do know is that racism is alive and well in this country. Homophobia is alive and well in this country. 2017, the U.S. set a record for the number of hate crimes and the President and his rhetoric has been cited by people who -- there is real evidence of people who have done the crimes who cite that the President has inspired them.

STELTER: But is that why people just went ahead and believed?

[Crosstalk]

FOSTER: This might be part of the problem here. I think this is part of the problem. We're establishing the trend whether or not it’s there.

PLANK: We’re not establishing it, there’s evidence of it.

FOSTER: When you say like “it's alive and well”, there is far less racism in America today than there has been.

PLANK: There has been an increase in hate crimes against the LGBTQ community, and against Muslims, against black people.

FOSTER: When we talk about hate crimes, we’re talking about 15 percent increases in these things.

PLANK: So what? It’s an increase.

FOSTER: A hate crime is not the sort of thing we simply look at and it is absolutely positively a hate crime. There's some supposition about that.

PLANK: So, you don’t believe the FBI? The FBI is not an expert? You’re an expert?

FOSTER: I’m saying there's some supposition about hate crime. Define hate crime. Define hate speech.

PLANK: That’s why I leave it to the FBI, to the experts on it.

FOSTER: And I’m suggesting that even the FBI statistics; there's a great deal of ambiguity about what makes something a hate crime. There are subjective determinations there.

PLANK: What makes those ambiguous is that most don’t get reported so there are actually more.

(…)

STELTER: I wonder, Bill, if you think the Good Morning America interview, for example, was too soft on him. Even by the time he sat down with Robin Roberts, there were doubts about his story.

BILL CARTER: Clearly. Absolutely. She had to press that, and she didn't. Interestingly, he's a celebrity besides being a victim. He's an actor and that was a celebrity interview more than a news person interview. That’s the way it felt like to me. Instead of getting to the facts, it was much more about him and his -- the effects on him and things like that.

STELTER: Interesting.

CARTER: Instead of what really happened, it was not a news interview. He didn't do a news interview. The media was not able to really question him closely about this. And when they did, his story started to fall apart because it was full of red flags.

STELTER: It also contributed in a sense among Trump supporters that there is this campaign against them. And we can see it in Donald Trump Jr's tweets. I think we can put up some of his tweets from the past 12 hours. Look, Donald Trump Jr. is a hammer, everything he sees is a nail. And everything he sees about attacking the media. He'll attack the media no matter what, but he's attacking the media today because he says the press fell for this. And I wonder how much of that we should acknowledge.

FOSTER: At a minimum, there were people who I've talked to people off camera. I’ve talked to people sort of in green rooms who were skeptical, who had questions about this story, who were afraid to raise those concerns because of the intersectional nature of this particular accusation. And there are plenty of circumstances like that. And that is something we have to be aware of. When there are stories that involve very sensitive issues of race and sexuality and there are accusations and allegations that are being made, when you raise questions about those allegations, it is often the case that people will raise questions about your motivations.

PLANK: Why do you think that?

FOSTER: The merit of a charge, and at the end of the day it's whether or not that charge has merit that matters. And Robin Roberts, in that conversation, in the interview, had an opportunity to say, “you know Jussie, there are practical reasons for someone to ask questions about something like this that have nothing to do with your race or your sexuality.” She didn't do that, and there are far too many instances where serious journalists aren't doing that.

CARTER: That's true.

STELTER: And there are Democratic politicians who came out and said this is a modern-day lynching are going to have to be held to account.

CARTER: Exactly. They jumped way too early on this. That's where the real fault lies. You can't use your ideology and impose it on a story like this. You're going to get burned. Maybe you won’t always get burned but it’s a tremendous risk.

STELTER: As of a couple days ago, Fox, the studio that makes Empire and the network that broadcasts Empire, was standing by Smollett saying he has the network's support. As of this morning, no new comment from Fox. They've gone silent on this. Liz, last word on this. I mean, at the heart of a sad case, no matter what. If he lied it’s sad. If it happened it’s sad.

PLANK: Absolutely. I think it's important to cover this story. I also think it's important to cover the other several stories of hate crimes. Not to say this was a story of a hate crime. But there are real hate crimes that happen in this country, and there's an increase in them against black people, against LGBTQ people and against Muslims. And the fact that one robbery was faked does not mean robbery is not a problem. That fact that there is one false rape accusation does not mean that there is no rape. We have to cover these issues as trends and as patterns and not fall into the trap that because one story is not real that the problem is not real.

STELTER: Or maybe not give the celebrities all the attention.

NBDaily Media Bias Debate Conspiracy Theories Labeling Cable Television CNN Reliable Sources Fake News Video Brian Stelter Bill Carter

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