Most people across the country have little trust in the “mainstream media” due to unchecked errors and false reporting, but on Tuesday, Mike Wise -- a former Washington Post columnist who's now with ESPN's The Undefeated -- joined that group when he was disciplined for posting false quotes in an attempt to prove people will believe anything published online.
Wise attributed the statements to Unversity of Alabama football coach Nick Saban, who has a reputation for being so focused on football that he is often unaware of other important things, including the outcome of the 2016 presidential election and the total eclipse of the sun on Monday.
According to an article by Awful Announcing's Alex Putterman, Wise attempted to use the posts as a satire on Saban’s laid-back personality. However, as Putterman noted, the parody posts fell completely flat before they were removed from the Internet.
At one point, Wise imitated Saban by stating that if troops surrounded the team’s practice area while preparing for Armageddon, the coach would say that such a situation could be acceptable “as long as they stay off the field” so “we can get some work in.”
In another post, the sports writer asserted that the coach would respond to “ugly race relations in America” by stating: “Haven’t been watching the news. Guys get along great on our team. That’s what’s most important.”
Wise apologized for his tweets several times Monday night, stating in one tweet: “Anyone that took my sarcastic tweets about Nick Saban seriously, my apologies. I'll take them down. Especially to Alabama's SID [Sports Information Director]. My bad.”
“I need to take a week off Twitter,” he continued. “And remember acronym H.A.L.T. -- If you're Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired or all four, get off social media.”
When asked by a person online when his apology for the juvenile behavior on his part would go to the SID, Wise replied: “I just sent one to the sports information director. If they're okay with it, I'll make it public.”
Then on Tuesday, ESPN released the following statement:
Yesterday, Mike Wise posted inappropriate tweets about Nick Saban. The tweets were a clear violation of our journalistic standards.
Mike has been disciplined. Putting imaginary words in the name of anyone we cover is unacceptable.
Part of Saban’s behavior that Wise tried to make fun of was demonstrated at a recent press conference, when a reporter asked: “Coach, this is a little bit off the subject, but on Monday we’ve got the solar eclipse. Are there any special precautions you have to take with the team considering the eye damage possibilities or have you thought [about] that?”
“You know,” Saban replied, “we’ve set it up so if the players want to go out and get some sunglasses and look at it, I guess they can.”
“That’s not something I’m really that focused on right now,” the coach continued. “You know, I watch The Weather Channel every day. They’re already saying what it’s going to look like in every city in America, so what’s going to be significant?”
After stating that the channel will show viewers “what it’s going to be like in Portland, Oregon,” he continued: “Clayton, Georgia, is the number one place in the country to have a 100 percent view.”
“You know, there are all kinds of people there,” he noted. “My house will probably be the only empty place on the whole lake. Some will watch it on TV, and maybe we should have a team meeting about how they’re going to do this. I haven’t thought of that yet.”
Putterman laid out two major screw-ups that Wise made:
1. He expected people on Twitter to understand satire, despite a mountain of evidence that people on Twitter do not understand satire.
2. He failed to make his satire distinct enough from reality that it was easily identifiable as satire. “Haven’t been watchin’ the news. Guys get along great on our team,” sounds like something Nick Saban would actually say, which was Wise’s point but also the reason people took the quote (from a verified ESPN reporter, no less) at face value.
However, Putterman added, this wasn’t the first time Wise got in trouble for making up the news. For those who live in the Washington D.C. area, anyone who read The Post during Wise's tenure would have recognized his liberal views, as evidenced by his numerous appearances here at NewsBusters on topics ranging from the Washington Redskins to the Winter Olympics.
Hopefully, whatever discipline ESPN deemed appropriate for Wise’s miscue will result in no more “fake news” from him.