A young conservative commentator has sadly died, but her tragic loss didn’t stop one of the largest news agencies in the world from going political in its write-up.
On Friday, 26-year-old Bre Payton died unexpectedly due to complications from H1N1 flu and meningitis. Payton wrote for outlets including The Federalist, and often appeared on Fox News as a guest.
The young writer’s death is no doubt a shock to her family, friends, and colleagues. If for no other reason than basic dignity, it’s wise to treat these kinds of sad incidents with respect — but instead, The Associated Press found a way to weave the words “fake news” and “Donald Trump” into its coverage.
In an AP piece that was distributed to news wire subscribers all around the globe, the outlet strangely shoe-horned a very tone deaf paragraph into what should have been a somber piece.
“In recent appearances on Fox News, Payton had condemned what she called ‘fake news’ media coverage of President Donald Trump and ‘sexist and bigoted’ coverage of first lady Melania Trump,” the AP wrote.
How did Payton’s past commentary have anything to do with the story, and why did the news organization decide to jam quotes like “sexist and bigoted” in what was essentially an obituary for a young and vibrant woman?
That’s exactly what Daily Wire and Wall Street Journal contributor Kassy Dillon wants to know. In a post that has so far been liked and re-tweeted nearly 10,000 times, Dillon asked why the AP chose to run a non-sequitur political angle in a story about a dead woman.
“Why is this necessary AP?” she wrote. “Bre Payton died suddenly at a very young age and you’re politicizing it?”
Others, including The Daily Caller editor Amber Athey, were equally baffled and disappointed by the AP’s apparent attempt to smear Payton and make her passing about specific views with its coverage.
“They knew exactly what they were doing when they reduced her body of work to that particular comment,” Athey posted. “One might even call it a dog-whistle. I feel sorry for them.”
They knew exactly what they were doing when they reduced her body of work to that particular comment. One might even call it a dog-whistle. I feel sorry for them.
— Amber Athey (@amber_athey) December 29, 2018
“Such a pertinent thing to point out about person hours after their sudden death,” sarcastically added political commentator Allie Beth Stuckey.
Meanwhile, here is one example of how Payton’s passing was noted on Fox News.
Last one – @ShannonBream ended @FoxNewsNight by paying tribute to @Bre_Payton, adding that her family has started the Bre Payton Scholarship Fund that, as Bream explained, “will go towards those that are supporting young, rising, Christian leaders.” #RIP pic.twitter.com/aqemIG3XjZ
— Curtis Houck (@CurtisHouck) December 29, 2018
Many commenters online agreed that the AP had purposely tried to tie Payton to terms like “fake news” even while reporting her death.
“(I)t is about misrepresenting the work of a talented journalist and reducing it to a caricature,” pointed out one Twitter user.
They may have a point. It’s hard to imagine the AP or another worldwide news source treating the sudden death of, say, a young Huffington Post writer the same way.
If the tables were turned, would they include jabs about the last columns from a liberal writer while describing how she died?
It seems unlikely.
Pretending that a young woman enthusiastically building her career was nothing more than a few throw-away talking points about the president hints at the disdain much of the media has for anybody faintly conservative. The tinged filter through which they view the world has become so ubiquitous, they no longer notice their own prejudices.
This may not be the most egregious example of media bias, but it’s a memorable data point in the growing trend of skewed reporting.
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