“A lie can travel halfway around the world before the truth can get its boots on.” Mark Twain may or may not have ever said that, but it’s certainly apt for the world we live in.
On Thursday, NBC News put that adage to the test and showed exactly why people are so distrustful of the establishment media.
According to The Daily Caller, Republican Sen. Bill Cassidy was misquoted by the national news channel as turning against President Trump — but the accurate quote and its context show that he was saying basically the opposite.
The buzz in the news this week has been Michael Cohen, Trump’s former attorney who entered a plea bargain with prosecutors in exchange for flipping against his former boss.
That scandal hinges on allegations that Trump or his people paid a tabloid newspaper to suppress embarrassing stories about women and the billionaire, which happened well before he became president. As we’ve previously reported, it may have been distasteful, but experts are skeptical that it was actually illegal.
“Cassidy spoke to CNN reporter Manu Raju on Tuesday about whether or not Trump’s coordination of hush payments to multiple women constitutes a campaign finance violation,” The Daily Caller explained. “Cassidy invoked a similar case involving former Senator and presidential candidate John Edwards, who ultimately escaped punishment, to defend Trump from allegations of illegality.”
So far, so good. But here’s where NBC News went off the rails. The news giant apparently used an automated transcription service instead of actual, intelligent humans (assuming they could find one) to confirm Cassidy’s quote.
The result? What started as a fairly minor transcription error snowballed to misconstrue Cassidy’s entire point into the opposite of what he said.
“If you phrase it, ‘Am I concerned that the president might be involved in a crime?’ Of course,” the Republican senator said in his appearance on CNN (emphasis added). But then he went on to explain that he’s very skeptical that a crime took place, and even less convinced that one could be proven.
“The only question is then whether or not this so-called hush money is a crime. John Edwards obviously was prosecuted for the same thing and Justice Department failed,” Cassidy continued, referencing the former Democrat presidential candidate who hid a mistress and a love child from the media.
“But it is to say if we take legal precedent, it is not something the Justice Department is going to win on,” Cassidy continued.
In other words, the senator — like most Americans — is of course concerned about potential crimes, but doesn’t think that what has been uncovered in the Trump-Cohen scandal rises to the level of outright law-breaking.
Mainstream media outlets quickly reported something completely different.
Sen. Bill Cassidy: “I am concerned that the president might be involved in a crime.” https://t.co/d7KevDVN0j
— Taegan Goddard (@politicalwire) December 13, 2018
“NBC’s auto-transcription has Cassidy telling CNN’s Raju the following (emphasis added): If you phrase it, I am concerned that the president might be involved in a crime, of course,” The Daily Caller reported.
Do you see the difference? One was a hypothetical, the other was an absolute statement.
Networks including NBC News didn’t seem particularly concerned with getting the quote or its context right, but seemed to twist Cassidy’s words almost gleefully to go after Trump.
“NBC and MSNBC ran with the misquote in several stories and TV packages throughout the day and conveniently left out the additional context that made clear Cassidy was defending Trump from allegations of illegality,” The Daily Caller explained.
Here’s one incorrect report that NBC ran with: “‘I am concerned that the president might be involved in a crime,’ Republican Sen. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana told reporters Tuesday.” Subtle, but completely inaccurate.
“I am concerned that the president might be involved in a crime,” Republican Sen. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana told reporters.https://t.co/P965TT1gAo
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) December 13, 2018
MSNBC one-upped NBC News by butchering the quote so badly that it didn’t match either of the previous two versions.
“Sen. Cassidy: ‘I’m Concerned The President Might Be Involved In A Crime,” an on-screen graphic from that left-leaning network declared. Cassidy never said it.
Slyly changing “Am I concerned that the president might be involved in a crime?” to “I’m concerned the president might be involved in a crime” allowed news outlets to push a narrative that Republicans were turning on Trump … all from a quote where Cassidy went on to defend the president and use the Edwards case to show that liberals may be overreaching.
Mistakes happen. Yet even when Cassidy’s office reached out to liberal news outlets to have the quote corrected and the context included, they were met with shrugs.
“Despite our repeated requests, NBC News refused to include the Senator’s full answer in its article, and refused to release the full video on its website,” a spokesperson from Cassidy’s office told The Daily Caller.
By itself, this instance isn’t the end of the world. But it’s one of countless examples of the supposedly “trusted” news media appearing to purposely twist and selectively edit facts to fit a narrative.
It’s the widespread pattern of this occurring that is the real problem. One wrong quote can be overlooked, but when an entire series of misquotes and twisted words are strung together, the fabric of a false narrative is slowly woven … and fake news is the result.
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