Man behind smear of Gibson gets canned

posted at 9:22 am on February 25, 2009 by Ed Morrissey

Howard Kurtz reports that Baltimore unemployment rose by one yesterday, after WBAL-TV cut its ties with one of its reporters for concocting a smear of Fox News’ John Gibson.  In his defense, John Sanders apparently never meant for his video mash-up to go viral.  Unfortunately, accusations of racial slurs are all the rage these days, and it got predictable results:

A Baltimore television reporter has lost his job after acknowledging that he doctored a video to make it appear that Fox News Radio host John Gibson had made a racial slur.

In the bogus video, which was picked up across the Internet, Gibson seemed to be comparing Attorney General Eric Holder to a monkey with a “bright blue scrotum.” There had been chatter on Fox News earlier about such a monkey, which had escaped from a Seattle zoo.

A spokeswoman for WBAL-TV confirmed yesterday that technology reporter John Sanders is no longer employed by the station but she declined to comment on whether he had been dismissed. His profile was promptly removed from the NBC affiliate’s Web site.

Sanders put the video together as a joke, thinking that the juxtaposition of the two stories sounded funny.  He then e-mailed the video to a few friends, not realizing the power of both the electronic media and allegations of racial insensitivity.  It quickly went viral, and wound up on the sites of TV Newser and Huffington Post, both of which ran it without first checking with Fox or Gibson — or even checking a transcript.

Gibson, for his part, blames Sanders less than the Huffington Post for publishing it to the wider audience:

“My ire in this situation is directed at the Huffington Post,” Gibson said. “I really think this would have been very easy to check. A kid made a mistake and did something goofy, fine. But these guys [at the Huffington Post] claim to be and are regarded by many as a legitimate news organization. It spoke to their bias against me that they went ahead with it.”

A good question for bloggers would be whether they would have run a video clip that showed their bete noir making a racial slur on camera.  If Keith Olbermann had compared Michael Steele to a blue-scrotum primate in a YouTube clip, would that have landed on Hot Air without checking its provenance first?  I’d like to think not — that something that outrageous would prompt extraordinary fact-checking first.  Having been burned by a couple of high-profile hoaxes over the last five years, I hope I’ve learned to double-check before posting.  And Gibson is right, too, that this particular clip would have been easy to check for accuracy.

At the very least, it’s an object lesson for those of us in the blogosphere.  Unfortunately for John Gibson, he now has to figure out how to unring the bell that John Sanders rung, innocently or not.


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Hmm, maybe the Messiah shouldn’t be taking questions from the Huffington Post at his primetime press conferences from now on.

Doughboy on February 25, 2009 at 9:29 AM

How in the world is that a racial slur? Unless it’s against the monkey.

bloggless on February 25, 2009 at 9:30 AM

Message of the MSM: You can do this, but don’t get caught!

Mr. Joe on February 25, 2009 at 9:30 AM

The Fairness Doctrine will straighten all this out soon enough.

Akzed on February 25, 2009 at 9:31 AM

I find this talk of blue scrotumed males hilarious.

bloggless on February 25, 2009 at 9:32 AM

The real message here is:
No notum the blue scrotum.

bloggless on February 25, 2009 at 9:33 AM

Jesus, Ed, I can’t believe you’re defending this guy. He’s a technology reporter for a major metropolitan TV station — you know, a professional, informed, to-be-trusted member of the MSM — and you brush it off as an innocent joke that he was merely unlucky to get caught in?

BigD on February 25, 2009 at 9:33 AM

Sorry but I didn’t buy the guys story that this was just a little joke for his friends amusement; Libs are mean spirited and the more attention they can get for being nasty to conservatives the happier they are. Do you think if it hadn’t caused him such negative attention, he would have tried to clarify what had happened? Me thinks not.

anniekc on February 25, 2009 at 9:35 AM

Has the Huffington Post issued a retraction?

kthomas8268 on February 25, 2009 at 9:36 AM

At the very least, it’s an object lesson for those of us in the blogosphere. Unfortunately for John Gibson, he now has to figure out how to unring the bell that John Sanders rung, innocently or not.

That the standing belief for the left is that Conservatives are by their core racists says to me this is less than innocent. For the left, if you don’t have proof, you make it up.

I’d sue the little bastar*.

hawkdriver on February 25, 2009 at 9:36 AM

If Keith Olbermann had compared Michael Steele to a blue-scrotum primate in a YouTube clip, would that have landed on Hot Air without checking its provenance first?

Yep, with a library of video clips and some editing software you can make anyone say anything.

reaganaut on February 25, 2009 at 9:36 AM

Has the Huffington Post issued a retraction?

kthomas8268 on February 25, 2009 at 9:36 AM

I’m pretty sure they did a few days ago.

Doughboy on February 25, 2009 at 9:37 AM

I’d sue the little bastar*.

hawkdriver on February 25, 2009 at 9:36 AM

And the Huffington Post.

BigD on February 25, 2009 at 9:38 AM

Jesus, Ed, I can’t believe you’re defending this guy. He’s a technology reporter for a major metropolitan TV station — you know, a professional, informed, to-be-trusted member of the MSM — and you brush it off as an innocent joke that he was merely unlucky to get caught in?

BigD on February 25, 2009 at 9:33 AM

John Gibson accepted it, and he’s got more of a dog in this fight than I do. In any case, the TV station did the right thing in firing him.

Ed Morrissey on February 25, 2009 at 9:38 AM

.” There had been chatter on Fox News “

It has begun. “The chattering class”.

Johan Klaus on February 25, 2009 at 9:39 AM

If Gibson had simply resigned, none of this uproar would have happened and things could get back to normal.

Sure, Gibson didn’t actually equate Holder with a monkey, but we all know he meant to because that is what all conservatives do, they compare blacks to chimps and refuse to vote for the Greatest Black Man Who Ever Lived.

Bishop on February 25, 2009 at 9:40 AM

For the most part conservative blogs tend to check things more thoroughly then liberal ones. The conservative blogs have been on the defensive ever since they started. From zombie to lgf. Each site had to be sure that they were correct or else anything they put forth would be dismissed as amateur by the MSM. Even though they are correct in their reporting more often then liberal blogs they are still considered to be hyper partisan. When zombie and lgf completely debunked all of the propaganda that Hezbollah was spouting in the israel-Lebanon War the media dismissed their claims. But because of these bloggers, the MSM was forced to acknowledge that what they were saying was true because anyone who could see the evidence knew it was so.

When the Kos or Huff puts stuff out they are playing into the biases that are already present so no fact-checking is required. A perfect example would be the Bush-National Guard scandal with Dan Rather. Even after they were proven to be pathetic forgeries Rather refused to accept it. Instead he went the elite route of saying the documents might be false but the accusation is still true because that’s what he believed.

txaggie on February 25, 2009 at 9:44 AM

He then e-mailed the video to a few friends, not realizing the power of both the electronic media and allegations of racial insensitivity.

Sorry no I don’t buy that story. What I think he did was e-mail it to friends to post so he could claim what he did, not that he did not know what would happen.

Heck if he is intelligent enough to know how to edit the video, then he is intelligent enough to know what would happen to it once he e-mailed it out.

JeffinSac on February 25, 2009 at 9:45 AM

I heard John telling the HuffPo they may have to “lawyer up” on this one. I hope he hits them hard and fast, pulling absolutely no punches in the process.

“I’d buy that for a dollar…”

Fuzzlenutter on February 25, 2009 at 9:46 AM

Media Malpractice , how democracy was raped and killed.

the_nile on February 25, 2009 at 9:46 AM

Fired…liberal translation…given higher paying job, with lots of perks in another locale….

p..s..commiewood…

nondhimmie on February 25, 2009 at 9:47 AM

John Sanders deserves to be washed out of the media business. But you can bet the ranch he’s in his basement cooking up more bogus videos on his computer – - He probably can make more dough selling them to the Huffington Post and other lefty blogs for more dough than WBAL ever paid him. Like they say — being fired may be the best thing to ever happen to John Sanders.

kens on February 25, 2009 at 9:49 AM

Think anyone will chastise Matthews for stating that the response to Obama’s speech was “outsourced” to Bobby Jindal?

Pianobuff on February 25, 2009 at 9:50 AM

So does this mean the guy who did this is racist? Or does that not count since he was doing it for the good of all?

bloggless on February 25, 2009 at 9:51 AM

Think anyone will chastise Matthews for stating that the response to Obama’s speech was “outsourced” to Bobby Jindal?

Pianobuff on February 25, 2009 at 9:50 AM

He really said that? To quote Matthews, “Oh God!”

I wouldn’t be surprised if pretty son some of the drive-bys start referring to him as the “Slumdog Governor”.

Doughboy on February 25, 2009 at 9:52 AM

In his defense, John Sanders apparently never meant for his video mash-up to go viral.

A bogus defense to defamation. He emailed it to people. What did he think would happened? The guy’s lying.

Blake on February 25, 2009 at 9:54 AM

In his defense, [HE CLAIMS] John Sanders apparently never meant for his video mash-up to go viral….

Sanders [CLAIMS] put the video together as a joke, thinking that the juxtaposition of the two stories sounded funny. He then [CLAIMS TO HAVE] e-mailed the video to a few friends, not realizing the power of both the electronic media and allegations of racial insensitivity.

Sorry, I just had to fix it…

TheBigOldDog on February 25, 2009 at 9:54 AM

He really said that? To quote Matthews, “Oh God!”

I wouldn’t be surprised if pretty son some of the drive-bys start referring to him as the “Slumdog Governor”.

Doughboy on February 25, 2009 at 9:52 AM

Yup. My guess it was just ill-chosen words, but if the shoe was on the other foot you just know that this would be big news.

Pianobuff on February 25, 2009 at 9:55 AM

Just a reminder, the possible Oscar memo hoax from a few days ago was from WBAL radio, hmmmmm?

Laura in Maryland on February 25, 2009 at 9:57 AM

This is the result of Arianna taking lessons from Moulitsas or the morons at Think Progress—-has Rove been indicted yet?

Rovin on February 25, 2009 at 9:59 AM

A good question for bloggers would be whether they would have run a video clip that showed their bete noir making a racial slur on camera.

The really important question is, would they identify it as satire, or run it as news? That was the real issue here.

Vashta.Nerada on February 25, 2009 at 10:00 AM

Has the Huffington Post issued a retraction?

kthomas8268 on February 25, 2009 at 9:36 AM

I would think their retraction page might be bigger than the actual site… Might make a good onion piece.

Bunsin on February 25, 2009 at 10:01 AM

Unless he clearly proclaimed that the e-mailed video was a creation of his, then he is liable for the fact that the recipients believed the video to be real. Especially when his employment is considered.

MarkTheGreat on February 25, 2009 at 10:01 AM

“In his defense, John Sanders apparently never meant for his video mash-up to go viral.”–Ed M.

That’s rich. Sanders makes finger lickin’ chicken fit precisely for internet consumption and shares it. Go figure.

maverick muse on February 25, 2009 at 10:01 AM

Bah. I’m going to continue to refer to people’s bright blue scrotums no matter what color the person is. To not do so would be racist!

Kevin M on February 25, 2009 at 10:02 AM

The really important question is, would they identify it as satire, or run it as news? That was the real issue here.

Vashta.Nerada on February 25, 2009 at 10:00 AM

Why limit the question to bloggers>

I believe Andrea Mitchell (NBC News, Washington)ran satire (SNL clips of Tina Fey as Sarah Palin)as news.

And there’s your answer.

BigD on February 25, 2009 at 10:03 AM

Time to lawyer-up. Reputations get destroyed by stuff like this. There are idiots who still believe the lies about Sarah Palin because of deliberate and malicious slander.

RobCon on February 25, 2009 at 10:05 AM

Think anyone will chastise Matthews for stating that the response to Obama’s speech was “outsourced” to Bobby Jindal?

Pianobuff on February 25, 2009 at 9:50 AM

Or am I the only one that caught Rachel Maddow’s “response” to Jindal’s speech?—–”ab–ab–baa-ab, there are just no words from me as a journalist”. The three second “dead air silence” was priceless.

Rovin on February 25, 2009 at 10:06 AM

”ab–ab–baa-ab, there are just no words from me as a journalist”

Is that really what she said? Well, I guess it’s hard to be something you’re not.

Snowed In on February 25, 2009 at 10:12 AM

He then e-mailed the video to a few friends, not realizing the power of both the electronic media and allegations of racial insensitivity

????????

COUGH Bull #^%$ COUGH

The tech reporter was not up to speed on viral videos or that little site called youtube?

BULL!!

Jim708 on February 25, 2009 at 10:12 AM

You UNRING the bell by making sure that in EVERY quote or story you post from Huffington or others is that you let the public know that they do NOT fact check.

They are simply haters. They cannot accept that others disagree with their postions.

originalpechanga on February 25, 2009 at 10:13 AM

Just a reminder, the possible Oscar memo hoax from a few days ago was from WBAL radio, hmmmmm?

Laura in Maryland on February 25, 2009 at 9:57 AM

WBAL, eh? Reminds me of that “W-Balls” skit from Snoop Dogg’s first CD. :-)

Doughboy on February 25, 2009 at 10:17 AM

He’s a technology reporter for a major metropolitan TV station — you know, a professional, informed, to-be-trusted member of the MSM

That professional knew exactly what he was doing, and fully expected to get away with it, richer for the effort.

Another example of that audacity of hope: the TV wife-swapping British naturalized American citizen who came here specifically to direct cruel public opinion and animus to victimize each and every individual conservative American on a very personal level.

The One usurping Lincoln’s image as his mask overlays “malice towards none” with his condemnation of tolerance by asserting conservative antipathy and ignorance.

The excuse of every intolerant elitist when caught, “BUT my intentions were good.” NOT! I’m sorry that I got caught: Destroy the myth of Socialists donning the KKK cloak as if Enlightened Liberals.

maverick muse on February 25, 2009 at 10:24 AM

I would have called B.S had I heard about this from the start. The last thing anybody would accuse Holder of is having b*lls of any color.

austinnelly on February 25, 2009 at 10:25 AM

What does Media Matters have on this?

jay12 on February 25, 2009 at 10:33 AM

Eric Holder indeed resembles a monkey. An evil, vicious Clintonite, gun-grabbing monkey. Don’t have a clue as to his scrotum color, though.

GeneSmith on February 25, 2009 at 10:39 AM

WBAL-TV?
WBALLS-TV is more like it.

RobCon on February 25, 2009 at 10:49 AM

Hmm, maybe the Messiah shouldn’t be taking questions from the Huffington Post at his primetime press conferences from now on.

Doughboy on February 25, 2009 at 9:29 AM

But you know that A. Huff is one of the few people with whom he routinely participates in “crack-berry”(addicted to one’s Blackbrerry)…or so the story goes…..

CynicalOptimist on February 25, 2009 at 10:49 AM

I feel for all the monkeys & chimps out there. Can’t get a break…

OmahaConservative on February 25, 2009 at 10:50 AM

No worries, Ed. I’ve been at HotAir since day one, and I know exactly what you (or AP) would have done: you’d have run it with about a hundred disclaimers pointing out that its probably fake – and that the only reason to watch it is for the intentional comedy of the fakery.

That is not remotely comparable to running the thing as a legitimate news story.

Professor Blather on February 25, 2009 at 10:57 AM

HuffPo is as credible as wikipedia. Jim Lampley got caught posting the untrue musings of a left-wing white supremicist and quickly faded away into the ether of embarrassment.

Of course, it would stand to reason that the site is untrustworthy, what with the founder being part of a concocted marriage to a gay guy based on the assumption that her money would help push their fake union to the US Senate. How she’s not treated as NBC’s Dateline was after they were caught with the infamous incendiary device is beyond me. I know politics is full of liars, but….faking a marriage? How in the blue hell do supposedly-responsible people interview her without breaking out into uncontrollable laughter?

rjwest21 on February 25, 2009 at 12:00 PM

The saddest part of the whole thing is there are some in the MSM who probably still think that it is true and the prankster is a victim of the right. Truth to a liberal is not whether the facts support it or not, but whether they “want to” believe it or not.

volsense on February 25, 2009 at 12:12 PM

There is a great Jewish fable about the effects of gossip. It involves a large bag of feathers and a windy hilltop.
I would relate it if I could remember it properly, but I know I can’t do it justice. Shouldn’t be hard to find and it’s well worth the effort. A great lesson to pass on to your kids.

SKYFOX on February 25, 2009 at 12:25 PM

SKYFOX on February 25, 2009 at 12:25 PM

This one?

OmahaConservative on February 25, 2009 at 12:30 PM

Think anyone will chastise Matthews for stating that the response to Obama’s speech was “outsourced” to Bobby Jindal?

Or Helen Thomas for making a Slumdog Millionaire joke?

Jim Treacher on February 25, 2009 at 12:57 PM

Eric Holder indeed resembles a monkey. An evil, vicious Clintonite, gun-grabbing monkey. Don’t have a clue as to his scrotum color, though.

GeneSmith on February 25, 2009 at 10:39 AM

A nation of cowards? I think Holder resembles a donkey to some and an ass to others.

saiga on February 25, 2009 at 1:00 PM

I’m not a fan of tort laws and lawyers, but I encourage John to sue, sue, sue!

Christian Conservative on February 25, 2009 at 1:42 PM

It quickly went viral, and wound up on the sites of TV Newser and Huffington Post, both of which ran it without first checking with Fox or Gibson — or even checking a transcript.

I can’t BELIEVE that they would so this!!!! Shocking…..

/s

Hawkins1701 on February 25, 2009 at 6:07 PM

The important thing here is that HuffPo gets a seat in the White House Press room… It’s one thing for some tiny blogger who has no “real” media presence to throw up a video like this, but in an age where HuffPo is considered legitimate mainstream media, it’s simply unacceptable for them to run some thing like this.

RightWinged on February 25, 2009 at 8:11 PM

SKYFOX on February 25, 2009 at 12:25 PM

This one?

OmahaConservative on February 25, 2009

Yup, that’s the one. Thanks.

SKYFOX on February 26, 2009 at 5:01 AM