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.