Old and busted: Journalists can be trusted to vet their sources and corroborate their claims. New hotness: Let’s publish retracted social-media posts as important news! Earlier today, NBC News came up with clickbait so shameless that even the most desperate blogger might have had qualms producing:
A former schoolmate of Brett Kavanaugh’s accuser wrote a Facebook post saying she recalls hearing about the alleged assault involving Kavanaugh, though she says she has no first-hand information to corroborate the accuser’s claims.
“Christine Blasey Ford was a year or so behind me,” wrote the woman, Cristina Miranda King, who now works as a performing arts curator in Mexico City. “I did not know her personally but I remember her. This incident did happen.”
She added, “Many of us heard a buzz about it indirectly with few specific details. However Christine’s vivid recollection should be more than enough for us to truly, deeply know that the accusation is true.” …
The assertion that other people heard about and discussed an incident between Ford and Kavanaugh at the time it is alleged to have happened could loom as an important factor in any investigation of the claim.
That does sound like a potential … hearsay witness. We’ll get back to that in a moment, but first let’s read down to the seventh paragraph of NBC’s keen reporting on this issue:
King has since taken down her Facebook post, which NBC News verified as having appeared on her account. She said on Twitter that she deleted it “because it served its purpose and I am now dealing with a slew of requests for interviews … Organizing how I want to proceed. Was not ready for that, not sure I am interested in pursuing. Thanks for reading.”
And then the eighth paragraph, emphasis mine:
She later posted on Facebook: “To all media, I will not be doing anymore interviews. No more circus for me. To clarify my post: I do not have first hand knowledge of the incident that Dr. Christine Blasey Ford mentions, and I stand by my support for Christine. That’s it. I don’t have more to say on the subject. Please don’t contact me further.”
In other words, readers have to scroll down past the jump to find out that the statement has been retracted. Does NBC routinely run stories based on sources that retract their statements? Hmmm.
Besides, the issue of hearsay would likely loom larger, for a couple of reasons. In the public telling of her story to the Washington Post, Ford said that the incident took place in the summer, maybe during the time that “she often spent … at he Columbia Country Club pool in Chevy Chase, where in those pre-cellphone days, teenagers learned about gatherings via word of mouth.” If that were the case, then school wouldn’t have been in session, so it seems highly unlikely that students had been talking about it in school immediately after the alleged attack happened.
Even if it had, though, regurgitation of gossip isn’t corroboration of anything in an investigation, in which NBC claims this would loom large. Note that King doesn’t claim she heard it from Ford, and indeed never personally knew her. That makes it third-hand at best, even if it actually happened.
About that if, though … Ford insisted she told no one, emphasis mine:
Ford said she has not spoken with Kavanaugh since that night. And she told no one at the time what had happened to her. She was terrified, she said, that she would be in trouble if her parents realized she had been at a party where teenagers were drinking, and she worried they might figure it out even if she did not tell them.
A key point to recall is that Ford and King attended a different school than Kavanaugh or Mark Judge. The only person present who could have spread the story at the girls’ school would have been Ford, and she insisted that she never talked about it until decades later during a counseling session. It seems doubtful that the boys allegedly involved would have been spreading the story, and even if they were, it would have been at their own school, not the one attended by Ford and King.
The Post published this account three days ago. Didn’t the layers of fact checkers and editors at NBC think to, oh, see if this rando Facebook post matched the story Ford told? Or do they just make a habit of trolling through social media and choosing random stuff to amplify?
King appears to be either an attention-seeking troll herself, someone who thought she’d help by inserting herself into the story, or a combination of the two. However, NBC is supposed to be a news organization, one with journalistic standards. The publishing of this story and the burying of the retraction to below the jump makes it clear that this trolling was deliberate.
If NBC wins today’s gold medal in dishonest news presentation, CNN seems interested in scoring the silver. But don’t say there’s any media bias!
This is not close to the offer to #ChristinaBlaseyFord.
Chairman Grassley offered an open or closed hearing, reached out to discuss timing that would work for Dr. Ford, has even offered to send staff to California.
This deserves a correction.https://t.co/DcafA30Y4P
— Senator Hatch Office (@senorrinhatch) September 19, 2018