Why We Cannot Trust The News Media, Reason #116: ABC’s Deceptive Video Editing

The ABC News version: "I'm going to make him an offer!"

In a fiery speech in budget wars epicenter Madison, Wisconsin yesterday, whatever-she-is Sarah Palin told cheering Tea Party followers,

“If you stand by your platform, if you stand by your pledges, we will stand with you, we will fight with you, GOP, we will have your back. What we need is for you to stand up, GOP, and fight. GOP leaders need to learn how to fight like a girl!”

“Fight like a girl” —that is, like Palin—immediately spread over the internet, one more example of Palin’s uncanny bumper-sticker catch phrase talent. Now here is how ABC’s “This Week with Christiane Amanpour” played the video today:

“What we need is for you to stand up, GOP, and fight. GOP leaders need to learn how to fight—!”

Truncating a quote mid-phrase by this kind of editing is per se unethical, misleading, and the pits of broadcast journalism ethics. It could not have been accidental. Was some politically correct nut-case on ABC’s staff afraid that “fight like a girl” would offend female viewers, even though Palin was using the phrase ironically? Was the network, virulently anti-Palin and biased against her like most of the media, intentionally blocking the part of her rhetoric that made the speech memorable? Is ABC really this incompetent?

I suppose the episode gives us a fun new parlor game: State how ABC might have reported memorable  quotes of the past, and guess what they snipped out?

 FDR, being disingenuous about the Depression: “We have nothing to fear.”

Nathan Hale, feeling sorry of himself: “I regret that I have but one life.”

Davy Crockett on his prospects in the afterlife: “You can go to Hell. I’m going!

Abraham Lincoln, taking issue with Darwin: “Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created.”

It also proves, however, how slovenly and untrustworthy the broadcast media has become. We have learned that we can’t trust what we read; we have to accept the fact that even on the major news networks, we can’t rely on what we see or hear, either.

8 thoughts on “Why We Cannot Trust The News Media, Reason #116: ABC’s Deceptive Video Editing

  1. Jack,
    Except for making the clip sound potentially more “PC” friendly, I’m not entirely sure where the foul is? I don’t like the media misrepresenting thing, but leaving off “like a girl” doesn’t significantly alter the meaning or tone of what she said, it just robs her of a clever sound-byte. Moreover, one network does not the media make, so it’s especially hard to get worked up over what could have just been an editing mistake.

    Moreover, why would ABC (or any media outlet) shy away from controversy involving Palin, considering they never have before? After all, her gaffes have made for incredibly popular fodder in previous news cycles, why give her a pass this time? It wasn’t one of their reporters who said “like a girl,” it was her, meaning that any buck over sexism or whatever else could have easily been passed to her.

    I don’t mean to suggest you’re definitively wrong in your accusation of bad behavior, just that without more evidence I’m inclined to pass it off as a slip-up.

    -Neil

    • Admittedly, Neil, I am inclined to find major significance in minor conduct. This is small, but it is still a breach of ethics..you never truncate a quote mid-sentence, which is why I have a hard time seeing it as a mistake. I agree that there is no explaining it, which is why I headline it “terrible judgment.” I generally view ABC News as the best of the non-cable networks (NBC being the worst), which is why I find this both significant and disappointing.

      And that omitted phrase WAS the story! It was already a sound byte! Don’t you find that strange?

      • I have long ago stopped watching the “Major Network’s” news. They have all, for some time been adding or subtracting and calling it “editing”.
        I want to know what happened, reported clearly and most importantly with “truth”. Why waste my precious time and wonder “if”?

  2. I took the “fight like a girl” comment to mean to admonish the Republicans to dispense with some of the typical gentlemanly lies that are part and parcel (and mostly necessary) in Congressional debate. Sometimes, I think Palin was saying, is that occasionally one can drop the lying “my good friend and colleague” Jack Sprat (whom I actually despise and disagree philosophically on every issue nonsense, take off the gloves and just go for it. You know, “Tell it like it is.” Take the hard line you promised to take. Women among women can be cruelly truthful, and sometimes in the public arena it could serve a positive purpose. This is not sexist — it’s notable only because until recently there were so few women in Congress, as opinion leaders, etc.

    Does Sarah Palin “fight like a girl?” “You betcha.” Does Nancy Pelosi “fight like a girl?” Nope… her approach is less telling uncomfortable truths and more just plain lying and slandering those she disagrees with.

    It completely flummoxes me that ABC would drop the end of the quote. It was so Palin – like her or not. Regardless, Jack’s examples of “redacting” famous quotes is res ipsa loquitor about why it shouldn’t be done.

    • No, it clearly meant “fight like ME, you weenies!” It’s a great quote. I don’t think the media likes to publicize Palin’s best quotes, only her dumb ones. Some people think that one quote indicates that she’s running for president.

  3. I got one:
    President Bill Clinton, proclaiming his purity and support of abstinence programs: I did not have sex.

    –Dwayne

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