The Washington Post criticized Katie Couric’s role in approving the deceptive “Under the Gun” documentary edit but also noted that it is “one instance of bad judgment in a long career.” This was an instance of the “Just One Mistake” rationalization…
20. The “Just one mistake!” Fantasy
Related to #16 but still distinct is the excuse that a particular unethical act should be ignored, forgiven or excused as an aberration because “it was just one mistake.” This argument intentionally glosses over the fact that one mistake can be so blatantly unethical and harmful that an ethical person literally never does such a thing, and thus the “one mistake” is a reliable indicator that the actor does not deserve to be trusted. Abuse of power is in this category. Defenders of the unethical also often use this excuse dishonestly and deceptively to designate as one mistake an ongoing episode of continuous unethical conduct. For example, Bill Clinton didn’t make “one mistake” regarding Monica Lewinsky, but hundreds of them, involving lies, deceits, cover-ups and betrayals.
The versatile excuse was applied by one member of the liberal-biased school of journalism to another, and says more about the Post writer ( Callum Borchers) than it does about Couric. He was actually right on the money when he wrote, only to say later it was “unfair,” this:
Couric thinks the media needs to be tougher on Trump. The reality is the current level of toughness hasn’t dented his campaign. What’s the next level of toughness? One could conclude, based on the misleading edit in Couric’s gun documentary, that it involves distorting interviews to produce manufactured flubs, in hopes that one of them will accomplish what no organic mistake has done so far.
Why yes, one could not only conclude that, but witness it in the media’s successful efforts to turn a dumb Trump quote about a judge’s reasons to be biased against him in a law suit into an imaginary smoking gun that proves he’s a racist. Journalists have been eager to allow the public to forget about Couric’s endorsement of misleading and dishonest editing techniques in the service of the anti-gun rights agenda, because her methods are their methods. The woman should be fired. Journalists must be regarded like accountants and auditors: one they have shown that they will lie, even once, they are worthless. Is that a fair standard? I believe it is. Why then are journalists eager to have Couric held to a lower standard? Easy: they don’t want to be held to the appropriate ethics standard either.
The apologists for Couric have been especially revealing; once again, any journalist who defends Couric can be safely placed along with her in the UNTRUSTWORTHY File. Here’s Mediaite’s Rachel Stockman embarrassing and indicting herself, for example, saying that people are being mean to Katie for impugning her integrity…
…For an 8 second editing issue, that wasn’t even her doing? For something, that during the screening, she apparently raised objections to? Most importantly, for something, that she has now apologized for, and is clearly ashamed of? “I regret that those eight seconds were misleading and that I did not raise my initial concerns more vigorously,” Couric said in a statement.
1. It was 9 seconds, and Couric and her defenders have been trying to whittle down the time as if it somehow makes the false edit trivial. Okay, let’s say “8.” 8 seconds of dead time after a question is still an eternity on the screen, and 8 seconds that replace actual and immediate responses to a question in order to make those questioned look stumped is still a blatant lie.
2. That wasn’t “her doing?” Couric asked the question on film that had its answers edited out! Couric was the producer of the film! Couric had to approve the final product! Couric’s credibility is what made the edit an effective lie! Couric knew about the edit, and approved it! Couric had the power to stop it, and didn’t! It was absolutely “her doing.”
3. Let me get this straight, now: the theory here is that if the final authority on whether something occurs or not raises objections to it but lets it happen anyway, that’s mitigation? What matters is the final decision, not how it’s reached or the discarded positions on the way to reaching it.
4. Couric’s initial response when the false edit was exposed was to endorse documentary-maker Stephanie Soechtig’s refusal to acknowledge that her edit was deceptive,by saying only this:
“I support Stephanie’s statement and am very proud of the film.”
That later apology that Stockman thinks exonerates Couric was this monstrosity, and it came only after Couric realized that the attacks on her would keep coming until she gave the media something to allow them to let her off the hook. If she was “clearly ashamed,” she would have been ashamed immediately.
She’s ashamed that she got caught, and that’s all.
One way we know this is that some journalists kept doing their jobs–investigating to see where the facts lead regardless of what they might show—and guess what? (As John Kasich liked to say in the debates—remember him?) Couric allowed the same documentary-maker to pulls the same dishonest and misleading trick in a 2014 documentary that Couric produced.
Emboldened by the controversy over this year’s “Under the Gun,” Dr. David Allison, who was interviewed by Couric in Fed Up, the earlier documentary directed by Stephanie Soechtig and produced by Couric, focusing on obesity and the food industry, revealed that he was the victim of a deceptive edit too.
After a brief exchange in the film between Allison and Couric over whether or not sugary beverages contribute more to obesity than other foods, Couric asked Allison about the science supporting his objections to drink bans. Allison is shown haltingly beginning to explain, then stopping and asking Couric if he can pause to “get his thoughts together.” Couric responds to Allison’s on camera request by saying “Okay,” but the film shows Dr. Allison sitting silently for another seven seconds before cutting to a different interview. That’s Allison’s last appearance in the film.
Here, Allison explained, is what really happened. Couric had told him, “You know, Dr. Allison, if at any point you need to go over an answer, you stumble on your words, just let me know, we’ll stop, and you can go back over it.’” Allison did stumble (he says he was trying to avoid scientific complexity and put his opinion in layman’s terms as Couric requested) and asked to start again based on his belief that his second attempt would be used, as Couric had assured him.
After the pause left in the film, Allison says he answered to Couric’s question. “I had what I thought was a very cogent answer,” he told the Washington Free Beacon. “Of course I gave an answer. I gave an answer to every question she asked me in a 90-minute interview that was a barrage of questions. And out of a 90-minute interview she chose to show the approximately 10 seconds [Or was it really only 8?] when I paused and said, “Let me collect my thoughts.’”
Unfortunately for Dr. Allison, he trusted Couric and didn’t secretly tape his interview like one of the Virginia Citizens Defense League members who were made to look like dummies when their answers to a Couric question was replaced by a pause. Without hard evidence of the deceptive edit, why should we believe him now?
We should believe him because the later documentary shows that this is a favorite technique of Soechtig’s. We should believe him because in her statement she attempted to justify it as a legitimate technique. We should believe him because this indicates a pattern. We should believe him because he’s not an agenda-driven documentary director or a dishonest journalist—like Katie Couric.
There is some more evidence of dishonest advocacy that has come to light since Couric’s lack of integrity and honesty in “Under the Gun” was revealed.
The best blog on statistics that almost never has a post, Data Gone Odd, was recently moved to point out the intellectual and statistical deception Couric accepted and endorsed in the anti-gun film. Francis Walker writes in part (read the whole post, please):
They then show a narrator asking a series of NRA members how they feel about a person on the government’s terror watchlist not being able to board a plane, but being able to legally buy a gun. Of course, the responses they show are from people who are dumbfounded by the question. After all, what possible response could there be to why extremely dangerous individuals should be able to legally buy deadly weapons? Finally, set up complete, they hit you with the statistic:
“From 2004 – 2014 over 2,000 terror suspects legally purchased guns in the United States”
The “over 2,000” turns out to be 2,043 and comes from a March 2015 update to Senate testimony from 2010 by the Director of Homeland Security…
“Overall, since NICS started checking against terrorist watchlist records in February 2004, FBI data show that individuals on the terrorist watchlist were involved in firearm or explosives background checks 2,233 times, of which 2,043 (about 91 percent) of the transactions were allowed to proceed and 190 were denied.”
Taken at face value, it is not hard to see how this could be viewed as an outrage and worthy of fixing. Reading through the reports, however, I noticed something odd seemed to be missing.
If you are constructing the case for why we need to close the “Terror Gap” as it is sometimes referred to, you would expect the argument to have at least three main parts:
Description of the problem – check
Size of the problem – check (2,043 over 10 years)
Damage the problem has caused
That last part is a fairly key detail. If we want to prophylactically remove an enumerated constitutional right from people, it is pretty important to demonstrate the harm that the current system is allowing. In the strongest form of the argument we would be shown that in each of the 2,043 instances someone on a watchlist legally purchased a firearm and went on to kill with that weapon. This would make for an incredibly strong case for new legislation that would be hard to argue against. If someone went on to kill with the weapon in 50% or more of the instances, the argument would be weaker, but still fairly compelling. If, similar to the issue of gun ownership in general, only a very small portion of the total instances in question resulted in a death, the argument would be much weaker, but there would still be a justification that could be made. However, none of that appears to be the case here.
I am not able to find evidence of any harm whatsoever resulting from the 2,043 transactions that were allowed to proceed.
Walker goes on to say that this is remarkable, as indeed it is. In fact, it undermines the thesis of the documentary, which is why the information wasn’t provided. (Dishonesty by omission is still a lie.) She writes,
When you think about, this is really quite remarkable. If even a mere 1% of the time terror suspect’s background checks were allowed to proceed ended in tragedy there would be 20 examples you could point to of harm that could be prevented. Instead, there does not seem to be a single one. Many times when arguing for or against proposed legislation we don’t really know what the result would be if the legislation were in place earlier and are left to speculate. Here that is not the case. We know exactly the transactions that the legislation would seek to block. Given this, the argument for Terror Gap legislation essentially boils down to
“This group of people we think is very dangerous should not be allowed to exercise one of their constitution rights because it will put the rest of us in great peril. Peril so great that in over 2,000 cases, some going back over decade, of transactions it is critical we block, we haven’t been able to identity any harm that has resulted.”
That’s our Katie, along with her pal, Soechtig. Any gun control advocate who accepts these tactics is corrupt, and any journalist who continues to defend Couric is as untrustworthy as she is.