Is It Possible All News Organizations Are This Incompetent? Nah, Couldn’t Be…

Booker Hoax

That’s the uncanny Booker imposter on the left, the real Senator on the right…

There is incompetence, and there is mind-melting, skin-flaying, “You did WHAT???” incompetence. A story that I read while laughing last night is the latter. Here is the whole thing, from The Hill:

The BBC has apologized for airing an interview with someone posing as Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) on Friday.

According to a post on the BBC website, the interview only aired at 3 p.m. EST last Friday but was not used any other time.

“In our Newshour radio programme on Friday, a man claiming to be Senator Cory Booker was interviewed in what appears to be a deliberate hoax,” the BBC wrote in a post it called a correction and apology.

“We have apologised to Senator Booker and are looking into what went wrong to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

The message was posted to the BBC website over the weekend and the network made an on-air mea culpa Monday. The BBC declined to comment on how the incident occurred or when the faux U.S. politician was booked. Press representatives from Booker’s office did not immediately comment on the incident.

Now I’m laughing again. This would be embarrassing for my high school newspaper, The Arlington High Chronicle, but the BBC? An apology is hardly sufficient. This goes way beyond fake news to fake newsmaker, fake interview, fake journalists, and fake trustworthy news organization. I’m trying to think of a similarly outrageous news media botch, other than CNN allowing Don Lemon, Chris Cuomo and Brian Stelter to masquerade as competent commentators. After all, at least they really are Don Lemon, Chris Cuomo and Brian Stelter...or are they?

Other observations:

  • Didn’t the fake interview have to be booked? Then it would at least explain how the stunt Senator “I am Spartacus!” got in a position to be accepted by gross incompetents.
  • Or is it possible to walk up to the front desk of any news organization, say you are someone important or famous and there for a spontaneous interview, and get a happy “That’s great! We’ll get you into make-up right away!”?
  • I might try it. I think I’ll drop in on Fox News and say I’m Hillary Clinton and have something I want to get off my chest…on second thought, that might be unethical.
  • There are at least three inexplicable gaffes here: 1) Interviewing the fake Senator without checking whether he was who he said he was 2) The interviewer and staff being unable to tell that he was fake during the interview, and 3) allowing the thing to be broadcast.
  • How many BBC employees should be fired for all this? Ten? Twenty? All of them?
  • Do all African Americans look alike to BBC staff? I hope Phony Booker was at least black.

For many decades, I have maintained that the foundational problem with journalism is that those who go into the field are, for the most part, not all that bright but under the impression that they are smarter than they really are. This story has done nothing to dissuade me from that analysis.

10 thoughts on “Is It Possible All News Organizations Are This Incompetent? Nah, Couldn’t Be…

  1. “Do all African Americans look alike to BBC staff? I hope Phony Booker was at least black.”

    I wondered this while reading the entry. Will U.S. news sources, celebrities and Democrats start calling the BBC racist? When will the BBC and BBCAmerica be cancelled, figuratively and literally, in America for confusing some random black man for Cory Booker?

  2. “I’m trying to think of a similarly outrageous news media botch,”

    The BBC did the same thing 15 years ago: confused an interview subject with a cab driver who had come in for a job interview. The guy was pretty lucid on the future of the music industry:

    This was sent up hilariously on the Britcom “The IT Crowd.”

  3. Things we need to know to fully evaluate the situation:
    * When was the interview booked relative to the broadcast date?
    * Was it a live or prerecorded interview?
    * Was it in person, by video, or strictly by phone?
    * If live, did they recognize the error during the broadcast? Did they end it?
    * Was an interview with the Senator planned? Was there a real interview that got hijacked?
    * Is the broadcast available for public scrutiny, or banished to censor’s floor to avoid further embarrassing the BBC?

    Given that the BBC is mum on these issues, I strongly suspect the answers are not flattering. A man calling in by phone when the real senator was expected for a live interview, would be a simple hazard of live TV. That the BBC did not elaborate suggests they were not extemporaneously “punk’d”.

    I also find it “cute” the only other example that the Hill cites making a similar mistake is Fox News. Hmmm…

  4. Do all African Americans look alike to BBC staff?

    It was a radio interview, so I assume they did it by phone and didn’t actually see the interviewee.

  5. This is hilarious.

    This is hilariously hilarious.

    I shouldn’t take so much glee from knowing somewhere a professional was at home after a long day’s work, found out this mistake was discovered and then spent the entire night unable to sleep knowing he or she had to show up to work the next day to face the music.

    I haven’t laughed this much since knowing some low ranking dude who helped cobble together the FBI brief leading to the arrest of one of the capitol rioters was dreading showing up to work after it was discovered that the image he pulled from the internet was a photo-edited image where a pornographic image was fuzzily hung in the background where a presidential portrait had been hanging.

  6. I have to wonder, though: Did Russell Crowe conduct the interview? That would seem likely, even though Crowe was the “gladiator” and not “Spartacus” but, hey, at least they were from the same region. Well, kind of the same region.


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