Gone are the days when reporters from local network affiliates did investigative journalism. With nearly lockstep determination, news networks and their affiliates dutifully regurgitate and defend whatever talking points are issued by federal agencies, with the big dog lately being the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Such is the case with KTVB, the NBC affiliate in Boise, Idaho, which recently lied about a state representative who posted the CDC’s data regarding masks use and Covid infection rates.
In a segment broadcast on KTVB, news anchor Kim Fields references a discussion on one of the station’s Facebook groups about Idaho’s rising Covid-19 numbers. Fields singled out Tammy Nichols, a Republican lawmaker from Idaho’s 11th district, who had copied and pasted CDC data from a recently published study showing that 74.2% of people who contracted Covid-19 always wore a mask/face covering.
“Remember when this began we were told masks wouldn’t help,” Nichols wrote. “This is a CDC study from July 2020 of symptomatic patients with COVID from 11 outpatient facilities.”
Nichols then copied/pasted figures from the CDC’s report, and ended her post with “#UnmaskAmerica” and “#MasksOffIdaho,” followed by a link to the study.
In her report, Fields stated, “The CDC study Nichols cited as proof that masks don’t prevent the spread of Coronavirus, it needs some context.” Fields then went on to momsplain the study.
The problem? Nichols never stated that masks don’t prevent the spread of Coronavirus.
Fields’ voice tone became even more condescending and smarmy as she shifted from talking to her viewing audience to talking directly to Representative Nichols:
“So, Representative Nichols, the fact that 71% of positive patients wore a mask and still got Covid-19, that doesn’t prove that masks are useless. You took that out of context.”
Fields ended her segment by saying, “We reached out to Representative Nichols for comment, but it was late in the day when we called, so if she responds tonight or tomorrow, we’ll be sure to include it in tomorrow’s show.”
Turns out Fields had sent Nichols an email to her government email account an hour before the segment aired. Not having checked her state email account in several hours, Nichols received a phone call from a constituent telling her about the KTVB segment 45 minutes after it aired. Nichols immediately contacted Fields via Facebook Messenger, stating, “I never said in my post that masks don’t stop the spread of COVID, nor did I say they are useless. That was your input.”
Then, when Nichols checked her state email account an hour and 15 minutes later, she saw Fields’ email and responded again.
But Fields never followed through with her promise to report on Nichols’ response.
After being contacted by Nichols’ attorney, KTVB refused to take down the false report.
The attorney’s letter stated that Nichols offered “no personal opinion on mask efficacy whatsoever.” He pointed out that the statement, “Remember when this began, we were told masks wouldn’t help” was “simply a recollection of historical events and does not express any personal opinion on mask efficacy.”
Nichols’ attorney also reviewed the definition of defamation and stated, “Based on the plain words of Rep. Nichols, you knew your statements that she ‘suggested masks are not effective” was false at the time you communicated it, or you acted with reckless disregard for its truth or falsity.’”
A request was then made for KTVB to “remove or correct the misleading statements” from KTVB’s website and other media on which the segment might appear.
KTVB’s legal counsel responded with a song and dance interpretation of Nichols’ Facebook post, defending their false statements. The only change made on KTVB’s website was a slight wording change in the headline. To date, KTVB has not removed the false statements about or attributed to Nichols.
Interestingly, in keeping with a pattern of falsehoods (referred to as lying by most people), KTVB’s legal counsel stated that “KTVB reached out to your client prior to broadcasting/publishing the story at issue for her comment, but she never responded. Indeed, the first time KTVB heard from Rep. Nichols about her Facebook post was in your October 13, 2020 demand letter.”
Either KTVB’s attorney is lying or Kim Fields is lying, because I happened to have obtained a copy of both the text message and the email sent by Representative Nichols, both timestamped as reported.
On KTVB’s “About Us” page they tell us, “We will seek all sides relevant to a story.”
They may seek all sides, but they don’t report all sides.
They also state, “We do not intentionally slant the news.”
I guess this also falls under the “falsehoods” category. KTVB was contacted twice by Representative Nichols and twice by her attorney, but they have chosen to leave slanted, false news on their website.
It’s something to keep in mind when choosing where to get your news when visiting Idaho’s capital city.
By the way, I reached out to Representative Nichols for comment on this story. She said, “This is the garbage they pull to sensationalize their stories. They’ll twist and manipulate facts to promote their agenda – it doesn’t matter if what they report isn’t true.”
I also reached out to Kim Fields for a comment on this story, but as of press time, she has not responded. Even if she does though, I’m not sure I’ll believe what she says.