As I wrote Wednesday, the New York Times got taken to the woodshed over how they initially portrayed the 18th anniversary of 9/11 as a day where “airplanes took aim” at the World Trade Center. It was an utterly shameless Ilhan Omar-esque take on the terror attacks that killed nearly 3,000 innocent people after terrorists took aim at the Twin Towers by way of hijacking two planes.
Unfortunately the Times was not the only national newspaper who played fast and loose with the facts on 9/11.
The Washington Post published a report Wednesday afternoon on an incident that happened in the North Carolina state legislature involving a veto override done by House Republicans at the start of the day, and outraged Democrats who melted down on the House floor claiming they were lied to about there being “no votes” scheduled on the 9/11 calendar.
Whether NC House Dems were “lied to” is a separate (and untrue) argument that I won’t get into in this piece. Instead, we’ll focus on how the paper bogusly framed the issue in falsely painting the Republicans in the most unflattering light possible. This led to other national news outlets like CBS and left wing publications/commentators like the Daily Beast, “NowThis News”, and MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow spreading a story that in reality provides us with a classic example of fake news spreading like wildfire.
In the WaPo’s initial story, the headline read something to the effect of “North Carolina Republicans Overrode Budget Veto While Democrats Were at 9/11 Ceremony.” I didn’t get a screen grab of it, but you can see from the URL that’s it’s pretty close to what they had originally.
Reporter Lateshia Beachum started the story off by writing that “While North Carolina Democrats were remembering the lives lost on Sept. 11, 2001, their Republican colleagues took advantage of their absence and …” The screen cap of her original report is below:
Cooper didn’t actually say NC House Democrats were away at 9/11 memorials while the override, but he implied it:
“Today, on the 18th anniversary of 9-11, while the state was honoring first responders, Republicans called a deceptive surprise override of my budget veto.”
Instead of doing actual journalism by way of independently verifying the claim that NC House Democrats were en masse out solemnly attending 9/11 remembrances while Republicans overrode a veto, Beachum ran with Cooper’s claim uncritically. You can see it by the original headline used, and by how she framed the first two paragraphs.
By reading what she initially reported, you’d think Republicans underhandedly used the 18th anniversary of 9/11 to upstage Democrats after a months-long budget stalemate.
CBS News also ran with it after reporting that a local news media outlet (WTVD) said “many Democrats were at 9/11 commemoration events.” Except there was no such claim in WTVD’s reporting other than Cooper’s insinuation.
“NowThis News” ran with this framing in a tweet that has well over 20,000 retweets as of this writing, and which has been retweeted by liberal comedian Sarah Silverman and actress Alyssa Milano among others. Rachel Maddow ran with this framing (nearly 7,000 RTs). The Daily Beast ran with the framing as well.
The only problem? It’s not true.
North Carolina journalist Colin Campbell, who writes for the Raleigh News and Observer and other local publications, noted in a tweet yesterday that in reality only one House Democrat had attended a 9/11 ceremony:
In fact, numerous other Democrats were indeed working at the state legislature on 9/11 instead of attending remembrances. Yesterday was not a national holiday and there were bills on the calendar for reconsideration among other important state issues that were being addressed by legislators in both parties.
Another News and Observer journalist noted that audio from Tuesday’s session confirmed votes would be taken on 9/11:
Here's another reporter in the know. pic.twitter.com/4QfDQfSGuP
— Sister Toldjah 😁 (@sistertoldjah) September 12, 2019
The WaPo issued a bogus “clarification” later and rewrote the story, but by that point it was too late:
The WaPo issues a clarification that is completely bogus. They ran with the erroneous story that #NCGA House Dems were at a 9/11 ceremony, totally based on a quote from Gov. Cooper (D). Multiple other outlets are now running with this fake news because of the WaPo. #NCPOL pic.twitter.com/s2QnoKmHxO
— Sister Toldjah 😁 (@sistertoldjah) September 12, 2019
For whatever people think about Republicans overriding the veto itself without all members present (it can be done and has been done in the past – by House Democrats when they had control of the state House), the erroneous reporting done by the Washington Post set off a chain reaction of other websites running with the same fake news about how Democrats “were away” at 9/11 ceremonies when they really weren’t:
This is how fake news spreads like wildfire. NC Gov. Roy Cooper (D) claimed #ncga Dems "were attending a 9/11 memorial event" during vote, the @washingtonpost's @lateshiabeachum runs with it uncritically. But a reporter in NC did the digging & discovered it wasn't true. #ncpol pic.twitter.com/7LBE50sTK0
— Sister Toldjah 😁 (@sistertoldjah) September 11, 2019
Usually here in North Carolina it’s the local political media we have to watch out for when it comes to spreading fake news. This time around it was the national media with local news reporters (to my pleasant surprise) correcting them.
The damage has already been done, but nevertheless the truth should be put out there for the record.
— Based in North Carolina, Sister Toldjah is a former liberal and a 15+ year veteran of blogging with an emphasis on media bias, social issues, and the culture wars. Read her Red State archives here. Connect with her on Twitter. –