GERARD HENDERSON’S MEDIA WATCH DOG
ISSUE – NO. 507
31 July 2020
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The inaugural issue of “Gerard Henderson’s Media Watch” was published in April 1988 – over a year before the first edition of the ABC TV Media Watch program went to air. Between November 1997 and October 2015 “Gerard Henderson’s Media Watch” was published as part of The Sydney Institute Quarterly. In March 2009 Gerard Henderson’s Media Watch Dog blog commenced publication.
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Stop Press – Andrew Probyn on the Ruby Princess; Guy Rundle & Phillip Adams get conspiratorial on The Dismissal
Can You Bear It? Fitz on the republic and the coming pandemic baby boom; The Guardian’s “Insiders” fail to disclose the Malcolm Turnbull connection; The ABC (finally) corrects its fake news re President Trump; Scott Burchill all dressed up on Zoom
Five Paws Award – Step Forward Professor Philip Bull
Conspiracy Theories: An Update – Michael Rowland fawns over Oliver Stone
Rant of the Week – Ross Gittins bags The Liberal Party (with a little help from Manning Clark)
An ABC Update – CNN & The Washington Post admit they got it wrong on Covington Catholic High School – But no word from News Breakfast
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ANDREW PROBYN’s [ILLUSTRATED] BEAT-UP
On Thursday evening, 7.30 featured a report by ABC political editor Andrew Probyn concerning the Ruby Princess cruise ship. The report began with ominous music, seemingly ripped straight from a Hollywood spy thriller, playing over footage of the Ruby Princess. Then, over sinister B-roll filmed around Sydney Harbour at night, Andrew Probyn begins:
Andrew Probyn: Landfall, Sydney Harbour. Dawn on the 19th of March. One of the deadliest moments of COVID-19’s arrival on Australian shores. 662 coronavirus infections and at least 21 deaths followed passengers down the Ruby Princess gangway, across the country and the globe.
Probyn says this all in a melodramatic tone usually reserved for conspiratorial discussions of the Kennedy assassination or Roswell, New Mexico.
In this intro Mr Probyn conflates deaths among passengers who caught COVID-19 while aboard the ship with deaths caused by the disembarkation of the passengers in Sydney Harbour. It is not clear how many of the 662 infections linked to the Ruby Princess were the result of community spread after the ship docked on 19 March. However, the 21 deaths Probyn says “followed passengers down the Ruby Princess gangway” in “one of the deadliest moments of COVID-19’s arrival on Australian shores” were all passengers of the ship. Mr Probyn is doing his best to imply to the audience that these deaths were caused by the disembarkation itself, rather than the spread of the virus on the ship prior to its arrival in Sydney Harbour.
So, what fresh revelations does Mr Probyn bring about the Ruby Princess? Well the report is primarily concerned with a lab form prepared by the ship’s medic Dr Ilse Von Watzdorf. The form requested COVID-19 tests be conducted on certain passengers and reported that those passengers had already tested negative for the flu. An Australian Border Force officer apparently misinterpreted this document as saying that the passengers had tested negative for COVID-19 and passed that information along to superiors.
Mr Probyn appears on camera holding the form, with the names of the passengers blacked out for privacy reasons. Loyal readers will remember Andrew Probyn’s 10 November 2019 appearance on Insiders where he dramatically held up a heavily redacted freedom of information request [see Issue 478]. He followed this up in January 2020 appearing on the ABC holding up the colour-coded spreadsheet obtained from Bridget McKenzie’s office during the sports funding scandal. Apparently, Mr Probyn thinks holding up very secret, very important documents is a good look for him.
To describe the significance of the document, the report featured Labor front bencher Kristina Keneally. Ms Keneally was, in keeping with the tone of the report, interviewed in a dark room. Perhaps somebody at the ABC took her title of Shadow Home Affairs Minister too literally?
Here is what Senator Keneally had to say about the form:
Kristina Keneally: [The form is] the smoking gun that it was the Australian Border Force that made the final decision for passengers to disembark the Ruby Princess.
So, was the all-important form the smoking gun? Well at the very end of the report Andrew Probyn lets slip the following:
Andrew Probyn: Border Force told 7.30 it only has legislative responsibility to clear vessels and passengers and that no ABF officer had authority to make biosecurity decisions on the Ruby Princess.
GUY RUNDLE ON THE CIA & THE DISMISSAL: NO EVIDENCE EQUALS EVIDENCE
It was around Gin & Tonic time yesterday afternoon when Jackie’s (male) co-owner turned on the replay of the previous night’s Late Night Live on ABC Radio National. The ABC’s Man-in-Black was in the presenter’s chair and his guest was Media Watch Dog’s fave Marxist comedian – Guy Rundle Esquire. The topic for the moment was “Did Kerr Sack Whitlam for the Americans?” The reference is to November 1975 and all that. Groan.
Now Gerard Henderson will return to the topic in a future issue of MWD [Say it ain’t so – MWD Editor]. But, right now, Comrade Rundle is in the conspiracy theory game – in competition with Jenny Hocking. The latter reckons that the Queen was involved in Governor-General Sir John Kerr’s decision to dismiss Gough Whitlam’s Labor government. The former reckons that it was all the CIA’s fault. Could there be something in this? After all, at least the CIA might have had a motive – unlike the Queen.
In his introduction to the segment, Phillip (“I was a teenage communist”) Adams declared: “The question of exactly why Kerr sacked Whitlam hasn’t got much attention”. Er, yes it has. Where’s Comrade Adams been since 1975? The dismissal came about because the Malcolm Fraser led Coalition in Opposition blocked supply and the incumbent Prime Minister Gough Whitlam wanted to govern without supply. In short, there was no money to run a government.
Then Comrade Adams raised the issue of the CIA, having declared, without evidence, that Kerr “was a former CIA asset”. And then the ABC’s Man-in-Black asked: “Why does the conservative commentariat avoid raising any of these issues?” The answer is that, for the most part, conservatives are not asked on the ABC to discuss contentious issues. For example, no supporter of Kerr was invited on to 7.30 or Insiders to discuss the issue – only Kerr-haters and Kerr-critics.
In any event it was great to hear from Guy Rundle who – following John Pilger – has been promoting the CIA conspiracy theory for some decades.
On LNL your man Rundle advanced the novel view that because there is no evidence of a CIA-Kerr link, this is evidence that there is evidence. Er? Say that again. Well, this is what Comrade Rundle told Comrade Adams:
…the other problem has always been this idea – taken from spy novels and a bit from some things that Christopher Boyce said in his wilder phases – the idea that you have to find some telegram which says, you know, directed to John Kerr saying “Grey squirrel execute Whitlam now” in order for this to be a conspiracy. So, if you set the bar impossibly high, then of course you don’t find it [evidence]. Because it’s not there and it never is. You know, that’s not how the CIA… it’s never the way these things operate.
So there you have it. The evidence that the Dismissal was a CIA-induced coup can be found in the fact that there is no evidence – and there never is this kind of evidence. As stated earlier – Guy Rundle is MWD’s fave Marxist comedian.
THE RED BANDANNAED ONE ON THE ANTICIPATED BIRTH OF THE REPUBLIC – AND THE EXPECTED PANDEMIC BABY BOOM
Delusion is what delusion does. Writing in his “Fitz on Sunday” column in the Sun-Herald on 19 July 2020 – after the release of the Palace Letters – Peter FitzSimons had this to say about the Australian Republic Movement (ARM).
As to how the ARM is travelling generally, the answer is: never better, thanks for asking. We have had a wonderful surge in membership this week, a particularly wonderful donation, and record 62 per cent support among Australians for an Australian Head of State. Onwards!
Now Jackie’s (male) co-owner voted “Yes” for an Australian head of state in 1999. But the idea that Australians will vote “Yes” any time soon for the republican cause which is led by a millionaire middle-aged bloke who wears a red-rag on his head and lives on Sydney’s Lower North Shore is, well, delusional. The republic cause will never succeed unless it gets significant conservative support. That’s impossible to imagine while the republic movement is led by a sneering secularist leftist who mocks all believers – except Muslims.
MWD notes that, last Sunday, the Red Bandannaed One opined that we all should be wearing masks. Red ones presumably (see below). He also had this to say about, wait for it, a baby boom.
BABY BOOM TIME
… is Sydney in for a baby boom, nine-months post-Pause? I am, anecdotally at least, informed that is the [sic] precisely the case with maternity beds in the New Year rapidly being booked out. And it stands to reason, surely? With partners thrown together more than ever in their time together; with other possibilities of entertainment that involved going out at an all time low, it makes sense that the all-time favourite form of entertainment through the ages was also at an all-time high – and came complete with an inevitable consequence, even in the age of birth control? Such a thing has a long history…
Fitz went on. Alas. He even told readers (if readers there were) that in the current pandemic the relationships of which he is aware “are either markedly weaker or stronger and just about all are different”. Well fancy that.
Meanwhile the Economic and Fiscal Update released last week indicates that the Australian birth-rate is expected to fall “due to weaker economic conditions and outlook”. Last Saturday, The Age quoted demographer Glenn Capuano as saying that birth rates tend to fall during difficult economic times.
But the Red Bandannaed One reckons that a baby boom is around the corner – so to speak. His evidence? Well your man Fitz has spoken to some of his mates in Sydney’s lower North Shore gathered together in a coffee shop in Mosman – or thereabouts. What more evidence does a Sun-Herald columnist need? Can You Bear It?
THE GUARDIAN’s “INSIDERS” FAIL TO DISCLOSE THE MALCOLM TURNBULL CONNECTION
Jackie’s (male) co-owner (aka Media Watch Dog) was oh-so-excited to learn that The Guardian’s editor Lenore Taylor and The Guardian’s political editor Katharine Murphy were to be on the ABC TV Insiders program on Sunday.
MWD was looking forward to Comrades Taylor and Murphy getting into full disclosure mode and declaring how it came about that Malcolm Turnbull (when shadow communications minister in 2012) was involved in not only bringing The Guardian to Australia but also suggesting that the one-time Fairfax Media comrades should work for the leftist newspaper. And so it came to pass.
As avid readers are aware, it was Malcolm Turnbull who revealed the story behind The Guardian Australia’s operation in his memoir A Bigger Picture (Hardie Grant, 2020). He told how he suggested to The Guardian editor in Britain, Alan Rusbridger, how the paper could get started in Australia. And, as Mr Turnbull put it, he “introduced Rusbridger to two seasoned political writers, Lenore Taylor and Katharine Murphy (aka Murpharoo)”. Yes, the former prime minister was wont to call KM Murpharoo – including during his last media conference outside the Prime Minister’s Office.
Now Insiders’ executive producer Sam Clark pretends to be a stickler for full disclosure and all that. Except, apparently, when it comes to Comrades Taylor and Murpharoo. In their individual appearances on Insiders this year, neither panellist declared their Malcolm Turnbull connection. Nor did they do so when they appeared together last Sunday. For the record, Gerard Henderson believes that the support given by Ms Taylor and Ms Murphy to Malcolm Turnbull in the Liberal Party leadership contest in August 2018 had nothing to do with their employment at The Guardian. It’s just that Comrades Taylor, Murphy and Clark lecture others about disclosure and all that.
Come to think of it, you wonder what Insiders would do without The Guardian. On Sunday, two thirds of the journalists on the Insiders (virtual) couch were leftists from The Guardian – and neither the other panellist (Phil Coorey) nor the presenter (David Speers) is a conservative. Yet another example of the taxpayer funded Conservative Free Zone in practice. Can You Bear It?
IT’S “DON’T MENTION RICHARD GLOVER & DAVID SMITH” AS ABC (FINALLY) CORRECTS ITS FAKE NEWS re PRESIDENT TRUMP
Guess what? Last Monday, the ABC posted an item titled “President Trump comment on George Floyd” on its Corrections and Clarifications page:
President Trump comment on George Floyd
Posted Mon 27 Jul 2020 at 12.48 pm
On 6 June, reports on ABC News Channel and online stated that in a speech on employment figures and the economy President Donald Trump said “George Floyd would be happy about rising job figures”. This was incorrect. President Trump’s reference to George Floyd was not related to rising job figures.
Yes, this was posted on Monday 27 July 2020. On 12 June 2020 Media Watch Dog drew attention to the ABC’s use of FAKE NEWS with respect to its report of President Donald J. Trump’s speech following the tragic killing of George Floyd. MWD reported that presenter Richard Glover and his guest Dr David Smith (of the United States Studies Centre) had quoted President Trump out of context by deleting certain comments. Thus giving the false impression that President Trump said that the late George Floyd was looking down in happiness on the positive US employment figures – when in fact he said that Mr Floyd would be looking down positively on the fact that his death had led to a situation where the United States would implement fairer treatment for African Americans.
By means of this misquotation – during Drive with Richard Glover on ABC Radio Sydney 702 on 9 June 2020 Comrade Glover and Comrade Smith accused “a white president [of] putting words into the mouth of a dead black person killed by police” (Glover) and of being “grotesque even by his own standards” (Smith).
This was fake news – achieved by censoring the first half of President Trump’s comment. The full comment is reproduced below – with the part marked in bold that was censored by Glover/Smith:
Donald Trump: They [African Americans] have to receive fair treatment from law enforcement. They have to receive it. We all saw what happened last week. We can’t let that happen. Hopefully George is looking down right now and saying this is a great thing that’s happening for our country. This is a great day for him. It’s a great day for everybody. This is a great day for everybody. This is a great, great day in terms of equality.
In other words Richard Glover and David Smith were hopelessly wrong. Did they correct this on air on Tuesday 28 July following the ABC correction of the previous day? – MWD hears you ask. Answer: Not on your nelly. Can You Bear It?
[No. Not really. Are academic standards so low in the US[eless] Studies Centre that it’s okay to quote political leaders you don’t like, out of context? – MWD Editor.]
SCOTT BURCHILL LOOKS BETTER ON ABC TV WHEN HE IS HOME BOUND AND NOT GOING TO THE TIP
Wasn’t it great to see Scott Burchill – the senior lecturer of something or other at Deakin University – doing the “Newspapers” segment on ABC TV’s News Breakfast on Tuesday?
Dr Burchill (for a doctor he is), as is his wont, did not talk so much about what was in Tuesday’s print and online newspapers. Instead he declared what should have been in the news. In the process he stated his views on (i) Australia’s relationship with China (it’s deteriorated), (ii) pandemic leave for aged care workers (it should help) and (iii) the proposed Black Lives Matter demonstration in Sydney (perhaps it should go ahead, then again, maybe it shouldn’t).
All this was hardly worth watching at Hang-Over time on Tuesday. Except for one fact. On Tuesday – in this time of pandemic – your man Burchill got out of his pyjamas and sat with a smart shirt and jacket in front of a disorganised book shelf. [Could his book collection channel the Burchill mind? Just a thought. – MWD Editor.]
Now, here’s the point. The learned doctor is more presentable when he’s all dressed up at home on Zoom with nowhere to go – than when he appears on News Breakfast on his way to the tip in pre-pandemic times. Can You Bear It?
Media Watch Dog’s Five Paws Award was inaugurated in Issue Number 26 (4 September 2009) during the time of Nancy (2004-2017). The first winner was ABC TV presenter Emma Alberici. Ms Alberici scored for remembering the Nazi-Soviet Pact of 23 August 1939 whereby Hitler and Stalin divided Eastern Europe between Germany and the Soviet Union. And for stating that the Nazi-Soviet Pact had effectively started the Second World War, since it was immediately followed by Germany’s invasion of Poland (at a time when the Soviet Union had become an ally of Germany).
Over the years, the late Nancy’s Five Paws Award has become one of the world’s most prestigious gongs — rating just below the Nobel Prize and the Academy Awards. Today’s recipient is Professor Philip Bull.
PROFESSOR PHILIP BULL CORRECTS PROFESSOR JENNY HOCKING’S SELECTIVE QUOTE
There has been enormous interest in MWD’s coverage of one of the biggest conspiracy theory fizzers in Australia. Namely, the refutation of Monash University Jenny Hocking’s claim that the Queen was directly involved in the decision of Governor-General Sir John Kerr to dismiss Gough Whitlam’s Labor government on 11 November 1975. Professor Hocking, among others, attempted for some years to get what have been termed the Palace Letters released earlier than scheduled from the National Archives of Australia – and succeeded in May, following a decision of the High Court of Australia.
It turned out that the Palace Letters revealed that Sir John did not advise Buckingham Palace in advance of dismissing the Whitlam government (see his letter to the Queen’s private secretary Sir Martin Charteris on 11 November 1975). This was acknowledged by Sir Martin (see his letter to Sir John dated 17 November 1975). So there goes the Jenny Hocking conspiracy theory.
Since the release of the Palace Letters, Comrade Hocking has been heavily into fudge in trying to rationalise the demise of her conspiracy theory. Enter Philip Bull of the Melbourne suburb of Ivanhoe. Thanks to the avid reader who drew MWD’s attention to the letter that the La Trobe University adjunct professor wrote to The Age on 17 July 2020:
As an historian, I support and admire Jenny Hocking for her commitment to securing the right of Australians to read the correspondence relating to the dismissal of the Whitlam government. In her article (Comment, 15/7), she quotes Sir Martin Charteris’s comment that the Queen ‘‘would take most unkindly’’ to a request from Gough Whitlam to dismiss Sir John Kerr, a worry the latter had some time before his dismissal of Whitlam. However, Professor Hocking omits the more important part of what Charteris wrote on this, namely that as a constitutional monarch the Queen would have no option but to follow Whitlam’s advice. I hope her omission was inadvertent as it makes a big difference to the substance of what was written.
Philip Bull, Ivanhoe
Quite so. This is what Comrade Hocking wrote about this matter in Nine’s The Age and Sydney Morning Herald on 15 July 2020 about Kerr’s concern that Prime Minister Whitlam might recall him as governor-general if he moved to dismiss the Whitlam government:
…Charteris writes: “Prince Charles told me a good deal of his conversation with you and in particular that you had spoken of the possibility of the Prime Minister advising The Queen to terminate your Commission with the object, presumably, of replacing you with someone more amenable to his wishes. If such an approach was made you may be sure that The Queen would take most unkindly to it.”
Clearly Comrade Hocking does not do nuance at Monash University. The above comment by Sir Martin Charteris is meaningless. It does not matter if the Queen takes unkindly or kindly to advice from the Prime Minister of Australia to terminate a governor-general’s appointment. Elizabeth II will do it. This is made clear in Sir Martin’s letter of 15 July if the entirety is read. Here it is – with Comrade Hocking’s censored sentences in bold:
Prince Charles told me a good deal of his conversation with you and in particular that you had spoken of the possibility of the Prime Minister advising The Queen to terminate your commission with the object, presumably, of replacing you with somebody more amenable to his wishes. If such an approach were made you may be sure that The Queen would take most unkindly to it. There would be considerable comings and goings, but I think it is right that I should make the point that at the end of the road The Queen, as a Constitutional Sovereign, would have no option but to follow the advice of her Prime Minister.
It seems that your man Bull is a nice sort of chap – he hopes that Jenny Hocking’s selective quoting from the Queen’s private secretary is “inadvertent”. If so, it’s a significant oversight since it completely distorts Charteris’s message to Kerr. MWD asks: What would Monash University say about a first year student who – even inadvertently – selectively quoted from an historically important document?
Professor Philip Bull – Five Paws.
CONSPIRACY THEORIES: AN UPDATE
DON’T TALK ABOUT ONE OF THE US’s LEADING CONSPIRACY THEORISTS – MICHAEL ROWLAND INTERVIEWS OLIVER STONE
Did anyone watch ABC TV News Breakfast’s co-presenter Michael Rowland’s interview with United States film director Oliver Stone yesterday? It was a somewhat fawning occasion.
Your man Rowland introduced the segment by describing the director of such films as Salvador, Midnight Express, Wall Street and JFK “as one of my favourite directors”. He concluded the interview by thanking Oliver Stone for being so generous with his time. Overlooking the fact that Mr Stone is busy flogging his new book Chasing the Light: Writing, Directing, and Surviving Platoon, Midnight Express, Scarface, Salvador, and the Movie Game (July 2020) and has lotsa time for seven minute interviews from his home. But there you have it.
When it came to Stone’s 1992 film JFK, the ABC TV co-presenter went soft. Let’s go to the transcript:
Michael Rowland: This book ends several years before you made one of your most polarising films, JFK. And I read you’ve just about finished another documentary on the Kennedy assassination. Do you still believe President Kennedy, the case you’ve argued in the film, was the victim of a conspiracy?
Oliver Stone: I hate to tell you, without a doubt. There’s no doubt in my mind, because we look at all – more evidence that came in since the movie came out, and we go back to that evidence. It was unearthed by the Assassination Records Review Board which was formed as a result of the film by Congress. You know, there’s a lot of people who believe all kinds of crazy things, but we’re trying to be very accurate here. James DiEugenio was the researcher and my main man. He wrote the script. So, we’re based on that so it’s very authentic stuff.
What a load of tosh. In JFK, Stone invented a character named “X:”. Yes, “X”. Real Life JFK conspiracy theorist Jim Garrison meets Mr X (played by Donald Sutherland) who is described as a senior ranking military officer involved in covert operations who reveals the plot organised by “the establishment” plus “the military industrial complex” to assassinate President John F. Kennedy. It turned out that X was L. Fletcher Prouty, who just happened in real life to be another JFK conspiracy theorist.
It was a brief interview. But Michael Rowland did not challenge Stone’s account of the Kennedy assassination – including how he managed to clear Lee Harvey Oswald of the crime. The case that Oswald killed Kennedy is powerfully presented in Gerald Posner’s book Case Closed and the documentary Beyond Conspiracy. There is nothing in the release of remaining documents located by the Assassination Records Review Board which changes the evidence against Oswald.
Sure Oliver Stone is a talented film maker. But he’s also a conspiracy theorist. Something that your man Rowland did not raise with one of his favourite film directors.
[For a review of JFK see “Oliver Stone’s Dances with Facts” in the Sydney Institute’s Media Watch January-March 1992. MWD Editor.]
THE SMH’s ROSS GITTINS INVOKES THE LEFTIST MANNING CLARK TO BAG THE CONTEMPORARY LIBERALS
“Halcyonicity” – whatever could this be? – MWD hears you ask. Er, MWD doesn’t really know. It’s not listed in the second edition of The Macquarie Dictionary. However, a web search reveals that the word is something to do with a condition of calmness and tranquillity.
It seems that Ross Gittins, the Sydney Morning Herald’s economics editor, dug deep into his Thesaurus bag before writing his column yesterday titled “Thatcher or Reagan: He’s Joshing”. The reference was to Treasurer Josh Frydenberg’s recent comment that, in the difficult economic environment, he drew inspiration from Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan – among others like John Howard and Peter Costello.
This motivated your man Gittins to reach for a really big word to explain his anger at the Treasurer:
The truth is that only conservatives of a certain age (and failing memories) hanker after the glory days of Thatcher and Reagan. No one else wants to return to the halcyon era of privatisation and deregulation because by now most people realise how lacking in halcyonicity those things are.
That’s strange. Hendo remembers, sort of, that Comrade Gittins seemed to support privatisation when it was engaged in by the Hawke/Keating Labor government – remember the Commonwealth Bank, Qantas and the like? Then Mr Gittins threw the switch to hyperbole:
The public is strongly opposed to privatisation…. Speaking of which, remember that Thatcher’s initial reforms were so unpopular she needed a war with Argentina to get re-elected. John Howard’s goods and services tax was so unpopular he went perilously close to losing the 1998 election.
So there you go. MWD seems to recall that Ross Gittins once supported tax reform, including the goods and services tax. And it’s not at all clear that Margaret Thatcher would have lost to Labour in 1983 without the Falklands War. In any event, the military dictatorship in Argentina invaded British territory – not the other way around.
And then your man Gittins had a crack at history. It seems that the left-wing historian Manning Clark (1915-1991) is his hero. Hence Comrade Gittins, following Professor Clark, in his SMH piece divided Australian leaders between the “Enlargers” (good blokes like Labor’s Ben Chifley) and the “Punishers and Straighteners” (bad types like Robert Menzies). The latter are the descendants of the “governors and prison guards” circa 1790.
Comrade Gittins regretted that today’s Liberals are not Enlargers but – yep, you’ve guessed it – they’re Punishers and Straighteners. All of them.
And so it went on. The SMH’s economics editor praised Margaret Thatcher for presiding over the demise of Britain’s “inefficient coal industry”. He reckons that the Morrison government should do likewise in Australia. The only problem is that Australia’s coal mines are not inefficient. They are among the most efficient in the world. That’s the problem with rant. In the end, ranters lose objectivity.
CNN & THE WASHINGTON POST FINALLY ACKNOWLEDGE THAT THEY GOT IT WRONG ON COVINGTON CATHOLIC HIGH SCHOOL – BUT NOT ABC TV’s NEWS BREAKFAST
So it’s two down and some others to go. The reference to The Washington Post’s decision – announced last Friday (US time) – to settle a lawsuit brought by the Covington Catholic High School student Nick Sandmann concerning a Right to Life march in Washington DC in January 2019. This was covered in MWD at the time – see MWD Issues 437 and 441.
On Monday 21 January 2019, following reports in The Washington Post, CNN and elsewhere, the ABC TV News Breakfast – in its “An American in Oz” segment, covered the Washington DC incident. A strap at the bottom of the screen read “Kentucky students mocked Native American veteran”. It turned out that everything about the segment was false.
Michael Rowland and Lisa Millar were the presenters as the guest, the American-born Sara James, launched a verbal assault on the student Nick Sandmann and his school: As it turned out, virtually everything about Sara James’ story and the supporting comments by Lisa Millar and Michael Rowland was false.
▪ Sara James said that Nathan Phillips, an Omaha elder, was confronted by a group of CCHS students. Wrong. Rather Mr Phillips (who was taking part in an Indigenous Peoples March) confronted the CCHS students (who were taking part in the Right to Life March).
▪ Sara James said that Nathan Phillips was “a veteran of the Vietnam War”. Wrong. Mr Phillips did not serve in the Vietnam War.
▪ Lisa Millar said that the CCHS student Nick Sandmann was “staring at his [Phillips’] face…trying to intimidate”. Wrong – as it turned out. Mr Sandmann merely held his ground when Nathan Phillips confronted him by banging a drum near his face.
▪ Michael Rowland declared that the 16-year-old CCHS student was exhibiting “pure hate” and added that “there are no other ways around it”. Wrong. Rather Nick Sandmann’s expression exhibited nervousness – which was not unexpected in view of the situation. How would Mr Rowland react if someone banged a drum in his face when he was minding his own business?
▪ Sara James declared “we cannot afford this kind of stuff”. Wrong. The CCHS students said and did nothing to cause offence. There was no such “kind of stuff”.
▪ Lisa Millar went on to blame “the backdrop of two years since President Trump was inaugurated”. Wrong. All that happened involving Donald J. Trump was that some CCHS students (including Nick Sandmann) were wearing the “Make America Great Again” MAGA cap promoted by the democratically elected president of the United States. What’s wrong with that?
▪ Michael Rowland then declared that he would build a wall “right around that college…to stop those kids getting out into the public”. Wrong. The CCHS students caused no offence and are of no danger whatsoever to the American public that they need to be enclosed inside a fence.
▪ Sara James concluded that the CCHS students were an example of the “toxic situation in the United States right now”. Wrong. The Covington Catholic High School students did nothing that was in any sense toxic. Ms James just made this up – with the help of the program’s presenters.
On 29 January 2019 – just before the first edition of MWD was published for the year – Gerard Henderson emailed Michael Rowland pointing out that the ABC TV News Breakfast report which ran on 21 January 2019 had been completely discredited – and asking whether the program would correct its howlers.
Michael Rowland went under the bed and did not respond. Instead he flicked the matter to the program’s executive producer Emily Butselaar. Comrade Butselaar emailed Gerard Henderson on 31 January 2019 and declared “I don’t feel a correction was required”. She said that “the changing interpretations” of the issue were covered on ABC News. Maybe – but the ABC has never corrected – or even clarified – its original report.
In particular, there has been no correction on the influential News Breakfast program. Consequently, Ms Millar’s assertion that Nick Sandmann was trying to intimidate Nathan Phillips remains uncorrected. As does Mr Rowland’s assertion that Nick Sandmann was exhibiting “pure hate”. As does Ms James’ claim that the MAGA cap wearing Sandmann had initiated a “toxic situation”.
Emily Butselaar’s denial was repeated by Reena Rihan when the matter was referred to ABC Audience and Consumer Affairs by a viewer named Anthony Smith. But, then, there’s no surprise since the ABC bureaucrats at Audience and Consumer Affairs in Canberra reject over 95 per cent of the complaints it investigates.
Now that The Washington Post and CNN have settled a lawsuit initiated by Nick Sandmann – perhaps News Breakfast presenters Michael Rowland and Lisa Millar might ‘fess up that they were hopelessly wrong in their coverage of the case of the Covington Catholic High School students – a commentary which they refused to correct at the time. But don’t hold your breath. Journalists at the taxpayer funded public broadcaster rarely acknowledge errors and virtually never apologise.
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Until next time.
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