When did Amber Heard, Jussie Smollett, and Christine Blasey Ford become the fact checkers at the nation’s leading media outlets?
Earlier this month, the Indianapolis Star reported that Ohio law compelled a 10-year-old girl to cross state lines into Indiana to undergo an abortion. The story, surfacing just days after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in its Dobbs v. Jackson decision, arrived at a convenient time for maximum impact.
From TMZ to the Hill to China’s state news agency Xinhua, the story free-floated from the gossip pages to hard news to points far beyond the borders of the United States. Dana Bash used the anecdote to Dana Bash South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem on CNN’s Sunday show State of the Union. The president of the United States even cited the 10-year-old girl forced to travel out of Ohio to “terminate the presidency” in his emphasize-end-of-quote-repeat-the-line speech announcing his executive order on abortion.
For the real journalists and honest politicians defying oxymorons, determining authenticity trumps gauging impact.
Megan Fox, of PJ Media (and not of Transformers fame), raised the rather important point that Dr. Caitlin Bernard, “the only source, is an abortionist and has been in the [New York Times] participating in an anti-Trump hit piece and is clearly an activist. She has a stake in preserving abortion, it literally pays her bills.”
Should a story based on, at best, single-sourced hearsay from an interested party ever run in any responsible news outlet anywhere?
Even this gives the blockbuster too much credit. The ostensible source did not witness anything. Bernard says she heard another physician say that a 10-year-old Ohio girl needed to cross state lines to obtain an abortion. Given that Bernard stalked microphones to tout a pro-abortion position prior to all this but now refuses to answer very basic questions, the prospect that this even amounts to hearsay rather than hogwash seems dubious. The attorney general of Ohio appeared on Jesse Watters Primetime Monday to state that even though state law makes physicians mandatory reporters, nobody reported this instance of child-rape to law enforcement.
Is that because Bernard or her possibly real conversation partner invented this 10-year-old, the rape, and the out-of-state abortion? We do not and, without the cooperation of Ms. Bernard or her unnamed conversation partner, cannot know the answer presently, so a more salient question asks: Should a story based on, at best, single-sourced hearsay from an interested party ever run in any responsible news outlet anywhere?
Media types occasionally find themselves hoodwinked by stories merely because they make good copy. Balloon Boy floats into mind. On other occasions the Fourth Estate foolishly accepts government sources as necessarily speaking the truth. One thinks of morally and intellectually limited people working for the FBI targeting innocents Richard Jewell for the Atlanta Olympics bombing or Steven Hatfill for the post-9/11 anthrax letters. More often than not, hoaxes flatter some ideological prejudice held by large numbers of journalists. The reason for this finds succinct explanation in the headline of a recent piece by Leonora Cravotta here in The American Spectator: “Liberals Support Diversity Everywhere Except the Newsroom—Can Journalism Be Saved?”
The Duke Lacrosse allegations, the Russia–Trump collusion hoax, Rolling Stone’s UVA rape-frat article, the Covington Catholic story, and too many minor-league facsimiles to count all proved false and served a progressive agenda. The since-retracted lies about Trump even won journalists Pulitzer Prizes. If bias did not lead to blunders of this sort, then chance would dictate the mainstream media periodically falling for hoaxes that buttress some conservative cause, too. But a sudden do-your-job zeal of fact checkers, demands from editors for double-sourced reporting, and the plain skepticism of journalists (magically made naïve when a story propels their aims) of any news item contrary to their ideological prejudices act as quality control. This underscores the importance of an ideologically diverse newsroom.
“We lie loudest when we lie to ourselves,” Eric Hoffer noted in his collection of aphorisms, The Passionate State of Mind. But we lie louder when we lie to ourselves above the fold, on a cable news network, and from the Roosevelt Room.
The journalists titled the headline: “As Ohio restricts abortions, 10-year-old girl travels to Indiana for procedure.” The public eventually read it as “Press again tells ideologically convenient lies.”
In other news, water is wet.