It's very easy for media elites in Manhattan to decide that one tweet can prove small towns in Wisconsin are stuffed with racists and anti-Semites. On Nov. 12, ABC, CBS and NBC all leaped on a tweet from a contributor of the left-wing talk show "The Young Turks." It showed a months-old prom photo of a collection of teenage boys from Baraboo High School in Wisconsin who are positioned on the front steps of the Sauk County Courthouse and appear to be giving a "Nazi salute."
The town of about 12,000 — best known before now as the original headquarters of the Ringling Brothers and their circus — quickly felt the sting of national, and even international, embarrassment. The Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum tweeted its outrage and attached a link to history lessons about Nazi Germany. This was followed by everyone insisting this photo isn't representative of the local population, as well as school officials promising to investigate.
But what really happened? Student Brock Turkington said it started when the photographer said, "Do a 'hi sign.'" He added: "And nobody really understood what a 'hi sign' was. We'd never heard of it. And he demonstrated by sticking his arm up, kind of what the salute looked like. So we all kinda imitated it."
When Turkington saw the photo later, he winced at what it looked like. "It was just miscommunication, like, we were told to do one thing, and he demonstrated it badly, and we all kind of just followed along because we just kind of wanted to get the pictures over with," he said. "In this picture are many of my friends that I know are not racist and do not hold Nazi views."
The photographer, Pete Gust, who had a son in the picture, told news outlets: "There was no Nazi salute. The last picture we had done ... I'd said to them, 'OK, boys. You're going to say goodbye to your parents, so wave.'"
Why did everyone in the national media rush to assume the worst and end up with "fake news"? There's an easy guess. The Associated Press quickly found Baraboo's state senator, Jon Erpenbach, who blamed ... the rhetoric of President Trump. He said: "There's no room in the world for anything like that at all. From what they're seeing out of the White House, that it's OK to be intolerant and racist."
In today's America, the "objective" press is looking for racist neo-Nazis under every rock who don't submit to the will of The Resistance. But these same outlets refuse to condemn the ongoing attachment of leftists and Democrats to the anti-Semitic Minister Louis Farrakhan, whether the politicians photographed with him are Reps. Maxine Waters or Keith Ellison, or even former President Barack Obama. The scandal — among some of the most powerful adults in the land — is barely even recognized. CBS "This Morning" offered one brief anchor-read story earlier this year when an old photo of Obama smiling with Farrakhan surfaced after being suppressed for years. ABC and NBC slept on it.
None of these networks were outraged in September when Farrakhan sat on a dais of honorees during the blanket coverage of Aretha Franklin's funeral, right next to Rev. Al Sharpton, Rev. Jesse Jackson and former President Bill Clinton. Three days later, CBS and NBC reported there was "controversy," but they utterly skipped Farrakhan. Whoopi Goldberg on ABC's "The View" told everyone to back off. "It's not about Bill Clinton or Louis Farrakhan. It was all about Aretha," she ranted. "That's why everybody just needs to pull back. Just pull it back, you know, and understand that this is — we don't control everything."
On the same night all three networks were covering supposedly hateful Baraboo High School prom pictures, only ABC covered Hamas terrorists lobbing missiles into Israel from the Gaza strip to murder Jewish people.
National "news" judgment is a pernicious thing.
L. Brent Bozell III is the president of the Media Research Center. Tim Graham is director of media analysis at the Media Research Center and executive editor of the blog NewsBusters.org. To find out more about Brent Bozell III and Tim Graham, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.