Last week, Andrea Mitchell (who works for both NBC News and MSNBC) decided to doctor some videotape to build a phony political attack against presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Romney gave a speech in Pennsylvania after visiting a convenience store called WaWa, where he ordered a hoagie using an electronic touch screen. He built this experience into his speech, using it as parable for the efficiency generated by free-market competition, contrasting it with the sluggish bureaucratic stasis of Big Government.
Mitchell very carefully and deceptively edited this videotape to manufacture, as she called it, a ???supermarket scanner moment.??? That???s a reference to the (also dishonestly reported) moment in the 1992 presidential campaign when George Bush was supposedly astounded to discover the existence of bar-code scanners in supermarkets, thus proving how out-of-touch he was.
That was never true ??? Bush was watching a demonstration of brand-new, cutting-edge scanner technology at a grocers??? convention and expressing polite curiosity, not a plutocrat making his first visit to a modern grocery store ??? but we didn???t have conservative bloggers to fact-check the dishonest liberal media back then.
Fortunately, we do now, and blogger Soopermexican caught Andrea Mitchell red-handed in an outright lie. Here???s what she reported:
And here???s the real video, before MSNBC???s propaganda team carved it up to create a false news story:
What Andrea Mitchell didn???t want you to see was Mitt Romney continuing, after his description of the ???amazing??? electronic hoagie system: ???We went to WaWas and it was instructive to me, because I saw the difference between the private sector and the governmental sector. People who work in government are good people and I respect what they do, but you see, the challenge with government is that it doesn???t have competition. So we find ways to do things better or we lose jobs to each other.???
Romney compared the fruits (well, sandwiches) of this consumer-driven quest for efficiency with the 33-page government-mandated change-of-address form a doctor had described to him. It was the contrast between this bureaucratic sclerosis and the WaWa touch screen ordering system that he found so ???amazing.???
A reputable news organization would have reprimanded or dismissed Mitchell immediately, along with everyone involved in producing what amounts to a ???four-Pinocchios??? Obama campaign video. There???s nothing ambiguous about what these hacks were trying to accomplish; Mitchell is explicit about her intentions at the beginning and end of the clip. She also clearly thinks the ???supermarket scanner moment??? was fatal for George Bush, and would like to inflict a similar political fatality upon Mitt Romney.
This is especially problematic for NBC News, because they???ve developed a very uncomfortable history of deceptively editing video and audio clips. The most notorious recent case was NBC???s fraudulent edit of George Zimmerman???s 911 call after the Trayvon Martin shooting, which NBC doctored to make Zimmerman sound like a racist.
Shortly after Andrea Mitchell???s attempted hoagie hit, NBC got in trouble for another deceptive edit, this time concerning the Jerry Sandusky trial. Sandusky was convicted for child sex abuse, but his lawyers sought a mistrial, in part because the prosecution showed jurors an NBC News interview that had been doctored to make it appear Sandusky was disturbingly reluctant to answer the question, ???Are you sexually attracted to young boys, to underage boys???? In this case, the edit was performed for sensationalism, rather than political bias. The request for a mistrial was denied, but Sandusky???s lawyers say the NBC video edit will figure in their appeal.
Under pressure, and long after some other liberal news sources had repeated her false story, Andrea Mitchell eventually aired the full Romney video clip, but did not admit wrongdoing or apologize to Romney. She didn???t even explain the nature of the criticism she was subjected to. It was the network-news equivalent to a ???correction??? buried on page B37 of a newspaper in tiny italic type, beneath an ad for holistic hernia treatments.
Greg Kandra, a blogger with a long career in network television, pronounced himself ???weary of trying to defend the indefensible and explain the inexplicable??? after this particular straw landed upon the camel???s back. ???I spent over 25 years working in the oft-reviled Mainstream Media and I saw up close and personal how the sausage was made,??? Kandra wrote. ???I knew the people who wielded the knives and wore the aprons, and could vouch (most of the time, anyway) for their good intentions. But now? Forget it. I???m done. You deserve what they???re saying about you. It???s earned. You have worked long and hard to merit the suspicion, acrimony, mistrust and revulsion that the media-buying public increasingly heaps upon you.???
Here???s why this sort of thing is so important: manufactured media narratives are inherently viral. Other media organizations quickly pick up on sensational stories which fit their prejudices, and if it seems ???too good to check,??? they often don???t. The liberal media collectively retains influence far beyond anything Fox News is capable of, and it doesn???t take them long to convert a manufactured narrative into water-cooler conventional wisdom. How many low-information mainstream media consumers still think Sarah Palin said ???I can see Russia from my house???? How many of them still think the elder George Bush had never seen a supermarket barcode scanner before the 1992 presidential campaign?
These things have a way of building up momentum that is difficult to dispel with half-hearted ???corrections??? days after the fact. Andrea Mitchell knew exactly what she was doing. Media bias has been a longstanding complaint of conservatives, but it???s sobering to reach a moment when one of the Big Three television networks can no longer be considered a credible news source by any reasonable person ??? not until they do some massive housecleaning, including the wholesale dismissal of the executives who don???t understand that massive housecleaning needs to be done.