CBS radio report created the impression Chicago torture victim was a black man assaulted by white Trump supporters

This may be the single most despicable act of media bias I have ever encountered.  It took a lot of effort and art for CBS Radio to put together an early report on the Chicago torture incident that was strictly factual, yet created the impression on listeners that a group of white Trump supporters had attacked a helpless mentally challenged black man.  Mediaite provides a transcript of what was reported last Thursday morning by a top-of-the hour broadcst distributed to radio stations across the country.

In the brief Thursday morning report– which attracted attention when a listener posted the clip on Reddit Friday– here’s how CBS characterized the attack:

The viral video of a beating and knife attack in Chicago suggests the assault had racial overtones. CBS’s Dean Reynolds tells us the victim is described as a mentally-challenged teenager.

In the video he is choked and repeatedly called the n-word. His clothes are slashed and he is terrorized with a knife. His alleged captors repeatedly reference Donald Trump. Police are holding four people in connection with the attack. [Emphasis added by Mediaite]

The report is technically correct, but widely misleading. By noting the attackers used the n-word during a racially-motivated attack while “referencing” Donald Trump, the clear implication is that the victim was black and his attackers were racist Trump fans.

Please note that the clip posted on Reddit has been taken down. I do not know as a fact, but can reasonably infer that the copyright owner (CBS) demanded that its intellectual property rights be respected.  However, thanks to the Armstrong & Getty Show, a morning talk show heard in most of the major cities of the West, you can hear the actual CBS radio broadcast segment with your own ears, in the podcast of the show’s third hour (8 AM Pacific) on January 5th (click here). Go 1 minute 28 seconds into the podcast here, and ask yourself if there is any possible interpretation other than that Trump supporters attacked a helpless black man.

Note also that A&G were the very first media outlet to target this deceptive broadcast, highlighting and criticizing it shortly after the broadcast itself, which was heard by listeners on several of its stations, and which was replayed on air with highly appropriate and devastating commentary by the hosts. (Armstrong & Getty may be the best kept secret from the national radio audience, an insightful, funny, and thought provoking way to start the day. I have been a daily listener for many years.)

Now consider for a moment how difficult it must have been for CBS News employees to make themselves bulletproof (in their minds, at least) by being factual, yet create a counterfactual message in the minds of its listeners. This is the sort of lying that takes skill and practice.

Dean Reynolds was the reporter who voiced the misleading claims, His CBS bio calls him “an award-winning reporter who has covered major stories from datelines around the world” who is now based in Chicago. And in fact the details of his professional career include serving as CNN’s White House correspondent in the Reagan years (1982-84), and extensive service as an ABC News correspondent overseas. He is also the son of former ABC News anchor Frank Reynolds.

In other words, Dean Reynolds was born into the mainstream media, and has spent his entire career in it, at the national broadcast level, until relegated to Chicago.

I have no way of knowing if Reynolds prepared the copy he spoke himself, or if it was prepared for him to read. I think that would be an important question for the head of CBS News ascertain – if CBS has any integrity at all. As many readers know, the head of CBS News is David Rhodes, the brother of Ben Rhodes, who turned his education on writing fiction into a gig at the White House National Security Advisor’s office, where his talents have been put to use in crafting communications and policy.

Does the Federal Communications Commission have any jurisdiction over the seemingly deliberate broadcast of false, inflammatory reports designed to mislead the public? I know that radio and television licenses are granted on the condition that stations operate “in the public interest.”  CBS maintains a large collection of “owned and operated” affiliates in the television industry – 14 major markets -- and owns and operates 117 radio stations in all of the major markets, most or all of which may have broadcast the deliberate distortion. These broadcast licenses are worth many billions of dollars, and according to Variety, the corporate parent is planning to sell off the radio group.

Deliberate distortion of the news to create an impression exactly opposite of the true facts cannot be considered operating in the public interest, can it? Particularly when the report could reasonable be expected to aggravate racial tensions.

There may be an opportunity available for a challenge to CBS’s broadcast licenses on the basis of deliberate, racially inflammatory falsehoods being broadcast. A major broadcaster at the time, RKO General, was stripped of the license to broadcast on Channel 7 in Boston for corporate misbehavior, suffering a loss valued well into the hundreds of millions of dollars.  The license was awarded to a consortium that had launched the challenge and today operates as WCVB television, one of the most admired local stations in the industry.

If America is serious about correcting the pervasive bias in mainstream media, stripping CBS of its broadcast licenses for radio and television stations would send a memorable signal to others that false reporting aimed at inflaming racial tensions is not in the public interest. It would no doubt require millions of dollars and years to proceed with a formal challenge to CBS’s broadcast licenses.  But for conservatives who are sick and tired of media lies, this might be an opportunity to bring about change.

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