An execrable 'correction' from the Associated Press

The Associated Press has made a whopper of a mistake.

In a tweet accompanied by a photo showing a man with his mouth open, the AP declared in a caption that the man, a Hollywood comedian named Vito Gesualdi, was hurling obscenities in his support for comedian Dave Chappelle, who had been the target of protests for his politically incorrect statements that have infuriated transgender activists and drawn protests outside Netflix headquarters. In reality, he wasn't. They just wanted to portray him as a pig, given that their bias was on the other side.

According to Hot Air's John Sexton, who has an excellent writeup of the matter, complete with many tweet-photos verifying the phoniness of the AP caption:

Yesterday’s Netflix walkout was overshadowed a bit by a counter-protester who showed up with a sign that read “Jokes are funny.” That counter-protester is a comedian named Vito Gesualdi who makes videos and has a podcast. While he was there supporting Dave Chappelle’s right to make jokes, Vito was photographed by an Associated Press photographer named Damian Dovarganes. The shot Dovarganes got of him is really pretty great, but the caption that went along with it is another matter. It read, “Comedian and videographer Vito Gesualdi screams profanities as he engages with peaceful protesters begging him to leave…” Vito took issue with that description last night.

Here's the doozy of a false tweet from AP:

Hot Air cited some Internet sleuths who proved close enough for jury work that the obscenities from Gesualdi never happened. Not once.

One of the anti-Chapelle protestors, screaming in Gesualdi's face, was hurling obscenities, but it was not Gesualdi. All of the evidence presented shows that Gesualdi was actually saying nice things and professing his love for comedy and support for Chapelle. Gesualdi also denounced violence even as those on his side of the protest were subject to bona fide violence from their anti-Chapelle opponents. One man had his head bashed into a cement barrier in front of the Netflix building and had to be taken to the hospital for treatment.

Obscenities? Not a scintilla of evidence that obscenities were emitted from Gesualdi. The other guy was doing the obscenities, which drew obvious comparisons to the slimeball media scrum that falsely painted schoolboy Nick Sandmann as a bully against a Native American drummer a few years ago, and who in reality was being bullied and intimidated by the far-left activist drummer as well as a mass of obscenity screamers in the background. A pretty penny was paid by CNN and other outlets to the kids in the libel case that followed.

Apparently, word got back to AP management about this potentially libelous claim against Gesualdi and his complaints on Twitter about it -- which were likely actionable based on AP's reckless disregard for the facts and maybe false light reporting. Since I know how newsrooms work, it's likely that AP's libel lawyers got involved, and told management to get rid of the tweet. Then the AP put out a retraction of sorts.

It stunk worse than even the original mendacious tweet:

Look at the nasty particulars of it:

CORRECTS CAPTION TO REMOVE REFERENCE TO GESUALDI USING PROFANITIES, WHICH HE DID NOT DO AT THE MOMENT THE IMAGE WAS MADE.

The obvious inference from that is that he was using profanities at some other point in the protest, which they haven't presented a scintilla of evidence for, and which goes against what Gesualdi himself has stated. Seriously, with all the niceness Gesualdi did put out in his statements to the protestors, it would be an odd thing if he was spewing profanities either earlier or later, his tone at the moment the camera was on him was equinaminous and conveyed a nice guy's rhetoric, and in any case, the AP presented no evidence for its implication.

Why the heck couldn't they say the caption was absolutely wrong, apologize to Gesualdi and, maybe, if they wanted to save face, state that maybe the photographer or the caption writer mixed Gesualdi up with other people who were hurling obscenities? Or better still, admitted what we really think is going on: That they take sides, they were on the anti-Chapelle side of things where all the foul language was used, and they wanted to discredit the Chapelle supporter as an obscenity-hurling pig?

It gets worse:

ALSO REMOVES REFERENCE TO PROTESTORS BEING PEACEFUL BECAUSE ONE PROTESTOR DESTROYED HIS SIGN.

Talk about fake news. These protestors were about as violent as such creatures come, shoving a man's head into a concrete barrier, and leaving him with head injuries sufficient to force him to seek medical treatment at a hospital. The claim about "one protestor" is disgusting given that there were a lot of these violent thugs on the anti-Chappelle side of things, and more than just Gesualdi's sign was destroyed. The "BECAUSE ONE PROTESTOR DESTROYED HIS SIGN," listed as the full reason for removing the reference to peaceful protestors is pretty insulting.

The issue is significant because AP has the world's largest news audience. On its website, as I wrote here, it brags that it reaches more than a billion people around the world in its coverage, so yes, there was a hell of a lot of reputational damage to Gesualdi based on the false reportage, likely intentional false reportage done with actual malice. What's more, other news media are involved in false captions of their own, such as this one from Variety which was also yanked. Gesualdi's got a doozy of a case against these people if he wants to bring it, and AP's disgusting correction simply invites it.

Smart people in the press know that when you really screw up, when you cross the barrier into indefensible, you apologize. You don't try to justify it, you get the unconditional apology out as fast as you can. You admit the error unconditionally. You do what you can to make things right with the wronged person. You pull no punches because the fact is, your operation is on the line and little guys have protections, and sometimes even big guys do.

This sorry-not-sorry from the AP with its new simpering inferences against Gesualdi suggests that the AP management are morons. Gesualdi has an even bigger case for a libel suit now that the AP has put out its correction with new false inferences. AP, which is run as a not-for-profit cooperative has an annual net profit of only about $1 million, which means that Gesualdi can walk off with quite a bit of it. The AP might have libel insurance, but if a jury rules against them over this false caption and bad correction, their rates will go up.

Seems they don't even have a sense of self-preservation over there at AP. Gesualdi has grounds now to take them to the cleaners for this incredible bias and irresponsibility.

UPDATE from Andrea Widburg: The protesters did something even worse than direct violence. After they destroyed Gesualdi's sign, leaving him with just the stick to which the sign had been attached, they started screaming loudly, for the benefit of nearby police, that Gesualdi had a weapon. Perhaps they were hoping to force the police to arrest Gesualdi, but they could just as easily have gotten him shot -- and you can be pretty certain that they wouldn't have cared because he, as a "transphobe," had it coming..

Image: Twitter screen shot

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