Baltimore is a city of high unemployment, accompanying high crime and racial tension, especially between the police and the city’s African-American citizens.
Years of conflict came to a head this week following the homicide of 25-year-old Freddie Gray, whose spine was severed while in police custody.
A massive, mostly peaceful protest started and some rioting broke out, with some serious fires and several injuries.
This week was a time when the media could have redeemed itself after decades of grabbing the quick and easy headline while ignoring the “why” in nearly every story.
Baltimore is a city filled with nuance. For every criminal and rioter, there are far more hardworking people, family people, people who helped clean the city.
The reasons for the high crime rate and the racial tensions are far too complicated to be presented during the breaks between commercials, so instead, the media showed a single mother who hit her teenage son as he was holding a rock, presumably prepared to throw it.
The mother dominated water coolers and the 24 hour news cycle. Was she “Mother of the Year” or was she abusive – as if all of Baltimore’s problems could be solved if only kids had the right mothers.
This week was one of mainstream media’s very dark hours, but one cable news network stood head and shoulders above the rest, in that they were by far the worst. You guessed it, that cable channel is Fox News.
While there are several instances worth a mention, I’ll allow this single image from a Fox affiliate to symbolize the week. Apparently, the fires that actually happened in Baltimore didn’t have dramatic enough optics, so Fox 13 in Memphis posted an image of a fire caused from riots in Venezuela in 2014.
Of course, that’s just an affiliate. While Fox News, the network’s errors weren’t as visual, they were far worse. They gave cover to white supremacists and portrayed an entire race of people as lazy and violent and they did that by lying or simply fudging the truth.
I can’t write an article about Fox misinformation without looking at their big names and they didn’t disappoint.
“Papa Bear” Bill O’Reilly, who often makes big racial generalizations (remember when he was shocked that black people used forks?), said on Thursday that the rioters in Baltimore were “disrespectful, uneducated gangs of entitled victims.”
Instead of pinpointing the real problem and then trying to solve it, you get crazy theories in an attempt to provide justification for Americans hurting other Americans,” he continued. “Here’s the truth: how can anyone provide a job that pays a decent salary to somebody who can barely read or write? To somebody who can’t speak English? To somebody that has tattoos all over their body? Who’s defiant, disrespectful, and who doesn’t even want to work because they have a sense of entitlement that says they’re victims and you owe me.
Sean Hannity’s week was even worse. On Tuesday he implied that Gray deserved to die because he ran.
HANNITY: I got to be honest, I don’t know what the answer to the question is. I don’t know why it happened. I know this, I don’t know why the kid ran. What is the mindset of someone, they see a cop and they gotta run. Maybe his record had something to do with it. What happened between the time he ran and the time he got in that truck and the time he got some medical care, we don’t know what happened yet. It’s suspicious to me. But I’m not rushing to judgment.[…]
And his record I mentioned earlier — it has nothing to do with — you know, what happened in this case. I assume that it probably was connected to why he ran and his relationship with police at that time. I mean it’s pretty extensive. You know there’s a simple solution in terms of for other people going forward is: don’t be involved in the sale of drugs, don’t think police are your enemies, don’t run at 8:30 in the morning when you see a cop, and certainly that is a part that he plays in this equation.
Source: Media Matters
Even before that, Hannity embarrassed himself on Monday’s show when he interviewed a non-violent protester in Baltimore.
After a give and take in which the guest talked about the systemic problems in Baltimore, Hannity, like O’Reilly, played down the importance of racism and instead blamed the victims and the protesters. Finally, his guest said, “We shouldn’t be moralizing people’s frustration and pain. What we should be moralizing is the systemic violence that has been put on people in Baltimore.”
After that, Hannity yelled for the rest of the interview.
Geraldo Rivera, who was on the ground in Baltimore, almost got into a fight when protesters tried to block his camera.
On Thursday, again during a post-curfew segment on Hannity, it took less than 30 seconds for Rivera to start confronting a man off camera. “What’s your problem?” he asked the protester, who began to walk away. “You’re only brave when the camera’s turned?” he asked, taunting the man. “Hey you anarchist, you’re nothing, you ain’t nothing!”
When another man asked Rivera why he thinks he receives so much hostility, the reporter insisted that people have always been “wonderful” to him before this week. “That’s a thug right there!” he said, pointing at a man giving him the finger. “That’s a white thug.”
Earlier today, when a local radio host suggested that Rivera was just as much of an “agitator” as the people protesting in the streets, he replied, “What do you want? Do you want me to stay home?”
Megan Kelly defended the word “thug” in reference to the protesters.
There was one bright light at Fox and that was Shepard Smith, who after Greg Gutfeld of “The Five” asked where the parents were, said, “Well, you know, I’ve not been on the phone with them,” Smith replied. “But if we want to sit here and indict the civil rights community and indict the parents for what we’re watching right now, instead of for now, just covering what happens and then later talk about whose fault it is, because we don’t know whose fault it is.”
“We’ve got a major American city that has decades of turmoil within this neighborhood,” Smith said, pointing at an image of the rioting and citing Fox reporter Doug McKelway’s accounts of residents saying police had made them feel “powerless and hopeless.”
It’s unlikely that Smith changed the minds of the panel at The Five or of any of Fox’s viewers, but bravo for trying to be a beacon of light in this truly horrible week for Fox News.