Following Media Matters item, Hume corrected false attack on USA Today call-tracking story

››› ››› JEREMY SCHULMAN

On Fox News' Special Report, host Brit Hume corrected his false claim -- documented by Media Matters for America -- that in its May 11 report on the National Security Agency's call-tracking program, USA Today waited "until Page 5 in a sidebar" article to note that "[p]hone customers' names, addresses, and other personal information are not being collected as part of this program." In fact, while that sentence did appear in a sidebar on Page 5A of the May 11 USA Today, the same information also appeared in USA Today's main article on Page 1A.

On the May 16 edition of Fox News' Special Report, host and Fox News Washington managing editor Brit Hume corrected his false claim -- documented by Media Matters for America -- that in its May 11 report on the National Security Agency's (NSA) call-tracking program, USA Today waited "until Page 5 in a sidebar" article to note that "[p]hone customers' names, addresses, and other personal information are not being collected as part of this program."

In a May 12 item, Media Matters noted that while that sentence did, in fact, appear in a sidebar on Page 5A of the May 11 USA Today, the same information also appeared in USA Today's main article on Page 1A.

From the "Grapevine" segment on the May 11 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume:

HUME: Today's front-page USA Today story on the NSA's database of information on domestic phone calls reports that the agency, quote, "reaches into homes and businesses across the nation by amassing information about the calls of ordinary Americans." Not until Page 5 in a sidebar, however, does the paper report the following, quote: "Phone customers' names, addresses and other personal information are not being collected as part of this program."

From the "Grapevine" segment on the May 16 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume:

HUME: And finally, a correction. Last Thursday, we reported that the USA Today story on the NSA's data-mining of domestic phone calls waited until Page 5 to mention that customers' names, addresses, and other personal information were not being collected as a part of that program. In fact, that information appeared on the front page of the newspaper, in the 11th paragraph. We regret the error.

Though Hume did not say so in his correction, he made the same claim during the roundtable discussion on the May 13 edition of Fox Broadcasting Network's Fox News Sunday -- two days after Media Matters pointed out that it was false:

HUME: There's no evidence that names are being gathered except, perhaps, in cases where they really find something. I must say to you, [host] Chris [Wallace], if the NSA wants to scan my telephone calls to see if anybody called me from Al Qaeda, that's perfectly all right with me, and I suspect it would be with almost every American. This is probably a very good idea. The sensation over -- USA Today publishes this story, huge front-page headlines, opens up to a massive body of gray type inside. You have to go to Page 5 in a sidebar to find out that well, no, they're not gathering the names and addresses. Yes, it's true, names and addresses are easily gotten. But you can see what they're doing here. It's not much of a civil-liberties issue.

Hume noted on Fox News Sunday that the "names and addresses" that correspond to the telephone records reportedly being collected by the NSA "are easily gotten." But he failed to mention this information on Special Report -- either in his false May 11 report or in his May 16 correction. As Media Matters noted, USA Today reported that the NSA could easily obtain those names and addresses. That information appeared both in the main article on Page 1A and in the sidebar article on Page 5A -- in each case immediately following the sentence Hume cited.

From the May 11 USA Today article, as it appeared on Page 1A:

With access to records of billions of domestic calls, the NSA has gained a secret window into the communications habits of millions of Americans. Customers' names, street addresses and other personal information are not being handed over as part of NSA's domestic program, the sources said. But the phone numbers the NSA collects can easily be cross-checked with other databases to obtain that information.

From USA Today's May 11 sidebar on Page 5A:

The NSA collected "call-detail" records. That's telephone industry lingo for the numbers being dialed. Phone customers' names, addresses and other personal information are not being collected as part of this program. The agency, however, has the means to assemble that sort of information, if it chooses to do so.

Network/Outlet
Fox News Channel
Person
Brit Hume
Show/Publication
Special Report with Brit Hume
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