UPDATED: Fox News' African-American elected official mix-up not its first

››› ››› MATT GERTZ

On The Live Desk, Fox News showed footage of Rep. John Conyers while Brian Wilson reported on the expected indictment of Rep. William Jefferson. This is not the first time Fox News has shown footage of one African-American elected official while discussing another -- in the previous case, airing footage of Harold Ford Jr. while talking about Sen. Barack Obama.

On the June 4 edition of The Live Desk, Fox News showed footage of House Judiciary Committee chairman John Conyers (D-MI) while Fox News Washington bureau chief Brian Wilson reported on the expected indictment of Rep. William Jefferson (D-LA). Later that day, Jefferson was indicted on 16 counts, including charges of racketeering, soliciting bribes, wire fraud, money laundering, obstruction of justice, conspiracy and violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. This is not the first time Fox News has shown footage of one African-American elected official while discussing another -- in the previous case, airing footage of then-Rep. Harold Ford Jr. (D-TN) while talking about Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL).

As Joshua Micah Marshall documented on the weblog Talking Points Memo, footage of Conyers taken during Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez's May 10 testimony before the House Judiciary Committee ran for 32 seconds while Wilson said:

WILSON: For example, the Duke Cunningham case, which we all may remember, that was seven or eight counts. So it appears that while we've been wondering why the FBI was not moving more quickly on this, why the Justice Department was not moving more quickly on this, they have been doing a great deal of investigation, it would appear. So, a variety of bribery charges and likely to include charges of honest services fraud, which is a catch-all phrase often used by federal officials in such cases. That's the latest information from Washington. Back to you.

The footage of Conyers was accompanied by a "Breaking News" banner that read: "Cong William Jefferson (D-LA) Facing Possible Bribery Indictment."

On the June 5 edition of The Live Desk, host Martha MacCallum apologized for running "the wrong video to accompany" the Jefferson indictment story, but did not note the precise error -- that footage of Conyers had been shown in place of Jefferson. MacCallum said: "Yesterday at this time, news of the indictment of Congressman William Jefferson came down. We mistakenly ran the wrong video to accompany this story, and we apologize for that error." Later that day, Conyers released this statement:

Fox News has a history of inappropriate on-air mistakes that are neither fair, nor balanced. This type of disrespect for people of color should no longer be tolerated. I am personally offended by the network's complete disregard for accuracy in reporting and lackluster on-air apology.

As the weblog Think Progress noted, MacCallum again issued a correction on the June 6 edition of The Live Desk, this time acknowledging that Fox News had mistakenly aired video of Conyers during its segment on Jefferson. MacCallum also apologized to Conyers for the mistake.*

Indeed, as Conyers suggested, Fox News made a similar mistake during the November 6, 2006, edition of The Live Desk, as Media Matters documented at the time. Footage of Ford played on-screen while MacCallum said, "I was reading something about evolution and it talked about virility and, you know, health and fitness and survival of the fittest. It's sort of a natural instinct, in many ways, to look at someone like Barack Obama as you point out, and say, you know, he looks young, he looks healthy, he looks strong."

From the June 4 edition Fox News' The Live Desk:

WILSON: Later this afternoon, we are expecting that he will be indicted. He is currently being presented before a federal grand jury. We are told that there are likely to be 16 counts leveled against him, one of the more expansive public corruption cases that we have seen in recent years. For example, the Duke Cunningham case, which we all may remember, that was seven or eight counts. So it appears that while we've been wondering why the FBI was not moving more quickly on this, why the Justice Department was not moving more quickly on this, they have been doing a great deal of investigation, it would appear. So, a variety of bribery charges and likely to include charges of honest services fraud, which is a catch-all phrase often used by federal officials in such cases. That's the latest information from Washington. Back to you.

MacCALLUM: All right, Brian Wilson, thank you very much.

From the June 5 edition of The Live Desk:

MacCALLUM: Yesterday at this time, news of the indictment of Congressman William Jefferson came down. We mistakenly ran the wrong video to accompany this story, and we apologize for that error.

From the November 6, 2006, edition of The Live Desk:

MacCALLUM: But you know what they say? That evolution -- I was reading something about this. It talked about evolution and it talked about virility and, you know, health and fitness and survival of the fittest. It's sort of a natural instinct, in many ways, to look at someone like Barack Obama, as you point out, and say, you know, he looks young, he looks healthy, he looks strong. Like he can -- he can be in there for the long haul.

* This paragraph was added at 6 p.m. ET on June 6.

Posted In
Diversity & Discrimination, Race & Ethnicity
Network/Outlet
Fox News Channel
Person
Brian Wilson, Martha MacCallum
Show/Publication
The Live Desk
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