Guest post by John Fredericks
O’Reilly’s attempt to spin a yarn about how Virginian-Pilot Editor-in-Chief Denis Finley is part of some vast left-wing conspiracy to cover up an alleged mob attack by a group of African American teenagers against two unsuspecting white Pilot reporters in downtown Norfolk two weeks ago is pure political fantasy.
While Finley and his city editors may have missed the significance of the story in deciding it was not worthy of making the newspaper, to accuse Finley of consciously making the call to ignore the story for ideological or political correctness reasons is playing fast and loose with the facts.
It’s sensationalism on a grand scale not worthy of the grocery store tabloids, let alone a national television show.
But why let pesky facts get in the way of an otherwise powder-keg story?
First, Finley is one of perhaps a handful of remaining conservative Republican editors of a major daily newspaper left in the United States. Like me, Finley was an early Newt Gingrich for President supporter. Now he’s for Mitt Romney. So much for his “liberal” bias.
But as editor, he keeps his political views out of the newsroom. That’s the way it should be, and Finley is the consummate professional.
Second, the police report submitted by Norfolk cops on the scene was vanilla. Their report made no mention of unruly mobs engaged in race baiting. They classified the alleged attack as a “simple assault” and cited “vandalism” of $300, the cost of one of the two alleged victim’s broken spectacles.
Third, neither Pilot employee wanted to come forward — or even file a police report — the day after the alleged crime. It was only later that they had a change of heart. Rather than go back to their news editors, they went to the editorial department. Editorial writer and Pilot opinion columnist Michelle Washington seized on the opportunity and took it from there. The Drudge Report picked up her column nationally – and inserted a bogus, contrived headline: “100 black teens beat white couple – media buries story.” The conspiracy theorists then ran amuck with it.
Enter “The Factor.” Not bothering with tedious fact checking, O’Reilly ran with the conspiracy theory lock, stock and barrel. He first reported on the story by saying there was a mob of 100. Then he changed it to 30. Now we find out it was more like five who were actually involved.
Should Finley and his editors have published a story about the altercation at first blush? It’s a judgment call. You can legitimately bring into question Finley’s decision, and claim he erred in dismissing the attack as not newsworthy. That’s fair fodder. We all make mistakes. But to classify him a left-wing conspirator who attempted to manipulate news coverage to serve his personal philosophical viewpoint is downright irresponsible. That’s what a local NBC news affiliate did with the Trayvon Martin 911 tape.
O’Reilly has created a false and disingenuous narrative to serve his own political – not to mention ratings – agenda at the expense of an innocent man, tarnishing an otherwise impeccable 25-year reputation in the process.
On this story, “The Factor” has morphed from a “no-spin” zone to the virtual roulette wheel of political hysteria. Who’s the pinhead now?
And that’s a wrap, Bill.
Morning drive conservative radio talk show host- WHKT AM 1650
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Cross-posted from The John Fredericks Show