Disappearing trick: MSNBC’s apparent journalistic fraud!


The Washington Post, left in the dark: We’ve been stunned, the last two nights, by the way Lawrence O’Donnell has played the Mormon card on his cable program.

O’Donnell’s a nasty piece of work. But for today, let’s consider the major fraud conducted by his “news channel.”

As a point of reference, consider this news report from yesterday’s Washington Post. In the highlighted passage, Sari Horwitz is trying to evaluate the claim that George Zimmerman suffered injuries in his altercation with Trayvon Martin:
HORWITZ (4/3/12): FBI agents went Monday to the gated community of Retreat at Twin Lakes, where the shooting occurred, to interview potential witnesses in the case, according to special agent Dave Couvertier, spokesman for the FBI's Tampa Field Office.

Central to federal agents is the 911 tape recording of Zimmerman's conversations with a dispatcher about a suspicious man he saw in the community. Investigators are trying to determine whether Zimmerman used a racial slur during the calls.

On Monday, ABC released enhanced video footage, showing Zimmerman in police custody less than 30 minutes after the shooting, which appears to show an injury on the back of his head. The gash would back Zimmerman's claim that he was in an altercation and that Martin repeatedly slammed his head into the ground, the network said.

Norton Bonaparte Jr., who took over as Sanford's city manager six months ago, also called on the Justice Department to review the case and the conduct of police.
Horwitz is trying to determine the extent of Zimmerman’s injuries, if any. On-line, she links to this ABC report, where you can see ABC’s “enhanced video footage.”

That footage ain’t real enhanced. Meanwhile, Horowitz doesn’t seem to know a key fact: Last Thursday afternoon, MSNBC played videotape of Zimmerman’s apparent injuries which was much more “enhanced,” much more clear. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 3/30/12.

Martin Bashir referred to this tape as “an extended and newly released surveillance video” which showed “new angles, never seen before, of George Zimmerman being brought into the Sanford police station.” This suggested that MSNBC had received a second tape from the Sanford police video system—that this was not the same old tape others had aired before.

Bashir's tape did provide a much clearer look at the back of Zimmerman’s head. It seemed to show a rather large goose-egg style bump on the back of his head, with a rather clear abrasion atop it.

This tape is much more “enhanced” than the ABC tape. And it has now disappeared.

To watch Bashir air this tape, just click here. The relevant footage starts at the 2:45 mark.

During a report by Ron Allen, Chris Matthews offered a very brief look at this same tape on Thursday evening’s Hardball. Since then, the tape has gone down the memory hole. Horowitz doesn’t even seem to know that this tape exists.

Unless that tape was some sort of forgery, it seems to represent the best video evidence concerning this question—the best evidence by far.

MSNBC knows that the tape exists. Matthews knows it; so does Bashir. As the channel disappears the tape, it seems to conduct a journalistic fraud.

But then, what else is new?


  1. Thanks for calling attention to this bit of unintentional improvisatory comedy. Bashir exclaiming repeatedly over the absence of any wounds on Zimmerman while accompanied by a close-up of Zimmerman's wound.

    Bashir's hilariously inept subtext: "You gonna believe me or your lying eyes?"

    1. For what it's worth, the earliest version of that joke that I'm aware of was uttered by the immortal Chico Marx in the equally immortal "Duck Soup," which was only voted the fifth greatest comedy ever made by the American Film Institute.

      If anybody's interested they can see the exchange at about the 44-minute mark.


      If you've never seen the picture and have the right sense of humor, a great treat awaits you.

    2. S'marvelous!

      And I'd totally forgotten the Harpo/Chico mirror sequence - it had me howling. 'Duck Soup' is my next movie night.

    3. Yes, you certainly have forgotten about it, since the sequence was NOT between Harpo and Chico, but between Harpo and Groucho.

      Now let's play the Somerby Game: Nothing you ever say can ever be believed again because you got this simple sequence wrong.

      Remember, superhuman standards of precision and perfection apply, but only to those to whom we choose to apply them

    4. Not to parse it too closely, but I believe Chico enters the mirror scene towards the end, making it a scene between Harpo, Groucho, *and* Chico.

      Let's go ahead and play the Somerby Game then. Because if I've read Bob correctly all these years, it comes with a significant caveat.

      First, who are the players being critiqued here? Millionaires aping journalists on a national stage.

      Second, after making their mistakes, do they ever apologize or retract?
      If the answer is no, then they are unrepentant liars/buffoons and deserve nothing but scorn.

      I'll make it easy for you. I retract my statement that it was Harpo and Chico during most of the mirror scene. Chico only joined in at the end. For that misunderstanding (note: all three are dressed as Groucho), I deeply apologize. Mea culpa.

      First and foremost, like you, I'm commenting on a blog post. Nobody's paying me money to do so. If I were a film critic at the Trib, making those millions, you might have cause to complain. Otherwise, tough.

      Since I take my marching orders from Bob - he sends me instructional emails each morning at 4:17 Pacific time - I can assure you that the Somerby Game is played with the additional rules I've outlined.

    5. Once again, holding others to standards that you won't hold yourself to.

      That, sir, is the true Somerby Game.

      Not to mention thinking that the rest of us poor "rubes" are so dumb as to be misled by "millionaire pundits" and completely unable to arrive at our own opinions.

      That's why we need prophets and gurus like Bob Somerby to do the hard work of thinking for us. You even admitted as much yesterday.

      Oh, you forgot to add that you are a "movement liberal."

    6. So, anon 12:40, you should have no complaints about Fox News. The viewers of Fox can arrive at their own opinions. Their millionaire pundits aren't misleading anyone.

      What about holding others?

    7. Is that Fritz at 12:40, lying yet again?

      You seem to be somewhat dyslexic, son, confusing words for other words. If ever you actually respond to something that was actually written, you will be worthy of response.

      Until then, your lies will be ignored.

      NB: Where's the lie? you protest. As I told you yesterday, I never called myself a movement liberal. And yet you persist in claiming that I did. Prove it or admit you are lying.

  2. Better evidence would have been someone pulling out a camera (I think they're priced low enough for even small-town police departments to afford today) and take a few pictures of the injuries. That would have settled this whole thing right quick.

    1. I agree, that would certainly be better evidence. It would certainly close down most conjecture about whether Zimmerman had injuries or not.

      Do you have information that suggests Zimmerman wasn't photographed?

  3. You say "what else is new" but between this and NBC's deliberate editing of tape to sell a racist motive, this might be a new level of fraud. The internal investigations and "enhanced tapes" and could indicate that these networks suddenly became aware that they will be sued and lose. It isn't even clear whether the original video obtained at the station or given to the media was better quality than the video ABC originally decided to air and disseminate.

    1. Of course, the editing of the tape is the worst crime in the history of journalism.

      And by all means, let's focus on THAT, instead of all the many, many serious issues that have arisen and are being discussed about the death of Trayvon Martin.

    2. What other media issues do you have in mind?

  4. Anyone who reads this blog regularly is surely far more accurately informed about Zimmerman/Martin than someone who just relies on mainstream media.

    What does it tell us, when an amateur, in his spare time, can outdo full-time professionals in their own field? Two other examples in the past were a law student who gave better info on the developments of Hurrican Katrina in New Orleans (his site is now suspended) and a history professor who far out-performed the media reporting on the Duke lacrosse team rape accusation scandal at http://durhamwonderland.blogspot.com/

    1. Tell me, David. Exactly what have you learned from this blog about the Zimmerman/Martin case?

      Let's see. You learned the following:

      1. O'Donnell said this . . .

      2. O'Donnell said that . . .

      3. The New York Times reported this . . .

      And you know how Somerby goes about knocking down the strawmen he sets up? BY QUOTING STORIES IN OTHER MAINSTREAM MEDIA!

    2. True, but Somerby also points out items from the mainstream media that are inaccurate or unsourced. In addition, commenters here often add cogent information and analysis.

  5. The scenario upon which a lion's share of the media and the liberal/left has based so much of it's outrage is that Zimmerman is some violent yahoo who attacked Treyvon Martin just because he was a black kid wearing a hoody and is solely responsible for the circumstances leading to Martin's death. In order to sustain the plausibility of the scenario upon which their outrage is based many have presumed that Zimmerman is a liar and that anything Zimmerman may have to say is not only untrue but so obviously untrue as to be ridiculously untrue. Zimmerman's story is that Martin was beating him so badly that when his gun was exposed he felt so endangered that he decided he needed to shoot Martin in order to save himself.

    Zimmerman's whole defense rests on the issue of being attacked. Therefore any physical evidence that appears to shows whether was or was not attacked is going to be crucial to determining the actual reality here.

    A large "goose egg" on the back of Zimmerman's head would seem to corroborate his story. As would the grass stains that are said to be on his back, as would any other physical trauma that was looked at and treated at the scene. If Martin suffered substantially less trauma other than his gunshot wound, that would also seem to corroborate Zimmerman's story of being attacked.

    So, it isn't hard to see why the police videos showing that Zimmerman does appear to be injured are important because they genuinely appear to corroborate his story. That should be a bombshell, especially since his original claim of being attacked was treated as a ridiculous, self-serving lie. Yet the mainstream media seems weirdly non-reactive and disinclined to go after the facts when getting the facts is theoretically supposed to be their job. Lawrence O'Donnell has been an arch bloviator who apparently gets paid millions of dollars by MSNBC for not doing his job properly. Since MSNBC is supposed to be a liberal corrective for the decades-long right-wing slant of the news media, this does not bode well for fans of a well-informed public.

    And, BTW, if Zimmerman's story continues to pan out, it will be another garish, self-inflicted black eye to liberalism's reputation. Our side, though generally correct on the issues, has an awful habit of discrediting itself through excessive zeal and reverse bigotry. I don't know how many times I've seen this picture. We keep regarding ourselves as if we were Paul Krugman when all too often we are Lawrence O'Donnell.

    1. Excellent analogy.

      Haven't we learned the lessons of pre-judgement by now? What greater good is served by choosing up sides when the available evidence is at best spotty and at worst slimed by bias and misreported by virtually every "source"?

      An uncritical embrace of what turns out to be faulty evidence would be worse than a black eye. It seems shortsighted in the extreme to come to conclusions on such flimsy stuff.

      So why not wait until more conclusive evidence appears? I just don't get the rush.

      I mean, as Hieronymous suggests, why self-inflict a black eye?

      Put it this way, since the wholly baseless kerfluffle right-wingers call Climategate, which was proven beyond a shadow of a doubt to be less than a tempest in a teapot, Americans (and even Brits, surprisingly) have begun to doubt global warming in ever increasing numbers. In short, the right used an entirely bogus scandal to damage climate science.

      Why on earth do we risk giving them a real target?

      Wait for more and better evidence. Demands more and better evidence. Have patience. It's the most prudent course.

    2. Yeah, after all, Zimmerman told a story. His attorney believes it. His daddy believes it. His brother believes it. And his "not so close" black friend Joe Oliver (who seems to have vanished) believes it.

      What more do we need? "Nothing to see here. Move along."

      So you pull anal-ogies to support our anal-ysis that everyone including the dead kid behaved really badly in this situation. Everybody, of course, except George Zimmerman.

      So this issue is being pushed only by "liberals"? Are you kidding? Simplistic thinking at its worst.

      Aside from the fact that it is very difficult to divide people into convenient "tribes" (you do know that people can be quite liberal in some things and quite conservative in others. Don't you?) there are lots of people across the spectrum who doubt Zimmerman's story. That's why this story has legs it has.

      Here's a little inconvenient fact. According to a CNN/ORC poll, 73 percent of respondents said that George Zimmerman should be arrested. At the very same time in the very same poll, 55 percent of the very same respondents said they favored "Stand Your Ground" laws.

      Hope that doesn't make your head explode.

      And sherrlock, "climategate" is one or the other. It was either a "tempest in a teapot" or it was a turning point that caused Americans "and even Brits" to begin to doubt global warming "in ever increasing numbers.

      Utterly, utterly, utterly unsupported by any shred of evidence.

    3. You are correct, Anonymous.

      I bought into a story told by many in the national media that decline in American belief in climate change was directly influenced by "climategate". Evidence of the spread of that story and its debunking are detailed in the links below.

      And that's why debunkers like Somerby (and you, in this instance) are needed.

      "Climategate" did however become a cudgel wielded by the right for the better part of a year after the emails were made public. And that alone speaks to the "anal-ogy" (hmm, I can't decide as to whether that's clever or just puerile). Forget about liberal or conservative or the odd admixture found of both. Why give your opponent a cugdel at all if you can avoid it?

      Is there any good reason NOT to demand better evidence?





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  7. Kennedy assassination literature is replete with photographic "evidence" of many and varied assassins, including Secret Service members, which, upon closer inspection, turns out to be some kind of distortion or artifact. I think the Daily Howler and everyone else should simply sit back and wait to find out if Zimmerman had an injury to his head or not, rather than speculating about various conspiracies and forgeries. Eventually we will find out for sure one way or the other. It's an easily verifiable fact. The police or someone almost surely must have taken photographs demonstrating this one way or the other.

  8. I watched a much better (larger) version of the video in question. There's no head wound apparent at all.

    In the version linked on the MSNBC site, the only time you see a round wound is in a still.


    Starting around 0:57

    Another point someone made is that if a suspect or victim has any sort of wound the police use disposable plastic gloves, and do not touch them directly, for fear of infection.

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  11. Bashir's tape did provide a much clearer look at the back of Zimmerman’s head. It seemed to show a rather large goose-egg style bump on the back of his head, with a rather clear abrasion atop it. vintage key necklaces , handcrafted leather shoes , beautiful payal , embroidered velvet bag , custom embroidered belts , best jean belt , black belt boots , glass bangles

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