Was it righteous civil disobedience or a silly performative press stunt? That is the question we are left with in the wake of the arrest of more than a dozen Democrat members of Congress, including “Squad” sisters Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) at a pro-abortion protest this week. The controversy began when a video of AOC emerged in which she seemed to pretend that her wrists were handcuffed behind her back and then suddenly, as if by magic, she raised her fist in a symbol of defiance. Hilarity ensued as right-wing Twitter pounced on the display of mimery.
But for ABC News, the opportunity of images of young, progressive female lawmakers being manhandled by police for protesting was just too much to resist. The Disney-owned outlet tweeted out photos of both AOC and Omar, shot from the front, that unmistakably gave the misleading impression that they were bound. They were not. If there had been but one photo, maybe that could have been an accident, but two? Two photos that essentially confirm the same lie? No way.
So how does this happen? Especially when other outlets like the New York Post immediately pointed out the charade? There are really only two answers, neither of which bathe ABC News in glory. The first and most likely explanation is that the editors knew the photos were misleading but used them anyway, perhaps soothing their guilt with the fact that the photos are real, even if what they seem to show is not. The other explanation, and this one might be worse, is that they really didn’t know the handcuffs weren’t there. But for that to be true, the staff at ABC News must live in a left-wing echo chamber that simply ignores the entirety of the conservative media which was laughing about the incident in chorus within minutes of it happening.
For her part, AOC maintains that she wasn’t faking anything, just assuming the safest position when being detained to avoid a possible resisting arrest charge, never mind the whole throwing her fist in the air thing, or that she took selfies with the officers she was supposedly so frightened of during the incident. It’s laughable but has just enough ring of truthiness to allow the left-wing media to ignore the story, especially since she is couching her absurd display beneath the cloak of personal safety.
On the one hand you could say this was a mission accomplished for the Democrats who got their photo op. But for ABC News and the news media in general, the event is just another nail in the coffin of their credibility in the eyes of the American people. A recent poll showed that just 11% of Americans have “a great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in television news, with newspapers just a skosh better at 16%. This is not sustainable for a functioning society, but how can we blame people for their profound doubts? When we see manipulative photos like those run by ABC, how can we arrive at any other conclusion than the people behind the curtain in the wonderful world of news are liars with an agenda?
The fact of the matter is that with the exception of sports scores and yesterday’s weather, there is no way to report the news without bias. Story selection itself is a subjective practice, let alone framing the story. That kind of bias can be accepted and accounted for by news consumers, but what can’t be tolerated is outright fabrication, or deliberately misleading practices. And the ridiculous photos used by ABC are at least the latter, and could be credibly considered the former.
Trust is a thing that is not only easily lost, but also hard to regain. No industry can survive, let alone thrive, if nearly 90% of Americans think it is untrustworthy and unreliable. And the ratings for news on TV are showing how harmful this lack of trust can be to the bottom line. In 2021, CNN weekday prime-time viewership fell 38% At Fox, it was 34%, and even the network nightly news saw steep decline. Between sagging trust and drowning ratings, our news media needs a sea change — and it needs it right now.
A great start would be for ABC News to admit its mistake and hold those responsible accountable. Were it to do that in a very public way, the very public it has lost may regain some trust in it. But don’t hold your breath, kids. Not only is it unlikely that ABC News will apologize — it will probably continue to engage in this kind of corrosive behavior. That is fine news for AOC and the “Squad,” who are thrilled to have their lies spread far and wide, but for the news media it’s a disaster. ABC News needs to decide if it is a public relations arm of the Democrat Party or a news outlet. The simple and obvious fact is that it cannot be both.
David Marcus is a Brooklyn based columnist and author of “Charade: The Covid Lies That Crushed A Nation”
The views expressed in this piece are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.