November 9, 2018

On Wednesday, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the White House had revoked the press pass of CNN's Jim Acosta, accusing him of "placing his hands on a young woman" intern who tried to take his microphone during a contentions back-and-forth earlier in the day. That night, Sanders affirmed the decision to bar Acosta, posted a video of the incident, and said "we will not tolerate the inappropriate behavior clearly documented in this video."

The thing is, Acosta did not accost the intern, and the video Sanders posted to defend the White House decision was pretty clearly doctored. If anything, it's the intern who was inappropriately aggressive. "Nevertheless, Acosta's press pass was revoked, underscoring the false implication that Acosta had assaulted a defenseless staffer," Variety notes. "So can Acosta sue for defamation? The answer is no. As a federal official, Sanders is immune from defamation claims that arise from her professional duties under the Federal Tort Claims Act," a 1940s law that Congress amended in 1988 to shield federal officials.

Still, The Associated Press says, "while the origin of the manipulated video is unclear, its distribution marked a new low for an administration that has been criticized for its willingness to mislead." AP posted an exhaustive analysis of the apparent video manipulation by independent video producer Abba Shapiro.

Pulling a journalist's White House pass is rare and the misconduct bar is high. Media organizations criticized Sanders and called for Acosta's pass to be reinstated. "As visual journalists, we know that manipulating images is manipulating truth," said Whitney Shefte, president of the the White House News Photographers Association. "It's deceptive, dangerous, and unethical."

"The irony of this White House video involving Jim Acosta is that if it is found to be doctored, it will show the administration to be doing what it accuses the news media of doing — engaging in fake information," noted Washington & Lee journalism ethics professor Aly Colon. Peter Weber

July 17, 2017

Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) is making headlines Monday due to the fact that his unwillingness to fall in line with the White House's agenda could spur President Trump to back one of Flake's primary opponents in 2018. However, Flake should be making headlines due to the delightful revelation that he hails from the town of Snowflake, Arizona:

Snowflake, set amid the open sky and vast emptiness of the high desert, is more than just the senator's hometown. Its whimsical name derives from those of two Mormon settlers, Erastus Snow and William J. Flake, the senator's great-great-grandfather.

Today, hundreds of Flake descendants, including the senator's mother, live in the town of about 5,500, which is dotted with unofficial shrines to its early settlers and Mormon heritage. The James M. Flake pioneer home is catty-corner from the Eugene Flake heritage barn; a block away, at the pioneer museum, a Flake cousin last week was offering free tours. [Los Angeles Times]

Read more about Snowflake in the Los Angeles Times, and more about Flake's row with the president at Politico. Jeva Lange

August 17, 2016

The discussion about the alarming lack of diversity in the arts, and film in particular, has been simmering for decades, ranging most recently from the #OscarsSoWhite hashtag to the outrage over actors like Matt Damon, Scarlett Johansson, and Emma Stone "whitewashing" roles that would seemingly otherwise go to people of color. But director Ava DuVernay, who made the Academy Award- and Golden Globe-nominated Selma, believes "diversity" is the wrong word to be using in these discussions. She broke it down for The Hollywood Reporter in an interview with Oprah Winfrey, who is producing DuVernay's new show, Queen Sugar:

Ava, you've expressed strong distaste for the term "diversity," but Oprah has made use of it. How do you both characterize the concept now in terms of the overall conversation in the industry?

DUVERNAY We aren't sitting around talking about diversity, just like we aren't sitting around talking about being black or being women. We're just being that.

WINFREY I will say that I stand corrected. I used to use the word "diversity" all the time. "We want more diverse stories, more diverse characters…" Now I really eliminated it from my vocabulary because I've learned from her that the word that most articulates what we're looking for is what we want to be: included. It's to have a seat at the table where the decisions are being made.

DUVERNAY That was your take on it.

WINFREY When Sidney Poitier came to my school [in South Africa], he gave a gift of 550 movies to the girls. He thought if you watch these 550 movies, they'll be your education for life. He wrote to the girls that his dream for them was to be able to sit at the table of the future where the world's decisions would be made. I realize now that what he was saying is to be included, to be valued as a person who has something to contribute. [The Hollywood Reporter]

DuVernay means what she says: Queen Sugar has an all-female crew working behind the camera, and a largely black cast of newcomers in front of it. Read more about the project, as well as DuVernay's thoughts on the responsibilities of being a black filmmaker, in her interview with Winfrey at The Hollywood Reporter. Jeva Lange

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