WBFF (Fox45) apologized Monday night online and on-air for misleadingly editing and airing a video Sunday of a protest march in Washington to make it seem as if protesters were chanting “kill a cop.”
What the marchers were actually chanting in response to the lead of a Baltimore woman, Tawanda Jones, was “We won’t stop. We can’t stop ‘til killer cops are in cell blocks.”
That’s a very different meaning and representation of what Jones and the marchers were saying.
Jones appeared on the 5:30 p.m. Fox45 news, where anchorman Jeff Barnd apologized to her on behalf of the station.
Jones and the protesters in the edited video were part of a “Justice for All” rally last week called in reaction to the deaths of Eric Garner in New York and Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo.
The Sinclair-owned Fox affiliate aired the misleading video in the wake of news of two New York City police officers being murdered by a gunman from Baltimore.
News and social-media reports surfaced Monday denouncing the misleading edit and showing the original C-SPAN video versus the edited one.
Rather than comment when reached by phone Monday, Bill Fanshawe, general manager of Fox45, referred The Sun to a statement posted at 4:46 p.m. Monday on its website.
“Fox45 is apologizing for an error made on Fox45 News at Ten last night,” the statement said.
“We aired a clip from a protest in Washington, DC where we reported protesters were chanting 'kill a cop'. We received a phone call from Tawanda Jones, who is in the video, who informed us that the chant was actually 'We won't stop….We can't stop…. 'til killer cops…. are in cell blocks'.
“We here at Fox45 work hard every day to earn your trust and bring you fair and comprehensive news from around the country. Although last night's report reflected an honest misunderstanding of what the protesters were saying, we apologize for the error. We have deleted the story on our webpage and we offered to have Ms. Jones on Fox45 News at 5:00 tonight for a live interview. We had a constructive conversation with her earlier today and she has accepted our invitation and will join us for a live interview at 5:30.”
Fanshawe declined to offer more than was in the statement in response to follow-up emails from The Sun seeking an explanation as to how such an egregious and potentially inflammatory change in the meaning of the protest chant was made without anyone raising questions in the editorial process.
“Honest misunderstanding” would seem to warrant such an explanation rather than asking viewers to accept it on faith.
Jones, who appeared on the station’s newscast at 5:30 p.m., is the sister of Tyrone West, who died in custody after an altercation with Baltimore City police last year.
After she criticized the station on Facebook and called on supporters to rally against WBFF’s action, the station invited her on Monday night.
Appearing with her attorney, Russell Neverdon, Jones called the misrepresentation of her words “disgusting" and horrible." She said she has law enforcement officers in her family and has always insisted that protests be peaceful.
Barnd apologized several times during the segment for the misrepresentation of the chant.
“When you do a news story, it usually goes through a lot of desks,” he said. “A lot of brains look at it. And it’s unfortunate that it made it on our air last night, which is why we are giving you this amount of time.”
He then proceeded to tell her her that Fox45 has “a lot of newscasts every day... and weekly town hall meetings,” and that she is welcome to come on “anytime” to discuss the issue.
What neither he nor the station statement said is how all those “brains” at Fox45 let such an outrageous change in meaning finds its way on air with all its potential to further inflame passions at this emotional time.