By: Roger Aronoff
Accuracy in Media
When the news media correct themselves, those corrections often remain unacknowledged. This permits a false perception of accuracy. It also allows incorrect, damaging information to be disseminated by news reporters regardless of accountability.
CNN, in particular, has adopted a system which informs its readers that an article has been “updated.” What exactly do those updates entail?
In one case, it appears that updates for CNN may include an after-the-fact correction of a blatant factual error when a clearly posted correction is necessary to inform the public of the changes within. The CNN article, “Donald Trump knocks Joe Biden for plagiarism in law school,” by Tom LoBianco was updated on August 13 at 11:41 a.m., but as of this writing what appears to be an earlier uncorrected version remains on the WMAL website.
Republican presidential candidate Trump’s original comments clearly indicate that he criticized Vice President Joe Biden for plagiarism in general, not just his law school plagiarism.
“I think I’d match up great. I’m a job producer. I’ve had a great record, I haven’t been involved in plagiarism,” said Trump on Hugh Hewitt’s August 12 radio show. “I think I would match up very well against [Biden].”
The headlines that remain at WMAL, CNN, and WPTZ News Channel 5 are, therefore, deceptive, and falsely give the impression that Biden’s behavior is so far in the past that it merits little further inquiry.
“Republican frontrunner Donald Trump said he would ‘do great’ in a hypothetical matchup with Vice President Joe Biden in part because of the prospective candidate’s plagiarism in law school,” states the WMAL version of LoBianco’s article. “Biden admitted to plagiarizing a law review article while in law school—lifting from writings by British politician Neil Kinnock—and it became an issue that haunted his failed 1988 presidential bid.”
This reporting confuses two separate instances, and downplays the many missteps made by Biden.
Now LoBianco’s article states, “Biden admitted to plagiarizing while in law schoolas well as lifting from writings by British politician Neil Kinnock while on the campaign trail—and it became an issue that haunted his failed 1988 presidential bid.”
According to Slate Magazine, Biden’s plagiarism was pervasive. “What is certain is that Biden didn’t simply borrow the sort of boilerplate that counts as common currency in political discourse—phrases like ‘fighting for working families,’” wroteDavid Greenberg for Slate in 2008. “What he borrowed was Kinnock’s life.”
That was during Biden’s failed 1988 presidential bid. This issue could haunt him again if, as some believe, he decides to run for president in the upcoming election.
“Over the next days, it emerged that Biden had lifted significant portions of speeches from Robert Kennedy and Hubert Humphrey,” wrote Greenberg. “Yet another uncited borrowing came from John F. Kennedy,” he later added.
“If that wasn’t bad enough, Biden admitted the next day that while in law school he had received an F for a course because he had plagiarized five pages from a published article in a term paper that he submitted.”
Greenberg also wrote that Biden falsely claimed that he had three undergraduate degrees when he had only earned one in a double major.
In other words, Biden didn’t just, as Greenberg wrote, lift Kinnock’s life wholesale—he demonstrates an early pattern of fudging and false attribution for personal gain.
News organizations like CNN must hold their own reporters accountable for publishing accurate facts because they are in the daily business of informing the public. While CNN should receive some credit for updating its news article, it should have done so openly and with a formal correction. It also needs to update its misleading title. Trump said nothing about law school. The plagiarism issue that most people associate with Biden is the one involving Kinnock.
What I see from the mainstream media is often spin, deceit, and the failure to report on important issues. Covering up one’s mistakes instead of acknowledging them is just another way that journalists can skirt accountability.