Veteran journalist Katie Couric revealed in her new memoir that she once edited an answer with Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg to maintain the late judge’s legacy as a liberal icon. The shocking admission raised eyebrows across the journalism industry, but Couric is far from the only mainstream media figure to deceivingly edit an interview or mislead viewers to fit an agenda.
Couric cut portions of Ginsburg’s answer in 2016 criticizing athletes protesting the national anthem. The former “Today” co-host said she was “conflicted” about including the justice’s comment that NFL players such as Colin Kaepernick showed “contempt for a government that has made it possible for their parents and grandparents to live a decent life.”
In her upcoming memoir, Couric called herself a “big RBG fan” and admitted to seeking advice from some fellow journalists about what to do. Ultimately, the story she wrote for Yahoo! included quotes from Ginsburg saying kneelers were “dumb and disrespectful,” but she omitted the remarks that could have irked the judge’s lefty fan base who turned anthem-protesting athletes into modern heroes.
Videos and news segments are sometimes deceptively edited, doctored, fabricated, misrepresented and can even omit key context. America’s trust in media further erodes whenever a new example is brought to light, but sometimes journalistic malpractice goes unnoticed. Couric’s edit of the RBG interview wouldn’t have become public knowledge if the veteran journalist didn’t spill the beans herself. Many have criticized the admission, while others feel misleading content is a large problem and anyone who manipulates the news should be held accountable.
“For far too many in the journalism profession, there’s little to no consequences to those who commit the worst offenses in journalism in plagiarism and selective editing,” NewsBusters managing editor Curtis Houck told Fox News Digital.
“And when such behavior isn’t held to account and people made an example of within the profession, these kinds of things will sadly continue to happen,” Houck continued.
Fox News contributor Joe Concha noted this could just be the tip of the iceberg, for all the public knows.
“These are just the textbook examples of the bias of omission that we know about. Imagine all the times when something important or damaging to the Blue Team was cut and the only people who knew were the producers or executives or talent that decided to do so,” Concha told Fox News Digital.
Here are other times interviews or segments have been deceptively edited.
‘60 Minutes’ acknowledges criticism on DeSantis segment, doesn’t retract story panned as ‘shoddy hit piece’
Earlier this year, CBS News’ “60 Minutes” came under fire for a segment about Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis which suggested the Republican gave the Publix grocery store chain preferable treatment to offer the coronavirus vaccine based on its corporate PAC’s donations to his PAC. The CBS newsmagazine didn’t include the entire exchange when a reporter asked the governor about the allegation, omitting critical information in the process.
DeSantis said his words were “deceptively edited,” and Publix also slammed “60 Minutes,” calling the reports “absolutely false and offensive.”
He told Fox News that in Palm Beach County, which was the focal point of the controversy, leaders in the heavily-Democratic precinct calculated that 90% of its senior citizen population lived within 1.5 miles of a Publix. While the eastern half of the county is along the dense I-95 corridor and has several Publix locations, the western end is more sparse and agrarian.
DeSantis said “60 Minutes” left out that important context, in that because of the lack of preexisting options, his government set up a separate and unique vaccination site in the village of Pahokee, about 30 miles east of Clewiston – unaffiliated with Publix.
Democratic state officials, conservative pundits, Floridians and journalism professors alike called for CBS News to retract or correct the story, but the long-running newsmagazine instead essentially doubled down when addressing the controversy the following week.
“In the mail this week, comments on our story about disparities in the distribution of COVID-19 vaccine in Palm Beach County, Florida. Viewers focused on an exchange with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis at a press conference. Some viewers, including a retired newsman, applauded the story,” correspondent Sharyn Alfonsi said before leading with a glowing letter from someone who enjoyed the report.
“But many more comments condemned our editing and reporting,” Alfonsi continued before reading a pair of letters with negative feedback.
CBS News edits out Bill Clinton saying Hillary Clinton ‘frequently’ suffers from dizziness
In 2016, former President Bill Clinton told CBS News that his wife, Hillary Clinton, “frequently” suffered from dizziness ahead of her Election Day showdown with Donald Trump. Hillary Clinton had recently collapsed following a 9/11 commemoration event and anchor Charlie Rose asked if there was concern it was indicative of something more serious for the then-presidential candidate.
“Well, if it is, it’s a mystery to me and all of her doctors because frequently — well, not frequently, rarely — but on more than one occasion, over the last many, many years, the same sort of thing’s happened to her when she just got severely dehydrated,” Clinton said.
But when the interview aired on “CBS Evening News,” the former president’s answer had been altered.
“Well, if it is, it’s a mystery to me and all of her doctors. Rarely, but on more than one occasion over the last many, many years, the same sort of thing’s happened to her when she just got severely dehydrated,” Clinton appeared to say in the edited version.
The word “frequently” was removed from his answer.
CBS attempted to justify the situation after widespread backlash.
“The clip in question from former President Clinton’s interview with Charlie Rose ran in its entirety on CBS THIS MORNING, CBSNews.com[cbsnews.com] and on CBSN, CBS News’ 24/7 digital streaming news service. One clip that ran on CBS Evening News was edited purely for time while on deadline for the live broadcast,” CBS said at the time.
The edit saved CBS less than five seconds of airtime.
NBC News admits it staged crash, settles defamation suit filed by General Motors
In 1993, “Dateline NBC” offered a public apology after the program was caught staging a fiery test crash of a General Motors pickup truck. While this isn’t technically an edit, it remains one of the most deceiving acts of “journalism” in modern history.
NBC “admitted that it had used incendiary devices to ensure that a fire would erupt if gasoline leaked from the truck being hit by a test car,” according to the Los Angeles Times.
The paper noted that NBC’s 15-minute segment “was addressing critics’ charges that GM’s full-size pickup trucks built between 1973 and 1987 are unsafe because their gasoline tanks are on the sides of the trucks, outside the frame,” but the incendiary devices ensured the outcome of the test. NBC did not inform viewers that the test was rigged.
“GM’s defamation lawsuit against NBC charged that the broadcaster rigged the crash in an effort to portray GM pickups as susceptible to fiery explosions in side-impact collisions,” the L.A. Times reported at the time. “The nation’s top auto maker alleged that the test crash was part of an ‘orchestrated campaign’ by plaintiffs’ lawyers and others to unfairly sway public opinion concerning the safety of GM’s pickups.”
GM denied its trucks had safety issues and NBC eventually apologized once the auto maker was tipped off that the segment was rigged.
“We deeply regret we included the inappropriate demonstration in our ‘Dateline’ report. We apologize to our viewers and to General Motors. We have also concluded that unscientific demonstrations should have no place in hard news stories at NBC. That’s our new policy,” anchors Jane Pauley and Stone Phillips read on air.
‘NBC Nightly News’ edits out key part of 911 call before Ma’Khia Bryant shooting
Critics bashed “NBC Nightly News” earlier this year after the Peacock Network’s flagship evening news program omitted key details from a report on the police-involved shooting of Ma’Khia Bryant in Columbus, Ohio.
Media Research Center news analyst Nicholas Fondacaro called out NBC News for editing out a portion of a frantic 911 call in which a woman is heard saying: “It’s these grown girls over here trying to fight us, trying to stab us, get here now!”
NBC did air a brief audio clip from the call in which the woman shouts, “We need a police officer here now!”
Fondacaro also drew attention to the portion of the police bodycam footage shown by NBC, which he noted did not “show viewers the knife in the attacker’s hand just before the shots.”
NBC News fires producer of edited George Zimmerman tape
NBC News fired a producer in 2012 who worked on a “Today” segment that featured a heavily edited 911 recording in which George Zimmerman appeared to racially profile Trayvon Martin, according to The New York Times.
The edited version of the call that aired on “Today” clearly made Zimmerman appear to say Martin looked dangerous because of his race.
“This guy looks like he’s up to no good … he looks Black,” Zimmerman says in the version of the tape that aired.
In the unedited version of the call, however, Zimmerman answers a question about Martin’s race only after being specifically asked by the 911 dispatcher.
“This guy looks like he’s up to no good. Or like he’s on drugs or something. It’s raining and he’s just walking around, looking about,” Zimmerman said, without referring to Martin’s race.
Only after the 911 dispatcher asks “black, white or Hispanic?” did Zimmerman reply “He looks Black.”
Zimmerman shot and killed Martin in what he said was an act of self-defense. Zimmerman was acquitted of his murder in a 2013 trial that drew international attention.
Couric slammed for ‘deceptive’ documentary about gun rights
The RBG edit isn’t Couric’s only editing snafu to make headlines. In 2016, she was accused of using deceptive editing to misrepresent gun activists in the documentary “Under the Gun.”
A clip appeared to show nine seconds of silence after Couric asked them, “If there are no background checks for gun purchasers, how do you prevent felons or terrorists from purchasing a gun?”
However, audio released to the Washington Free Beacon revealed members immediately answering a similar question posed by Couric.
Director Stephanie Soechtig told The Washington Post the pause was so viewers could consider the question and Couric initially said she supported the statement and was “very proud of the film.”
But some were furious over the way the film portrayed the activists and The Independent Women’s Forum issued a statement calling for Couric to be fired.
The NRA called the edits “outrageous” and “unbelievable.”
After widespread backlash, Couric reversed course and took responsibility, writing in a message on the film’s website that she regretted not raising her initial concerns about the segment “more vigorously.”
“I take responsibility for a decision that misrepresented an exchange I had with members of the Virginia Citizens Defense League (VCDL). My question to the VCDL regarding the ability of convicted felons and those on the terror watch list to legally obtain a gun, was followed by an extended pause, making the participants appear to be speechless,” she wrote. “When I screened an early version of the film with the director, Stephanie Soechtig, I questioned her and the editor about the pause and was told that a ‘beat’ was added for, as she described it, ‘dramatic effect,’ to give the audience a moment to consider the question. When VCDL members recently pointed out that they had in fact immediately answered this question, I went back and reviewed it and agree that those eight seconds do not accurately represent their response.”
NBC admits Chuck Todd’s ‘Meet the Press’ deceptively edited Barr remarks on Flynn
NBC News’ Chuck Todd aired a deceptively edited clip of Attorney General Bill Barr discussing the Michael Flynn case during a “Meet the Press” broadcast in 2020.
Asked by CBS News’ Catherine Herridge how history would judge the Justice Department’s decision to move to dismiss the Flynn case, Barr initially responded, laughing: “Well, history is written by the winners, so it largely depends on who’s writing the history.”
After the brief clip aired, Todd remarked he was “struck by the cynicism of the answer — it’s a correct answer, but he’s the attorney general. He didn’t make the case that he was upholding the rule of law. He was almost admitting that, yeah, this was a political job.”
In the full clip, which the NBC show did not air, Barr immediately went on to state explicitly that, in fact, he felt the Flynn decision upheld the rule of law.
“I think a fair history would say it was a good decision because it upheld the rule of law,” Barr said. “It upheld the standards of the Department of Justice, and it undid what was an injustice.”
After backlash, the “Meet the Press” Twitter account posted: “You’re correct. Earlier today, we inadvertently and inaccurately cut short a video clip of an interview with AG Barr before offering commentary and analysis. The remaining clip included important remarks from the attorney general that we missed, and we regret the error.”
Fox News’ David Rutz, Gregg Re, Joseph A. Wulfsohn and Charles Creitz contributed to this report.