How Fox News Promoted One of the Most Bogus Ferguson Smears So Far
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The killing of Michael Brown, an unarmed young black man shot at least six times by police officer Darren Wilson, and the resulting protests in Ferguson, Missouri, left the right-wing media machine in something of a conundrum. Days ticked by and still there was no viable right-wing narrative.
Then, six days after the shooting, Ferguson police chief Thomas Jackson bowed to pressure from the community and media and identified Wilson as the cop who shot Brown. At the same time, Jackson released two new bits of information. He said Wilson had been taken to a hospital after the shooting with swelling to his face. He also released a store surveillance video that showed Brown reaching over a counter and grabbing a handful of cigars, then pushing a store clerk on his way out.
This was a turning point in the story: Ferguson police seemingly wanted to transform Michael Brown from an innocent victim to a criminal. Still, it was hard to justify killing a young man with no previous record — especially shooting him six times, for allegedly stealing a handful of cheap cigars.
It wasn’t long before Fox News was pushing a new narrative: Michael Brown wasn’t just the latest in a depressingly long line of unarmed young black men to be gunned down by a white cop. He was a thug, they suggested, a criminal who deserved what he got, because he posed a deadly threat to Officer Wilson.
This was proven, Fox News reported with an unnamed source, because “the officer had sustained a fractured eye socket in the incident.” Ann Coulter even suggested, incorrectly,that we’d seen X-rays of the fracture. Fox went on to claim “solid proof” of a battle between Wilson and Brown for the officer’s handgun.
It was not long, of course, before CNN and others disproved such bogus claims. But how did such fiction make it all the way to an outlet as major, if intellectually challenged, as Fox News?
Here’s how it happened.
Perhaps the first shot in the right-wing news campaign to smear Michael Brown came in the form of a call to a conservative talk radio host Dana Loesch on Aug. 15. A caller who claimed to be a friend of Wilson’s — who would only identify herself as Josie — told Loesch that Brown had “bum rushed” officer Wilson, punched him in the face and tried to go for Wilson’s gun. Brown and his friend then walked away. Wilson pulled his gun and ordered Brown to stop. Brown turned around, taunted Wilson, then again “bum rushed” him. Wilson fired six shots, the last shot to Brown’s forehead. “Josie” claimed that she had gotten this information from a Facebook discussion. She did not claim that Wilson had been seriously injured in the encounter.
Much discussion and rampant speculation followed in the right-wing blogosphere, even though the only source was an anonymous caller to a radio show and a supposed Facebook discussion. Then, on Aug. 19, Jim Hoft, a St. Louis-based blogger, announced on his site Gateway Pundit that Wilson had suffered an “Orbital Blowout Fracture to Eye Socket.”
“The Gateway Pundit can now confirm from two local St. Louis sources that police Officer Darren Wilson suffered facial fractures during his confrontation with deceased 18 year-old Michael Brown. Officer Wilson clearly feared for his life during the incident that led to the shooting death of Brown. This was after Michael Brown and his accomplice Dorian Johnson robbed a local Ferguson convenience store.”