Top Magazine Award Given for Journalistically Questionable ‘47 Percent’ Video

Integrity in journalism is not only optional, being dishonest is actually commendable. That was the message sent last night by the American Society of Magazine Editors as it gave one of its highly coveted National Magazine Awards to Mother Jones, the far-left publication which published a surreptitiously recorded video of former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney speaking to a Florida fund-raiser in 2012.

The Romney speech, in which he made his infamous reference to “47 percent” of Americans being willing to support President Obama because of their dependence on the welfare state, was secretly recorded by a hotel bartender and then released subsequently by Mother Jones.

While the bartender, Scott Prouty, may potentially be sued in civil court for violating employee confidentiality agreements, the left-wing magazine also engaged in its own form of dishonesty about a portion of the video that it released featuring Romney talking about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. After reviewing what Mother Jones claimed was the “full tape,” blogger William Jacobson noticed that there was a very clear gap in video when Romney discussed Israel.

When Jacobson confronted Mother Jones Washington bureau chief David Corn about the gap on Twitter, Corn denied it. Only after being confronted by Jacobson via email did the leftist journalist admit that it existed.

After being corrected, Mother Jones posted an “update” in which it acknowledged that the Romney video which it had claimed to be the “full tape,” was actually not. After that correction was made, Corn then dishonestly claimed that he and his publication had informed readers of the gap. This was an outright fabrication as Jacobson proved via screenshots of the page on which Mother Jones had hosted the video. Prior to being confronted by Jacobson, Mother Jones had not told viewers at all that they were not seeing the “full tape.”

Beyond Corn’s dishonest behavior about how he had reported on the video, the origin of the gap in the clip is itself questionable. The Mother Jones editor claimed that the reason the gap existed was because his source, Scott Prouty, had noticed that “the recording device was inadvertently turned off between these two segments. The source noticed quickly and began to re-record, resulting in an estimated a one-to-two minute loss of tape.”

As another blogger further pointed out, however, closer inspection of the video before and after the gap indicates that the recording device was positioned at the exact same location at both times. This would mean that Prouty had supposedly pushed “record” on his small hand-held video recorder without it having had any impact on the position of it on the table. According to the blogger, it is more likely that the gap in the recording was made during post-production, i.e. after the recording had already been made.

In light of all of the above information, it is quite clear that David Corn and Mother Jones should not be given an award for their release of the Romney 47 percent video. I am not prepared to say that the gap was a deliberate creation but there is enough doubt about the integrity of Corn’s journalism in this instance (his lie about supposedly telling readers about the gap is serious) that he and his Mother Jones colleagues do not deserve distinction for their conduct.

Given the little exposure that most liberal journalists have to conservative journalism, my guess is that the American Society of Magazine Editors has never even heard of these allegations. More than likely the people in charge of the George Polk awards for video journalism have not either as Corn was also awarded a prize by that group in February.

Such is the state of the media in this country that the late Andrew Breitbart is still being falsely accused of improperly editing a video clip while a leftist like David Corn is feted despite his dishonesty.

Matthew Sheffield
Matthew Sheffield
Matthew Sheffield, creator of NewsBusters and president of Dialog New Media, an internet marketing and design firm, left NewsBusters at the end of 2013