If you bothered to log onto your Twitter account at least once this week, you almost definitely saw the viral video of Democratic Senate candidate Beto O’Rourke responding thoughtfully to a question about whether he finds it disrespectful when NFL players kneel during the national anthem. The clip drew wide praise, including from LeBron James, Ellen DeGeneres, and Janelle Monáe.
But a CBS News story on the exchange created viral outrage by reducing the nuance and insight of O’Rourke’s response to a terribly misleading headline and tweet.
This is what O’Rourke said: “I can think of nothing more American than to peacefully stand up, or take a knee, for your rights, anytime, anywhere, in any place.” (The full clip is below.)
This is how CBS News translated those words: “Beto O’Rourke says there’s ‘nothing more American’ than NFL players protesting the national anthem.”
In case anyone needs a refresher, NFL players who choose to kneel are not protesting the national anthem but racial inequality and police brutality.
Journalists, advocates, activists, and even Mark Cuban called foul on CBS News for essentially adopting the same false language Fox News and O’Rourke’s opponent, Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, used to describe O’Rourke’s answer.
I’ve had enough of apologies. It has been two full seasons since these NFL protests against racial injustice began, and lazy press continues to promote a deliberately false shorthand. Protesting during the anthem is not protesting the anthem. Delete the original tweet, @CBSNews. https://t.co/eSLbgKrNMY
— Jamil Smith (@JamilSmith) August 25, 2018
that major outlets, after all this time, are still writing that NFL players are protesting “the national anthem” is is not just a bad look, but a journalistic embarrassment.
— Astead (@AsteadWesley) August 25, 2018
In today’s world THE HEADLINE IS THE STORY. It’s crazy that headlines are still created like they were for papers in the 50s rather than evaluated as critically as the content they represent. Few things diminish journalistic integrity as much as a mismatched headline/story https://t.co/0HBLVsocy3
— Mark Cuban (@mcuban) August 25, 2018
Saying the NFL players are protesting the National Anthem is like saying Rosa Parks was protesting buses
— Dana Schwartz (@DanaSchwartzzz) August 25, 2018
This is not what Beto O’Rourke said. It’s what Ted Cruz said Beto O’Rourke said. If mainstream journalism had working norms for dealing with bad faith, the story would be that Cruz lied about Beto. Instead, CBS reprints Cruz’s lie as though it were true. https://t.co/vOaewTPaBI
— Brian Beutler (@brianbeutler) August 25, 2018
The story’s headline has since been corrected, and the piece now includes an editor’s note that accurately states why NFL players kneel during the national anthem. Yet a tweet with the original language has not been deleted from CBS News’ Twitter account as of Saturday evening, even though it had a like/comment ratio of 4,800 to 11,000 by Saturday afternoon (which definitely isn’t good). It might not be long before the news outlet does the right thing and retracts the tweet as well.
In the meantime, here are O’Rourke’s comments for your own listening pleasure: