Jennings: The Dumbest
Two items today:
1) Yet again, during
coverage of a live event, Peter Jennings is fooled by a fake eyewitness
call. During live coverage Wednesday night of the TWA tragedy Jennings
took seriously a fake caller, and even after it became clear the caller
was not an eyewitness Jennings treated as accurate a description provided
by the fake caller.
2) Conservative film
critic Michael Medved will replace Mike Siegel as the 12 to 3pm talk host
on KVI in Seattle.
Back in 1994 as O.J. Simpson's Bronco parked in his Rockingham driveway
following the freeway chase, Peter Jennings interviewed live an
"eyewitness" who described details of what he could see inside
the parked Bronco. Even with numerous clues that the caller was no where
near Simpson's house (including the use of an obviously fake black accent
and the utterance of a phrase used by Howard Stern listeners), Jennings
never caught on. ABC Sports announcer Al Michaels had to point out
afterwards that the caller was a fraud.
You'd think Jennings and his producers would
improve their call screening techniques. Think again. At approximately
10:40pm Wednesday night (July 17) during live coverage of the explosion of
TWA flight 800, Jennings was fooled again. As transcribed by MRC intern
Jessica Anderson, here are some excerpts of what ABC aired:
Peter Jennings: "We're going to go to Dan
Stevenson at the moment, who is an eyewitness as well. Mr.
Dan Stevenson: "Yes.
Jennings: "Can you tell us what you
Stevenson: "Oh, it's horrible, it's just a
big wreck, it's a mess. I saw a big explosion. I was off-duty, of course,
with my wife, and..."
Jennings: "You're an off-duty
Stevenson: "Yes, I am."
"Stevenson" proceeded to answer questions from Jennings about
what he saw. "Stevenson" talked about how he "dove into the
water" and is "working side by side right now with various
departments, and we're doing, we have helicopters, we're doing the best we
A few minutes later Jennings returned to
"Stevenson," and here's the complete exchange:
Jennings: "I want to go back, if I may now,
to Mr. Stevenson, who's the off-duty police officer. Can you add
something, Mr. Stevenson?"
Stevenson: "All I know is that from what I
saw and from what I've heard, it seems like the explosion itself occurred
within the lower frame of the airplane, more towards, you know, the tail.
It seems like that's where it derived from. And from what I've gathered
and from what my off-duty and on-duty officers have said is that it looked
like O.J. Simpson was driving the plane." [caller hangs up or is cut
Jennings: "Okay, we'll just forego that kind
of remark, which, I must tell you, makes me, I shouldn't be, but makes me
slightly suspicious about Mr. Stevenson, but I may be wrong, and if I am
wrong and sound ungrateful, it is because in live television like this we
have been burned before by eyewitnesses who turned out not to be
eyewitnesses. And perhaps the most famous occasion, for us, at least, was
during the inevitable parade that O.J. Simpson and the Los Angeles Police
Department had around the freeways of Los Angeles at the time that, just
before he was arrested."
next interviewed John Nance, ABC's aviation consultant. Despite the
implausibility of being able to see physical details at dusk of a plane
several miles away, and incredibly, even after the OJ line, Jennings was
still holding out hope for the caller's credibility. Jennings forwarded as
accurate what the obviously fake caller (now called Dennis instead of Dan)
Jennings: "Well, Mr. Dennis Stevenson, who I
may have unkindly been suspicious of, but if I am, again I apologize, was
saying that one of the people that he had talked to believed the explosion
occurred towards the rear of the aircraft. That tell you anything?"
about putting unsubstantiated charges on the air. Just the kind of thing
mainstream media people condemn talk radio for allegedly doing.
Here's part of a short item that ran in the July 18 Washington Times:
"Film critic Michael Medved...is pulling up
his California roots to move to Mercer Island, Washington, home of
longtime friend and fellow Jewish conservative Rabbi Daniel Lapin. Mr.
Medved, who co-hosts PBS TV's Sneak Previews series, has been offered the
job of hosting the noon to 3pm slot on Seattle radio station KVI-AM,
replacing controversial talk show host Mike Siegel."