Baltimore TV Reporter Loses Job Over Altered Video of Fox News Radio's John Gibson

By Howard Kurtz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, February 25, 2009

A Baltimore television reporter has lost his job after acknowledging that he doctored a video to make it appear that Fox News Radio host John Gibson had made a racial slur.

In the bogus video, which was picked up across the Internet, Gibson seemed to be comparing Attorney General Eric Holder to a monkey with a "bright blue scrotum." There had been chatter on Fox News earlier about such a monkey, which had escaped from a Seattle zoo.

A spokeswoman for WBAL-TV confirmed yesterday that technology reporter John Sanders is no longer employed by the station but she declined to comment on whether he had been dismissed. His profile was promptly removed from the NBC affiliate's Web site.

Gibson, who had actually been discussing Holder's comment about America being a "nation of cowards" on racial issues, said in an interview that the fake story has had a "personal" impact on him. "Jeez, people will believe anything," he said. "These days it's really dangerous on the Internet. These things go viral, and people don't see the correction and the mea culpa. You can't un-ring the bell."

In a statement, WBAL said it had learned that a "former" employee "posted a video regarding Fox News' John Gibson and Attorney General Eric Holder on his personal YouTube page without the prior knowledge or consent of anyone at WBAL-TV or Hearst-Argyle Television. . . . This video does not represent the views of WBAL-TV or Hearst-Argyle Television." YouTube has removed the clip.

In a telephone interview with, Sanders acknowledged doctoring the video. He said he had been watching Fox News and "I just kept hearing the words 'bright blue scrotum'; I thought that was hilarious." Sanders said he thought it would be funny to add that to Gibson's comments about Holder, "as long as I disclosed that he had not actually said it that way, which I did do. . . . I don't have anything against John or against Fox. . . . I just wanted to share that with a few friends," and "to the extent it became political, I would like to think that others made it political and not me."

The Huffington Post posted the doctored video last week without any disclaimer and without calling Gibson or Fox for comment. After the doctoring was revealed, the liberal Web site published an apology.

"My ire in this situation is directed at the Huffington Post," Gibson said. "I really think this would have been very easy to check. A kid made a mistake and did something goofy, fine. But these guys [at the Huffington Post] claim to be and are regarded by many as a legitimate news organization. It spoke to their bias against me that they went ahead with it."

The Huffington Post has 27 editorial staffers, including reporter Sam Stein, who was called on by President Obama at his first news conference. But much of the site's content consists of links to stories and videos carried elsewhere and blogs contributed by unpaid outsiders.

Huffington Post spokesman Mario Ruiz said last night: "We found the story on TVNewser, a credible Web site which we often link to. As soon as we found that it was inaccurate, we immediately corrected the story and issued an apology."

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