After failing to find photos sufficiently terrifying enough to support its fearmongering narrative about ongoing protests, Fox News apparently made its own.
On Friday, the outlet published images of a demonstration in Seattle on its homepage that had been digitally altered to make activists protesting police brutality in the wake of George Floyd’s death appear more menacing and violent. After the Seattle Times called them out for this flagrant violation of ethical news standards, Fox News quietly took the images down.
The manipulated images accompanied Fox News’ coverage of the so-called Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone, a police-free, six-block stretch of Seattle that was claimed by protestors this week. Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan ordered police to abandon the precinct on Monday after frequent clashes with activists, and it’s since become an unconventional experiment in self-government. The occupation’s remained largely peaceful thus far with activists gathering regularly for movie nights, political speeches, and concerts there.
But you wouldn’t guess that from how the right-wing media talks about it. Critics have been spinning unsubstantiated tales about the GOP’s favorite boogeyman, antifa, leading coordinated and violent attacks to seize the city by force.
There’s one problem with that explanation, though. In addition to the glaring issue that antifa isn’t a unified organization but rather a shared ideology of anti-fascism and therefore likely couldn’t organize such an expansive endeavor, city officials have said they’ve had zero interaction with antifa throughout all this.
“It’s not an armed takeover,” Durkan said on CNN Thursday night. “It’s not a military junta.”
But when has something as trivial as the truth ever stopped President Donald Trump? This week, the president seemingly seized on this misleading coverage from conservative news outlets and tweeted: “Domestic Terrorists have taken over Seattle, run by Radical Left Democrats, of course. LAW & ORDER!”
Among the doctored images previously on Fox News’ homepage, one is a composite of two different Getty Images photos where a man armed with an assault rifle has been photoshopped to appear as if he’s standing in front of sign at the autonomous zone that reads “You are now entering Free Cap Hill.” That same man was also spliced into a mash-up of several Getty Images photos taken on May 30, before the occupation began, of shattered storefronts and other protests in the city.
Additionally, Fox’s site ran an image of a city block on fire above the headline “CRAZY TOWN” and a package of stories about Seattle’s protests. In reality, the photo was taken in St. Paul, Minnesota, last month. As you may have already guessed, Fox News displayed zero disclaimers indicating that these images had been manipulated or depicted events other than protests in Seattle this week.
After taking down the edited photos, Fox News told the Seattle Times in a statement: “We have replaced our photo illustration with the clearly delineated images of a gunman and a shattered storefront, both of which were taken this week in Seattle’s autonomous zone.”
Which is still a load of crap, of course, given that the shattered storefront photos were neither taken this week nor in the autonomous zone. And the sole reason they weren’t “clearly delineated” before was by design; it’s not as if photos can accidentally splice themselves together.
Per the Washington Post, Fox News has also added an editor’s notes to three online articles in reference to the deceptive material:
“A FoxNews.com home page photo collage which originally accompanied this story included multiple scenes from Seattle’s ‘Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone’ and of wreckage following recent riots. The collage did not clearly delineate between these images, and has since been replaced. In addition, a recent slide show depicting scenes from Seattle mistakenly included a picture from St. Paul, Minnesota. Fox News regrets these errors.”
Which you can read as: Fox News regrets that these errors were so painfully obvious and will hire someone with better Photoshop skills the next time they want to whip their support base into a liberal-hating frenzy.
This wasn’t the outlet’s only embarrassing incident this week either. On Friday, a Fox News reporter cited a Reddit post on-air describing infighting among Seattle’s protestors that, in actuality, was a joke lifted nearly verbatim from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. In related news, activists in the autonomous zone were heard shouting “Help! Help! I’m being repressed!”