Public affairs strategist and all-star panelist Clint Brewer joined The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. – Friday morning on the newsmakers line.
During the second hour, Brewer and Leahy discussed the “edge” put on a current New York Times article and how it may be twisting facts to readers. Brewer added that he felt especially now with the coronavirus looming how important it was for the media and people on social media to be very careful with their language.
Leahy: So you were talking earlier Clint about the news. You are a news guy. You’ve got a great background in news. You were a political editor for The Tennessean and the only conservative in the history of The Tennessean. (Laughs)
Brewer: Yes. Probably.
Leahy: Then managing editor of The City Paper here in Nashville. We were talking about news and what you believe and what you don’t believe. There’s a story in The Epoch Times. At Epochtimes.com about Beijing’s claim of no new infections contradicting the reality on the ground.
I sent you a copy of that. Now, The Epoch Times is a conservative outfit, but they are funded by a very successful guy with sort of the group that the communist party in China hates the Falun Gong movement. I don’t know all the details there.
Leahy: They don’t like the Chinese Communist Party. Here’s what they say. Chinese citizens report long lines outside of hospitals and new makeshift hospitals and forced quarantines. What are we to believe with what’s going on in China?
Brewer: Well I mean regardless of what you think of this source you can also look at the fact that China kicked out I believe it was The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post.
It does appear if you try to triangulate all these plats and sources and anecdotes that the Chinese government isn’t being particularly transparent with the rest of the world about what’s going on there. If you are going to pick out the three largest newspapers in the United States I’m not sure what that says about what you’re willing to share with the rest of the world.
Leahy: The other thing about news and reporting is that I notice these things Clint because they are different. The way they are reported by the mainstream media is different than the way I see things. You’ve followed this report that broke open I guess on Monday.
I think it was first on Tucker Carlson about a guy from Stanford University who was promoting the use of an anti-malaria drug called chloroquine. Which has been around for 50 years and been approved for use treating malaria for a long time by the FDA. He claimed, and I think it’s true.
I don’t know for a fact. A study of 40 coronavirus victims in France showed that the use of chloroquine resulted in 100% cure rates. Now President Trump went in and said OK we’re going to do this right away and go to FDA trials of this.
If you have coronavirus and you’re in the hospital you can participate in the study. So here’s how The New York Times reported it. (Chuckles) With minimal evidence, Trump asks FDA to study malaria drugs for coronavirus. Now that’s not inaccurate.
Brewer: It’s not inaccurate but it has got a little edge to it. I think we talked about this when I was on last time. People on the left and people on the right in the media need to lose that edge when they are addressing this issue.
The use of language is so incredibly important right now. Not just for the press but for our leaders including the president. Even for the average person on social media. People are on edge. They are worried. They are worried about their businesses.
Their families. Their friends. Their own health. And they are just grasping at anything that can give them some hope. And some of them are looking for things to get upset further about.
Leahy: Yeah. I’m with you on that.
Brewer: Yeah. People need to be careful about how they talk about things. Whether it’s President Trump or a reporter and editor at The New York Times or even your grandmother on Facebook.
Leahy: Clint, if I were an editor at the New York Times, which will never happen by the way. (Laughs) They are not calling me up and saying, Leahy, we’ve got to have you as an editor here at The New York Times. But if I were an editor at The New York Times and saw that story here’s the headline I would have written. I would have simply gotten rid of what I would call the clause at the beginning of that which is editorial. I would have simply said, “Trump Asks FDA to Study Malaria Drugs for Coronavirus.”
That’s also accurate. They added at the beginning three words at the beginning that had an impact. “With minimal evidence,” In other words, Trump, bad man orange, the moron, with minimal evidence asks the FDA to study malaria drugs for coronavirus.
Brewer: I haven’t read the story. I’m looking at it and thinking OK what’s the next level of context there? Is it that the administration’s leaving no stone unturned and even an anecdotal study of a small sample in a European country is being considered as a possible cure? Are there other things like this that you are considering that you’ve heard of from our allies?
What is that next level of context? I think the rush to publish online that lobs people. I’ll give you another example. There is a very successful gentleman, I don’t want to get into media-bashing here necessarily, but I think a lot of great reporting has been done on the virus but CNBC put an incredibly successful man on the air named Bill Ackerman who is a billionaire and the head of Persian Capitol.
This was several days ago, and he started sounding the alarm bell for a global great depression. And I haven’t seen that anywhere else. And I haven’t seen it picked up anywhere else. Again, people need to be very careful about how they say things. What they say.
And our media outlets need to be very careful about who they are putting on the air. And what they are going to say. And how qualified are they to say it. Obviously this man is qualified to talk about the global economy.
But when you are not hearing that anywhere else and you are not hearing it from our governments it may be too much. And consider your source. And considering the context is very important right now.
Leahy: So this New York Times article by Denise Grady and Katie Thompson. It says with minimal evidence, Trump asks FDA to study malaria drugs for coronavirus. The subtitle of that article is, the president cites,”tremendous promise for existing drugs, but their use against the new virus is unproven.” So that’s the sub-headline.
I’ll read the first two paragraphs, President Trump on Thursday exaggerated the potential of drugs available to treat the coronavirus including and decades-old malaria remedies that hint of promise but so far show limited evidence of healing the sick.
Well, again we’re talking about spin city with that it seems to me. There is one study of 40 people in France that showed a 100% success rate in treating it. Now that’s one study. Is it real? I don’t know. Again to your point, they are really twisting that story it seems to me.
Brewer: They’re using the president’s own worst tendencies against him right? We all know he doesn’t speak in enough specifics (Leahy laughs) with this or anything else. He’s a very broad communicator. He doesn’t drill down to any substance. It’s just his style.
There is nothing that’s going to be done about it. I think it behooves everyone in the situation from the national press to the White House. Everybody needs to be much more careful with their language.
Listen to the second hour:
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