Our Horrible Media: Ma'Khia Bryant Edition

Matthew Hoy
By Matthew Hoy on April 21, 2021

Yesterday, right around the time the verdict came in the Minneapolis murder trial of former police officer Derrick Chauvin a police were called to an altercation in Columbus, Ohio. Shortly after arriving on the scene, the officer shot and killed 16-year-old Ma'Khia Bryant.

As has become the norm, social media accounts spurred a narrative that Bryant was yet another black victim of police violence citing Bryant's aunt and mother. The aunt, Hazel Bryant, alleged that Bryant herself had called police to the scene because "someone in her house was abusing her."

That initial Daily Beast article appeared to inform other reporting in the initial hours, and the claims of Bryant's family members were parroted without the slightest bit of skepticism or restraint. The victim's aunt told reporters that there was a knife "on the ground," but not that her niece was wielding it.

She went on to say that police saw a knife on the ground near Makiyah [sic] and shot the teenager four times.

This was not true.

It also seems unlikely that, contrary to the family's initial story, Ma'Khia was the one who made the phone call.

Our Horrible Media: Maintaining the Narrative

Columbus Police moved with alacrity not often seen to release the police officer's bodycam video of the shooting. Prior to showing the video, Interim Police Chief Michael Woods told reporters that a 911 call had been received and a caller reported that "females were trying to stab them."

That's the context for what occurs when the police officer arrives at the scene.

It's clear why Columbus PD were anxious to get the video out. The video puts the "victim's" family's claims to the lie. As you can see from the screenshot at the top of the page, the knife wasn't "on the ground" nearby; it was in her hand. In the brief few seconds after the officer arrived on the scene Ma'Khia attacks two people. As the officer fires, Ma'Khia is pressing a girl in pink against a car and she is attempting to stab the girl with what looks like a 4-6 inch knife.

Ma'Khia had a deadly weapon and a bystander, also a young, black girl, was moments away from being stabbed, perhaps fatally.

These are inconvenient facts for a media that is mainly interested in fomenting civic unrest for ratings and clicks.

Our Horrible Media: The U.S. Sun

The U.S. Sun, a version of the U.K. tabloid The Sun, has perhaps the most dishonest reporting on this case, and that's saying something.

The U.S. Sun story is similar to the British version, but has several notable differences and omissions that are designed to deceive and inflame.

The British Version:

The U.S. Version:

Neither are particularly good, or accurate. The British version needs no scare quotes around 'knife-wielding.' The U.S. version emphasizes the shooting and attempts to portray the fact that Ma'Khia had a knife as hearsay.

But here's the kicker: The U.S. version includes 21 images related to the story, including five screenshots from the cop's bodycam. None of the images included is the one at the top of this post clearly showing the knife. The British version includes 26 images, and does include one where the knife is clearly seen.

This is irresponsible journalism, but unsurprising. The reporter of the U.S. piece, Mollie Mansfield, graduated from an "accredited" journalism program at De Montfort University in England in 2017. She turns out an impressive amount of copy, but her work appears to be little more than re-writing viral stories for clicks.

Our Horrible Media: Huffington Post

This morning, The Huffington Post put out a short summary video on their Twitter feed.

The video is sufficiently deceptive to be credibly put in the "lie" category. Watch it yourself, but I want to focus on this text:

Ma'Khia Bryant

As if from the sky. Maybe the knife that fell "next to the teen" was carried by two African swallows carrying it on a string.

This video came out this morning. More than 12 hours after the Columbus PD released video footage and screenshots showing the mysterious knife in Ma'Khia's hand—an inconvenient fact for the preferred narrative. In fact, the short video never states that Ma'Khia had the knife in her hand. The video never mentions that Ma'Khia had knocked one girl down and was  inches from stabbing another girl when the police officer fired.

Huffington Post makes it seem like the cops showed up and shot her for no reason at all. The staffers given credit on the video, Producer Leah Mark and Editor Dana Cataldo, shouldn't be working in journalism. The dishonesty embedded in this video is what you'd expect in Chinese Communist Party propaganda, not people who style themselves "journalists" in America.

And don't think that just because I started with The U.S. Sun and The Huffington Post that I'm just picking the low-hanging fruit here.

Our Horrible Media: National Public Radio

Last night, several hours after the Columbus PD press conference, National Public Radio posted this Tweet promoting their story on the incident.

This went out hours after we knew that she was wielding a knife and the interim police chief had appeared to call into question the claim that Ma'Khia was the 911 caller.

The NPR story, like the Tweet, leads with the claim that Ma'Khia was the one who called 911. It should be clear that this is not confirmed. The only reason to lead with this line is to further the false narrative that if you're black and you call the cops, you take your life in your own hands.

When we finally get to talking about the bodycam video, we get an interesting characterization by the NPR reporters.

At a Tuesday night press conference, the Columbus Police Department released an edited version of the body camera video worn by the officer who shot Bryant. Police have not made public the name of that officer.

Edited? What nefarious editing has the Columbus PD done? Did they cut out the part with the sparrows dropping the knife from the sky as the Huffington Post suggested?

No. They blurred the faces of bystanders, including victims of the attack. That was the editing. They didn't cut anything out. They didn't splice anything in. They obscured the faces of bystanders and victims.

The obfuscation continues.

Body camera footage shows an officer getting out of his patrol car as he responds to a commotion on the driveway of a home.

As he approaches a group of people standing and shouting on the driveway, he asks, "What's going on?" Seconds later Bryant and another girl begin fighting in front of the officer.

Bryant can be seen pushing the girl to the ground. She then approaches a second girl and throws her against a car parked on the driveway. The officer shouts "Get down!" three times, pulls out his gun and shoots in Bryant's direction at least four times and she falls to the ground.

As the officer approaches her, a knife can be seen close to her.

The herculean efforts by NPR to never acknowledge what everyone saw—a knife in Ma'Khia's hand—is mind-blowing.

And then there's this note at the bottom of the NPR story.

This is a developing story. Some facts reported by the media may later turn out to be wrong. We will focus on reports from police officials and other authorities, credible news outlets and reporters who are at the scene, and we will update as the situation develops.

Of the "police officials and other authorities, credible news outlets and reporters who are at the scene" that NPR said they will rely on, which category does Ma'Khia's aunt fall under? The first three paragraphs of their story are all based on statements by Hazel Bryant who obviously has a vested interest in painting her niece in the best possible light.

Our Horrible Media: The Washington Post

More than 24 hours after an officer saved the life of an young black girl by shooting Ma'Khia Bryant, this is the lead photo package on The Washington Post homepage.

A video clip played in a news conference Tuesday showed the victim lunging toward two people before an officer fired four shots.

I feel like someone needs to do a deepfake of late comic Sam Kinison yelling: "WITH A KNIFE. A knife. Say it!"

The story itself isn't any better. Lead paragraph:

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Community members and local activists in Columbus, Ohio, challenged official accounts of the fatal police shooting of a Black teenager Tuesday afternoon, questioning why an officer used lethal force against a young girl.

A young girl? She was 16 years old! What comes into your mind when you hear "young girl." A 16-year-old who can legally drive a car?

I point this out because the Post story immediately below the main one is this one by Julianne McShane which makes a big production out of the contention that she should be considered a child and that this is evidence of something called "adultification bias."

[A] form of discrimination that uniquely plagues Black girls, leading them to be perceived by adults as less innocent and more adult-like than their White peers, according to a widely covered 2017 Georgetown study.

You'll forgive me if I'm skeptical of the Georgetown study. Call her a teenager if you like. Just don't do what McShane does in recounting the incident that led to Ma'Khia's death.

Body camera footage shown at a news conference on Tuesday night shows what happened when officers arrived on the scene: Ma’Khia appears to have lunged at another person before a police officer fired four times. A knife is visible next to her on the ground where she fell after being shot.

There's that knife again. Apparently dropped by the arms smuggling African swallows.

Back to the lead story. Three paragraphs in we get:

Police haven’t released full body camera footage of the incident — they say they need to blur juveniles’ faces before they do so — but a clip played in an news conference Tuesday showed the victim lunging toward two people in a driveway before an officer fired four shots. A knife is briefly visible in the victim’s hand and later in the driveway next to her as police perform CPR on her.

The second sentence is unnecessary. Just add "with a knife" after "two people" and before "in a driveway" in the first sentence.

I will applaud the Post for this:

Hazel Bryant, who said she was Ma’Khia Bryant’s aunt, told The Washington Post in a brief interview that “the body cam doesn’t show the truth of what occurred.” She said she didn’t personally witness the incident but arrived at the scene soon after. She described her niece as “so loving and kind."

Who are you going to believe? Her aunt who wasn't even there when it occurred, or your own lying eyes?

Further down in the Post story we get this curious additional description of the bodycam footage which appears might be a remnant of an earlier version of the story.

In the body-camera footage played by police Tuesday, an officer can be seen emerging from a vehicle as the victim appears to chase someone, who falls onto the sidewalk. The teen then turns toward someone else wearing a pink sweatsuit and takes a swing at her head. The officer fires four shots at the girl, leaving her sprawled next to a car in the driveway.

“She had a knife. She just ran at her,” one officer says on the footage.

No mention of a knife in the description of the video itself this time. Instead we're just given an officer's statement that could be seen as excuse-making.

Our Horrible Media: The New York Times

Of the horrible media reporting that I've recounted here today, The New York Times report is probably the least bad—but that's not good.

Ma'Khia Bryant

This isn't the first writeup of the shooting, but it is the first substantive one after the Columbus PD press conference that provided incontrovertible proof that Ma'Khia was armed, and attempting to stab people. I can live with the main headline. The subhead however, which is echoed in the lede, gives a misleading impression. There is a big difference between threatening someone with a knife, and lunging or slashing at someone with a knife. Ma'Khia did the latter.

Four paragraphs in, we get a more accurate account:

Officials said the video showed the teenager lunging at two other females with a knife as the officer arrived at the driveway of a residence. The officer then fired several times — four shots could be heard in the video — at the girl. She collapsed to the ground next to a car that had been parked in the driveway, where the body camera footage showed a knife on the ground.

Why is the "lunging" with a knife transformed into "threatened" in the deck and lede? There's a big difference between the two—brandishing vs. attempted murder.

Our Horrible Media: CBS News

I was going to wrap this up after the Times analysis. Then, more than 24 hours after the shooting, CBS News puts out this:

Ignorance is no longer an excuse. The mainstream media is pushing a dishonest, inaccurate, and destructive narrative. They want cities to burn. They want riots. They want more people to die, more businesses ruined and more manufactured racial animosity and strife.


[custom-twitter-feeds headertext="Hoystory On Twitter"]


April 2021



pencil linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram