Secrets of the right-wing lie machine: How Rush Limbaugh and others distorted CNN's Ferguson scoop

It took only one guest to speculate a CNN recording was a hoax, and the right launched its master distortion plan

Published August 29, 2014 12:30PM (EDT)

  (Micah Walter / Reuters)
(Micah Walter / Reuters)

It seems the entire conservative universe has come to the conclusion that a recording released by CNN that claims to capture the sound of the gunshots that killed Michael Brown is a hoax.

This rush to judgment comes from the very same people who have decried what they claim has been a rush to judgment of the shooter, Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson. What is their evidence that the recording is a hoax? Well, it's two "experts" who haven't analyzed the audio who told a CNN morning show host that they have a feeling it might be a hoax.

And as usual, that was all the conservative media needed to start pushing half-truths and complete nonsense into the national conversation.

Once again, they seem completely wrong. Let's review how it all happened:

It starts when CNN's Michaela Pereira asks a former Los Angeles police officer named David Klinger whether the audio recording, on which 10 or 11 shots can be heard, was authentic.

"I have no idea," he replied. "I’ve told your producers that for all I know this is something that one of Howard Stern’s punk people have been doing … I don’t have a high degree of confidence in it ... I look at this and my first inclination is that someone is trying to punk CNN."

CNN law enforcement analyst Tom Fuentes appeared to agree.

"When I heard this yesterday I thought the exact same thing," Fuentes said. "It’s a hoax."

It's important to note that both men made it clear that they had no way of actually knowing if the recording is authentic or not. Both said it could well be authentic, but that they had no way to know. The FBI is analyzing the recording now, and has interviewed the man who made it. He has chosen to remain anonymous, but according to his attorney, Lopa Blumenthal, he inadvertently recorded the gunfire during a video chat session.

In reporting the existence of the recording, CNN was careful to say that they "cannot independently verify the authenticity of the tape." If the FBI verifies that the recording is authentic, it will be an important piece of evidence in reconstructing exactly what transpired on the afternoon that Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson shot and killed an unarmed Michael Brown. Particularly important: On the recording, a volley of five or six shots in quick succession can be heard, then a pause of three seconds, followed by another volley of four or five shots. The three-second pause could indicate Wilson had some time to think before firing the final shots, the last one believed to be the shot to the top of the head that killed Brown.

Despite the uncertainty, the conservative blogosphere quickly latched onto the comments of Klinger and Fuentes to cast doubt on the authenticity of the tape. On the Breitbart website Big Journalism, John Nolte chose to concern troll with a side of dog whistle under the headline "CNN NOW WORRIED FERGUSON SHOOTING AUDIO IS HOAX," though nobody at CNN has said any such thing.

"Even if the audio ends up being authentic, the fact that CNN is now concerned over its authenticity and laying the groundwork to claim they were always skeptical, tells you how irresponsible the network is," Nolte wrote.

The Daily Caller, meanwhile, distorted the story by completely ignoring the fact that both CNN experts said they had no way of knowing if the recording is authentic. They went with the misleading headline "CNN Guests Think Brown Shooting Audio Is a Hoax."

Hot Air not only claims that CNN has some sort of systemic problem with audio recordings, while calling this specific recording "suspect," but Noah Rothman helpfully explains that it may be due to the network's willingness to push dubious narratives in a cynical effort to boost ratings.

"CNN’s ratings have been phenomenal since the violence in Ferguson erupted, and the network has displayed a tendency in the past to latch onto any development no matter how dubious that keeps a ratings-grabbing story alive. The suspect audio supposedly of the moment when police shot and killed Brown may be another of these moments."

Rush Limbaugh not only casts doubt on CNN's credibility, he suggests the man who made the recording was inherently unreliable.

"So now [laughing] this is great, CNN. Here we've got a guy involved in a -- what do you call it, sexting?  Here's a guy involved in a sex chat, and he happens now to be a CNN source, so of course the first thing we have to do is say, "Hey, hey, nothing strange here.  A lot of red-blooded American men do this.  Ain't no big deal, audience.  So don't discredit our new source because you might think he is a reprobate.  No, no, no, no, no.  We even have some people at CNN that do this."

It was an ironic line of criticism to be sure, coming from a man detained at Customs over a jumbo-size bottle of Viagra after returning from a jaunt to the Dominican Republic.

And then Thursday evening came this news: Glide Technologies, the company that produces the app used to make the recording that is alleged to contain the sounds of the gunshots that killed Michael Brown has verified that the recording was made with the Glide smartphone video sharing app at the location and exact time Michael Brown was shot.

"A Glide user living nearby (whose identity is being protected) was simply using the Glide app on their smartphone exactly as it was designed – to instantly communicate with a friend through our real-time video texting service. Simultaneously, they also captured audio in the background of the gunshots allegedly fired at Michael Brown.

Because Glide is the only messaging application using streaming video technology, each message is simultaneously recorded and transmitted, so the exact time can be verified to the second. In this case, the video in question was created at 12:02:14 PM CDT on Saturday, August 9th."

It will be interesting to see how the wingnutosphere will react to the news that yet again one of their favorite pet claims seems to have been proven to be false. Conspiracy theories, anyone?

By John Avignone

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Breitbart Cnn Darren Wilson Ferguson Media Criticsm Michael Brown Rush Limbaugh