On Sept. 11, 2002, WHBQ, the Fox affiliate in Memphis, marked the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks with an uplifting report on how assistance from the United States was helping to liberate the women of Afghanistan.
Tish Clark, a reporter for WHBQ, described how Afghan women, once barred from schools and jobs, were at last emerging from their burkas, taking up jobs as seamstresses and bakers, sending daughters off to new schools, receiving decent medical care for the first time and even participating in a fledgling democracy. Her segment included an interview with an Afghan teacher who recounted how the Taliban only allowed boys to attend school. An Afghan doctor described how the Taliban refused to let male physicians treat women.
All good so far!
In short, Ms. Clark's report seemed to corroborate, however modestly, a central argument of the Bush foreign policy, that forceful American intervention abroad was spreading freedom, improving lives and winning friends.
Hey, I don't agree with the administration, but good news is good news!
What the people of Memphis were not told, though, was that the interviews used by WHBQ were actually conducted by State Department contractors.
Uh ... what?
The contractors also selected the quotes used from those interviews and shot the video that went with the narration. They also wrote the narration, much of which Ms. Clark repeated with only minor changes.
Like swapping in "y'all" from time to time?
As it happens, the viewers of WHBQ were not the only ones in the dark. Ms. Clark, now Tish Clark Dunning, said in an interview that she, too, had no idea the report originated at the State Department. "If that's true, I'm very shocked that anyone would false report on anything like that," she said. …
[Insert stunned silence here.]
Kenneth W. Jobe, vice president for news at WHBQ in Memphis, said he could not explain how his station came to broadcast the State Department's segment on Afghan women. "It's the same piece, there's no mistaking it," he said in an interview, insisting that it would not happen again.
Mr. Jobe, who was not with WHBQ in 2002, said the station's script for the segment has no notes explaining its origin. But Tish Clark Dunning said it was her impression at the time that the Afghan segment was her station's version of one done first by network correspondents at either Fox News or CNN. It is not unusual, she said, for a local station to take network reports and then give them a hometown look.
OK, get ready for the money quote:
"I didn't actually go to Afghanistan," she said. "I took that story and reworked it. I had to do some research on my own. I remember looking on the Internet and finding out how it all started as far as women covering their faces and everything."
Sakes alive, it's like those people have all sorts of different customs! According to what I've uncovered online, they even speak a different language!!!
Is it any wonder a lot of people say they get their news from The Daily Show?