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The Scoop - Treat politicians like journalists
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America's news media is driven by a desire to get the facts straight. If only our elected officials were held to the same standards.

I say this after ABC News suspended national correspondent Matt Gutman on Wednesday after Gutman inaccurately reported on air that Kobe Bryant and his four daughters were killed in a Sunday helicopter crash.

It’s a terrible mistake, no doubt, and I watched a later report on the crash Sunday afternoon where Gutman apologized several times on air for conveying wrong information. 

Said Gutman, “We are in the business of holding people accountable. And I hold myself accountable for a terrible mistake, which I deeply regret. I want to personally apologize to the Bryant family for this wrenching loss and any additional anguish my report caused.”

In a statement, ABC said, “Reporting the facts accurately is the cornerstone of our journalism. As he acknowledged on Sunday, Matt Gutman’s initial reporting was not accurate and failed to meet our editorial standards.”

I agree with Gutman’s suspension because I fully realize any news organization is only as strong as the accuracy of its reporting. It appears he fell into the trap of trying to be first, instead of trying -- above all else -- to be correct.

But what’s also crucial to note in this situation is Gutman was quick to correct his information as soon as he realized it was wrong. This is something all legitimate news organizations do. We correct and clarify statements which are misleading.

What I’m left wondering is why our elected officials, the leaders of our nation, are not held to the same accountability standards. The news media gets gutted when we make every attempt to correct our mistakes, while politicians are left to spew lie after lie with no repercussions.

Example A is President Trump, who the Washington Post determined on Jan. 20 to have made 16,200 false or misleading claims during his presidency – with no clarifications.

To break that figure down, Mr. Trump averaged six misleading claims a day in 2017, nearly 16 a day in 2018, and more than 22 a day in 2019.

As difficult as that is to comprehend, Mr. Trump’s followers love him. I even heard one local Trump fan say the president’s lies are not the least bit concerning to him because his policies are so beneficial.

Umm, OK.

Not to pick on Mr. Trump, politicians on both sides of the aisle are guilty. I found it humorous to read a breakdown in The New York Times after each Democratic debate. The analysis would determine which statements were mostly true, exaggerated or misleading.

So many of the statements by so many of the candidates fell into the exaggerated or misleading category.

The obvious moral of this story is politicians should be held to the same standards as journalists. Every time they offer misleading information, suspend them. But then who would run the country?

Standard editor James Clark can be reached at 473-2191.