Kait8 anchorman Craig Rickert might want to do a better job with his fact checking before weighing in on something. On his facebook fan page, Mr. Rickert decided to weigh in on an article about one man’s response to the “You didn’t build that” line cherry picked from an Obama speech. Says Rickert:
Now of course, the line that Rickert is commenting on there has been greatly distorted by the Romney campaign and the Republican Party. That has been pointed out and ridiculed by everyone from John Stewart to even at least one person on Fox News. Rickert could have found that out quickly with a google search. This by the way is the full Obama quote:
“If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen. The Internet didn’t get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet.
“The point is, is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together. There are some things, just like fighting fires, we don’t do on our own. I mean, imagine if everybody had their own fire service. That would be a hard way to organize fighting fires.
It’s one thing for the Republican campaign and for Republican party bloggers and so on do this. It’s another thing altogether when a news anchor does it. The public counts on journalists to deliver them facts and solid information so that we in turn can make informed decisions and judgments. When one of them throws something out there like this that is so blatantly false it calls into question whether or not we can trust them as a source of reliable news.
Sadly, this doesn’t seem to be a simple mistake. Looking over Rickert’s page you can find links to at least five anti-Obama articles, three recent posts favoring Chick-Fil-A during the midst of the recent controversy surrounding the company’s anti-gay stance, two links he uses to push climate change denial (complete with an apparently obligatory “Al Gore is fat!” joke) and a number of other bits of right wing rhetoric. Some of his comments just make you raise an eyebrow, like where he says “Incredible video of a black girl beating up a white man. Is this a hate crime?” or where when commenting on a Mosque in France that had two pig heads hung outside it he remarks that “maybe they need razor wire around the mosque like the one here in JB.” Others though are far more blatant, like “I guess if Damien Echols can find a woman willing to marry him, so can this killer.” At another point he says “I have friends who live in AZ and they LOVE sheriff joe!” and links to the conspiracy theory site, World Net Daily’s, article pushing the Arizona sheriff’s birther investigation. He says at another point that advocates for women and girls worried that sexist stereotypes in toy designs could encourage eating disorders in young girls “Don’t have enough to complain about” and are “Looking to be offended”. Earlier, he had posted a picture of a bumper sticker that says “Work Harder: Millions On Welfare Depend On You”. He commented on an article about a girl who was told she couldn’t wear a rosary at a school in Nebraska by saying that “I bet if she wanted to wear a symbol of another religion it would not have been frowned upon. Just sayin’” (The article he linked to on that by the way said that local gangs were, sadly, using the rosary as a symbol, hence why the school had to ban them on campus.) The one that made the hair on my neck stand up though was where he weighed in on the Trayvon Martin shooting saying “This is why you don’t rush to judgement. The facts are just starting to come out.” The “facts” by the way was just something Zimmerman’s father, who wasn’t at the scene of the shooting, had said. Personally, I hope Craig uses more solid information than what someone who wasn’t at a crime scene said happened there when he’s reporting a local news story…Looking over the various threads, Rickert seems to reply to comments from time to time and often mixes it up a bit with readers, but he’s disturbingly silent in other cases as on this thread where commenters make outrageous statements like “the mayor must be gay if he is for gay marriage…no christian would view this as right” or when one lady refers to an apparently Jewish Chick-Fil-A employee who needed to observe the Sabbath on Saturday as “a select few with abnormal views.”
The public depends on journalists and news anchors to provide them with accurate, unbiased information. That’s something that’s vital to the functioning of a free society. This stuff crosses a line and calls into question whether Rickert can be trusted to have the journalistic integrity and capability to deliver the news to his viewers and whether or not Kait8 has the ethical and professional standards that should be expected of a serious news organization. If Rickert wants to put his opinion out there, that’s fine! He can become an opinion page writer or a partisan hack blogger like me, Jason Tolbert, and all the rest. But carrying the water for a political party or using his position as a journalist to advance factually inaccurate ideological memes, some of them quite extreme and offensive, is not appropriate or ethical behavior for a reporter. It seriously makes you wonder whether Rickert’s viewers can trust what he says when he delivers the news and, if Kait8 is allowing this stuff, if anything the station is reporting on can be relied on.