PBS Conflates Candace Owens with Extremists Who Committed Murder

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Cross posted to the MRC's NewsBusters blog

Friday's PBS NewsHour ran a report which provocatively conflated a recent video by conservative activist Candace Owens with a couple of members of an extremist group who murdered a law enforcement officer as examples of extremists who are utilizing Facebook for untoward purposes.

The report promoted efforts to encourage big corporations to stop buying advertising on Facebook to pressure the company into not giving support to extremists.

Anchor Judy Woodruff introduced the report by recalling that Facebook is "facing new pressure to change how it handles content" as some corporations have cut advertising on the site for the month of July.

Correspondent Stephanie Sy then opened her pre-recorded piece:

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STEPHANIE SY: While protesters were turning out in droves on streets across the United States to demonstrate against the police killing of George Floyd, a different movement was spreading on Facebook --

Then came a brief soundbite of Owens from a recent video in which, although it was not shown in the report, the conservative activist argued that, while she believes that Derek Chauvin should be prosecuted for his role in George Floyd's death, it is also wrong to laud Floyd as a role model given his long criminal history.

Owens also argued that there is not widespread discrimination against African Americans by law enforcement as journalists and other liberals commonly claim, and complained about the sometimes violent response by left-wing protesters.

Without playing anything beyond Owen's first three words from the video, Sy briefly recounted Owens's message and then immediately pivoted to an unrelated pair of extremists who committed a murder:

SY: -- one where a video by a right-wing activist saying racially motivated police brutality is not a real thing was racking up 92 million views, and one where like-minded extremists found each other before allegedly killing a federal protective service officer in Oakland, California. It's a flood of incidents like this that have sparked a coordinated effort to pressure Facebook to change what it allows on its platform.

Sy went on to show soundbites of Jonathan Greenblatt from the Anti-Defamation League promoting the group's campaign to get corporations to boycott Facebook.

The episode of PBS NewsHour was funded by Fidelity Investments, Consumer Cellular, Johnson & Johnson and Raymond James financial services firm. Their contact information is linked.

Below is a transcript of relevant portions of the Friday, July 3, PBS NewsHour:

JUDY WOODRUFF: And now to Facebook. The social media company is facing new pressure to change how it handles content on its platform. Stephanie Sy reports that major corporations have pledged to temporarily stop buying ads on the social media site for the month of July. With advertising making up 98 percent of Facebook's revenue, the company has seen its share value tumble in recent days. But it is not clear if that will lead to a change in policy.

STEPHANIE SY: While protesters were turning out in droves on streets across the United States to demonstrate against the police killing of George Floyd, a different movement was spreading on Facebook --

CANDACE OWENS, CONSERVATIVE ACTIVIST: Hello, Facebook family --

SY: -- one where a video by a right-wing activist saying racially motivated police brutality is not a real thing was racking up 92 million views, and one where like-minded extremists found each other before allegedly killing a federal protective service officer in Oakland, California. It's a flood of incidents like this that have sparked a coordinated effort to pressure Facebook to change what it allows on its platform.

JONATHAN GREENBLATT, ANTI=DEFAMATION LEAGUE: What we hope to do is expose the fact that extremists again have exploited the platform, and they simply haven't done enough to combat conspiracy theories, disinformation, racism, anti-Semitism, et cetera.

SY: Jonathan Greenblatt is the national director of the Anti-Defamation League. It's one of the groups behind the Stop Hate for Profit -- a campaign for companies to pull advertising dollars from Facebook.

GREENBLATT: So if Facebook hasn't listened to civil rights activists and hasn't listened to consumer advocates and hasn't listened to government regulators, we thought maybe they indeed would listen to their corporate advertisers.

SY: Hundreds of those advertisers have answered the call for an ad boycott, including big multinationals -- Starbucks, Coca Cola, and Unilever. Among other things, the campaign is demanding Facebook remove more hateful content from its platform, reign in the promotion of that content, and refund companies whose ads appear alongside it.

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