Fox News Can’t Stop Running Faked Images of Seattle’s Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone

The network’s website and hosts have been using doctored photos and mislabeled footage to get conservative viewers fired up about CHAZ

The takeover of Seattle’s East Precinct has, not surprisingly, been a Fox News obsession. Ever since activists set up their Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone, the network has devoted countless hours of coverage to the “insurrection,” depicting the protestors as a rabid horde of mad looters. But when protestors didn’t seem angry or scary enough, the fear merchants at Fox used doctored photos and videos to make it seem like the “CHAZ” section of Seattle has turned into something out of Mad Max.

As the Seattle Times reports, the faked imagery first popped up on Friday, June 12, when Fox ran a photo of the scene in Seattle that was doctored to include a man in military body armor, tactical glasses, and a green face mask, cradling an AR-15 assault rifle.

The rifle-wielding man was photographed in the protest zone on June 10, but Fox ran a version with the gunman Photoshopped into another picture, taken May 30, of a smashed storefront in downtown Seattle. The photo was also altered to make it appear as if the rifleman was guarding a CHAZ entry point in front of a sign reading, “YOU ARE NOW ENTERING FREE CAP HILL,” which, of course, was not the case. Another story on the Seattle protests, titled “CRAZY TOWN,” was illustrated with a photo of a man running through a burning urban area. That photo, however, was taken in Saint Paul, Minnesota, not in Seattle.

When David Ryder—who took the original photo of the gun-touting man—saw the subject of his original photo placed in new surroundings he told the Seattle Times, “It is definitely Photoshopped. To use a photo out of context in a journalistic setting like that seems unethical.”

“I think it’s disgraceful propaganda and terribly misrepresentative of documentary journalism in times like this, when truth-telling and accountability is so important,” said Kenny Irby, a photojournalism ethics educator and consultant. “There is no attribution. There is no acknowledgment of the montage, and it’s terribly misleading.”

After it was caught, Fox removed some of the offending photos and issued an apology of sorts on Sunday, saying, “We have replaced our photo illustration with the clearly delineated images of a gunman and a shattered storefront, both of which were taken this week in Seattle’s autonomous zone.” Even the apology isn’t quite accurate, since the gunman’s photo was taken June 10 and he is superimposed into photos taken in late May.

Still, the boldest of Fox’s chatterboxes seemingly didn’t see the apology or didn’t much care. On Monday, June 15, Sean Hannity doubled down on the phony journalism.

As the Washington Post reports, while showing video clips of riots from May 27 and May 28 in Minneapolis—where George Floyd was killed by a cop on May 25—Hannity announced, “Protests continuing across the country. Anarchy, lawlessness reign supreme in Seattle. The police precinct there has been abandoned by city officials. Another precinct in Minneapolis was burned to the ground just a few weeks ago in riots that had nothing to do with the honor or memory of George Floyd.”

Tucker Carlson was also partial to the May 27-28 Minneapolis videos, which he was still playing on his show three weeks later. “We’re about to bring you what has become unfortunately a nightly update on the descent of our nation into chaos and craziness. A lot of craziness…There’s that much going on right now,” Carlson said while showing scenes that had taken places nearly two weeks earlier, and nowhere near Seattle.

Fox’s Laura Ingraham also chimed in, saying, “The Democrats who tolerated and indeed fomented this violence? We need to teach them a lesson so vivid that they will finally gain the courage to take back their party from the radicals who now dominate it.”

A Fox News rep sent Los Angeles an editor’s note released Saturday, reading, “A home page photo collage which originally accompanied this story included multiple scenes from Seattle’s ‘Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone’ and of wreckage following recent riots. The collage did not clearly delineate between these images, and has since been replaced. In addition, a recent slideshow depicting scenes from Seattle mistakenly included a picture from St. Paul, Minnesota. Fox News regrets these errors.”

The correction appeared on the website, but the error was not acknowledged on air, where hosts frequently accuse other outlets of trafficking in “fake news.” Viewers are unbothered, presumably. A lawyer for Fox News recently argued that people who watch Carlson’s show don’t expect to be presented with actual factual news. “What we’re talking about here, it’s not the front page of the New York Times,” the lawyer said. “It’s Tucker Carlson Tonight, which is a commentary show.”

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