This morning I spotted a Facebook post about a woman in labor who had to wait to cross the street until President Barack Obama’s Los Angeles motorcade passed. Noting that it was first reported in The Blaze, an ultra-right wing website owned by professional Obama hater Glenn Beck, and that the entire story was based on one “eyewitness” source who had no direct knowledge of the woman or her medical situation, I dismissed it as shoddy yellow journalism.
But I was surprised to see many Facebookers vehemently defending the piece and the larger meme that President Obama himself had personally forced this woman to endure active labor on a bus bench while he pranced around L.A. doing fundraisers.
So I did a little Googling. Even though the story is comprised of questionable facts and shoddy reporting, it blazed its way into the zeitgeist in a matter of hours, being reprinted or quoted in over 161,000 Google hits in less than a day. Here are just a few of the hate-filled headlines that this little non-story was reprinted under:
SHAMEFUL: Obama Motorcade Traps Woman in Labor
Fundraiser-In-Chief’s Approaching Motorcade Denies Pregnant L.A. Woman in Labor ‘Reproductive Health’
King Obama’s Motorcade Prevents Pregnant Los Angeles Woman From Accessing Hospital
Selfish, It’s All About Me Obama (Motorcade) Traps Pregnant Woman In Labor, Prevents Her From Crossing Street To Hospital
Obama Denies Woman Reproductive Rights
Now, here are the actual facts:
- A pregnant woman was seen sitting on a bus bench across from Cedars-Sinai Medical Center at the same time that the road was taped off in anticipation of the president’s motorcade.
- No one directly interviewed her or got her name.
- In the photos and the 14-second cell phone video of the incident, she does not appear in distress or even in labor. She sits calmly throughout.
- There were hospital employees in scrubs also standing at the bus stop. None seemed concerned about the woman’s situation. If she were in active labor or distress, we can presume that people would have been attending to her.
- A police spokesman later told reporters that the original news story was vastly sensationalized. "First of all, she was not in need of any immediate medical attention," said LAPD Spokesman Bruce Borihanh, adding that the woman told police officers she didn't need to immediately get to the hospital and was fine with waiting. "We called an ambulance anyway just in case she was giving birth," Borihanh said. "By the time the ambulance got there, she was already in the hospital."
- The woman later gave birth to her child in the hospital and everything was fine.
So a questionable news report that would be a non-story for any other president, creates a public firestorm of outrage that feeds the unhinged right-wing narrative that President Obama is an uncaring, woman-hating, hypocritical, self-absorbed, imperial “king” who tortures the masses while he shakes the pockets of fat-cat donors.
It’s a great story. It’s also a fictional one.
But as Winston Churchill famously observed, “A lie gets half way around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.”
In 2014 America, a spiteful meme gets half way around the internet before anyone questions the facts.