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The Faux Fracas in Nevada: How a Reporter Manufactured a Riot

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Jon Ralston, the dean of political reporting in Nevada, has spread nothing less than a pack of lies about what went down at the state’s Democratic convention on Saturday. And the fact averse oligarchic national media has run completely riot with the provable falsehoods. No chairs were thrown at the convention Saturday. No death threats were made against the chair of the convention Roberta Lange. And Bernie Sanders delegates were not simply mad because their louder shouting was ignored.

Ralston has been the culprit behind each of these falsehoods; and the New York Times, CNN, MSNBC, and a dizzying array of other outlets have swallowed them whole then regurgitated them for their much more massive audiences.

While as late as 2012 Ralston could be counted on as someone with a known Liberal establishment bias who would nevertheless stand firm where it came to truth and journalistic integrity, his ethics began to slip in the years since. (And let’s be clear, refusing to write for an outlet anymore that pulled a column unfavorable to Harry Reid is honorable; waiting over two years to reveal that fact is a bit dastardly.)

Here are the details of the lies originating or spread by Ralston, followed by how they spread among the chattering elite who attempt to pass themselves off as unbiased media:

Ralston reported live from the convention for most of the day, but decided to leave before tensions boiled over. Nevertheless, it was taken as a simple fact that he had observed Sanders supporters throwing chairs when “Roberta’s Rules” were enforced with finality at the end of the proceedings. Ralston tweeted:

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As it turned out, Ralston finally admitted last night that he hadn’t seen this himself but was relying especially on local reporter Andrew Davey. Davey first said he had still frames showing the chair throwing which he would publish. He has not produced the stills in question, but did retweet a still image of a chair held high that was initially posted on Reddit. I spoke with the person who posted it to Reddit and confirmed that it was grabbed from the video now widely seen which shows that other Sanders supporters quickly took away the chair in question. I asked Davey by Twitter if he still had photos to publish, then criticized him for retweeting the Reddit image instead. He blocked me.

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In spite of the fact that the whole thing was filmed live from multiple angles, “the revolution will be periscoped” as Ralston snarked on Twitter, no one has any images or video of even a single chair, let alone chairs plural, being thrown.

Ralston was also the source of the claim that Roberta Lange received death threats, again plural. Ralston first reported that he had received audio and text of messages received by Lange after her phone number was posted online in the aftermath of Saturday’s mess. Ralston misreported the single instance that could be interpreted as a threat, however. The lede for his post on the matter simply stated: “One caller suggested she would be hung or burned.”  The problem? When Ralston got around to posting the actual message later in the day, the caller turned out not to have said she would be hung, but rather that she should be.

MALE CALLER: Hi Roberta Lange. This is a citizen of the United States of America and I just wanted to let you know that I think people like you should be hung in a public execution to show this world that we won’t stand for this sort of corruption. I don’t know what kind of money they are paying to you, but I don’t know how you sleep at night. You are a sick, twisted piece of shit and I hope you burn for this! You can return my call at 619-838-9222. I’d love to go into further detail with you about this, though I am sure you don’t have courage to do so. You cowardless bitch, running off the stage! I hope people find you.

Impolite. Wrong. Harassment, even if not criminal. And part of a 250 year tradition of overblown political rhetoric in the United States. Not a threat. No words at all implying that she will or “would be” killed as Ralston falsely reported.

Finally, Ralston was very aware of what the Sanders’ campaign’s complaints are. Bernie’s statement on this, in fact, comes closest of anything he’s said to acknowledging what his supporters are now convinced, with plenty of evidence, is a nation wide phenomenon: Sanders supporters are being flipped off the Democratic voting rolls against their will in order to disenfranchise their participation in closed primaries, caucuses, and conventions. Fifty-eight Sanders supporters were denied entry to the Nevada Convention and were told they weren’t Democrats. Other than the one guy who acknowledged he switched his registration on his own, this is ludicrous. Nevada had onsite registration for the original caucuses in February, and no one could participate in them unless they were registered as a Democrat.

Clinton had just thirty more delegates than Sanders in the final count. And while establishment Dems were challenging Sanders’ delegates credentials, Roberta Lange passed rules cutting out the county level convention results which were more favorable to Sanders.

Ralston wrote a post, even, acknowledging that this was the issue, but glossed over the fact that people would have had to be flipped off the rolls somehow in the last few weeks and that many have stated that they did not do so themselves. Then on Twitter, Ralston continued to insist that Sanders people were only mad that their louder shouting didn’t win the day:

And the Truth Averse Media has gone wild with Ralston’s first class lying. The New York Times ran with  “Thrown chairs” as it’s lede in an article headlined by the falsehood about death threats.

Rachel Maddow ran a deceptive clip on MSNBC saying chairs were thrown while reportedly showing footage of chairs thrown at a wrestling production. (I cannot find the original Maddow clip with this as of yet). People on social media then insisted that networks had shown actual footage of chairs thrown at the convention. Maddow retreated only a bit by having Ralston on to say that even though he had not seen the chairs thrown, other eyewitnesses have told him the video is wrong. CNN had Debbie Wasserman-Schultz on to denounce Bernie Bros throwing chairs at the stage.

And so on and so on and so on.

Hours and hours after the woman who took and posted the original video showing the raised chair has offered to talk to any media that will listen, none have. Sanders supporters have now promised to donate $100 to Clinton’s campaign or vote for her in California if anyone can produce video evidence of the phantom chair throwing.

It won’t happen.

And the murder of crows that pretends to be honest, unbiased journalists will continue on to the next trust-killing monstrosity.

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Doug Johnson Hatlem is best known for his work as a street pastor and advocate with Toronto’s homeless population from 2005-2013. He is now a film producer and free-lance writer based in Chicago.

CounterPunch Magazine

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