Phony video post has coach in crosshairs

Leach under fire for "fake news" social media tweet, an ominous reminder to check sources when posting



WSU Head Coach Mike Leach yells from the sideline during a game against Stanford in Martin Stadium on Oct. 31, 2017.

Editorial Board, The Daily Evergreen

WSU head football coach Mike Leach made a mistake this weekend — he didn’t check his source.

Leach sent out a tweet Sunday asking people to share their thoughts on a video of former President Barack Obama speaking in Brussels, Belgium, in 2014. The problem was the video was fake.

The phony video pieced together several different clips from Obama’s speeches to falsely portray him as insulting the intelligence of citizens.

Twitter users quickly realized that the video was fake and began spamming his feed with comments telling him the video had been doctored.

“This video is a hoax. This was given and selectively clipped from a speech to the [European Union] in Brussels. Be better than this,” one user commented.
In response Leach tweeted, “Prove it. Irrelevant anyway. We are discussing ideas. Do one or the other.”

Leach reacted to a number of tweets that questioned the validity of the clip and even retweeted ones that showed support of his original tweet that was aimed at starting a conversation — and it certainly did.

But by Monday morning the tweet had disappeared from his account as Leach realized the mistake he had made.

Leach failed to investigate who had created the video to determine its validity. As a news organization, we know how important verifying information is to properly providing the public with a fair, accurate and unbiased representation of the issues that are affecting their everyday lives.

We, as well as other media outlets across the world, have seen a recent surge in accusations that we are spreading misinformation or as some have coined it “fake news.”

This issue has been brought to the forefront due in large part to people on the internet creating content that is inherently false and the public believing it is true.
Leach fell victim to this issue when he tweeted out the fake video.

In the past, Leach has criticized the media and the police for doing exactly what he did — spreading misinformation.

In 2016, Leach spoke out when several of his players were arrested and under investigation for incidents involving fighting and felonies including robbery and assault.

Leach accused the media and police of sharing information that distorted the facts and condemned his players before they had a chance to be proven guilty.

The tables were turned on Leach this week when used his own personal Twitter account to share a manufactured video that distorted facts.

Leach admitted that the video was incomplete in a tweet Monday morning and included a link to Obama’s full speech, but still wanted people to share their thoughts.

“I believe discussion on how much or how little power that our [government] should have is important,” part of Leach’s tweet read.

The university reacted to Leach’s tweet storm by releasing a statement that distanced themselves from his tweets and said his “political views do not necessarily reflect the views of Washington State University students, faculty and staff.”

Beth Hindman, an associate professor of media ethics and First Amendment law at WSU, said Leach is free to express his opinions on his Twitter account without repercussion from the university.

“Your status as a public or private person doesn’t distinguish whether or not you have free speech rights,” Hindman said. “[Leach] was absolutely within his first amendment rights to tweet that.”

Leach hasn’t shied away from expressing his political views either. In 2016, Leach spoke at a rally in Spokane for then-Presidential candidate Donald Trump and gave Trump his endorsement.

But the problem with Leach sharing the fake video doesn’t involve whether he can express his viewpoints or political beliefs, it’s about how he allowed his preconceived opinions to cloud his judgement.

This is called confirmation bias, which is the “tendency to search for or interpret information in a way that confirms one’s preconceptions,” according to ScienceDaily.

Leach did this by allowing his political views to affect the way he understood the video and led to him posting it without researching where the video came from.
As a society, this issue has caused the open discussion Leach asked for to nearly fade from existence.

Being media literate and investigating sources will help all of us understand facts from false information and lead to a more open dialogue.

Leach is just the latest example of someone being misled by people attempting to spread misinformation.

If there is one lesson we can all learn from this, it’s check your sources.