Mistakes can and do happen, in all fields and by all people. As you may have read in the previous “Fact Check Yourself,” many times these mistakes can be made due to pure miscommunication. Occasionally, this does happen, and while it could be something that’s easily correctable, it could also potentially change the public’s viewpoint in a possibly disastrous way. This counts for both stories and current events, and guests who appear on programs.
Take, for instance, the appearance of Guy Goma on BBC News.
Goma was at the BBC for a job interview in their IT department, but due to a mix-up in a waiting room, a producer who was tasked with finding a “Guy Kewney” who was scheduled to appear for a live interview accidentally found Guy Goma instead, and the rest is history.
But what happens when guests who are scheduled to appear aren’t who they even claimed to be to station staff?
In July 2005, comedian Sacha Baron Cohen was traveling across America as his character ‘Borat Sagdiyev’ while filming the movie “Borat.” At one point, he visits WAPT, the ABC affiliate in Jackson, Mississippi, for a live interview on a news broadcast. Predictably, the interview doesn’t work out, and nobody besides Borat’s own film crew is in on the prank.
Despite the scene being humorous, it unfortunately resulted in the producer being let go from the station. She later stated that after this incident occurred (in which Cohen was actually booked under his fake name ‘Borat Sagdiyev’), her boss lost faith in her abilities as a producer. One should note that Sacha Baron Cohen and his ‘Borat’ character were not unknown in 2005. He had already played the character on an HBO series which had already aired several years prior, and an internet search would have provided anyone at the time with information about him and his previous shows in the US and UK.
More recently, Fox News ran a story on the October 8th edition of America’s News HQ in which reporter Bryan Llenas interviewed 72-year-old John Garofalo, a New York glassmaker and, according to Garofalo, a highly decorated Vietnam War veteran who served with the U.S. Navy SEALs and earned dozens of medals for his service. The story was one of him being a hero veteran and a small business owner praising President Trump and creating a large custom-made presidential seal. The story seemed to be a hit, with America’s News HQ anchor Eric Shawn declaring “God Bless John Garofalo.”
Garofalo is a glassmaker and he was in the military at one point in his life. But he was sent to Spain, not Vietnam. He was never a SEAL, nor did he earn any of the medals that he showed off to the Fox News crew. According to the Military Times, several of Garofalo’s family members as well as real former SEALs had contacted Fox News after they learned about this segment. It took Fox several days to retract the story from their website and social media pages, and it took over a week issue an apology, in which the now less-than-enthused reporter Brian Llenas admitted that he should have done more to verify Garofalo’s background.
Fox News has also had problems in the past with guests who have questionable backgrounds, or who knowingly lie, and too often they seem to easily get on the air. Max Rice, a stand-up comic and Columbia College student once managed to get on Fox & Friends, where he was presented as a college graduate and former Obama voter who decided to vote for Mitt Romney in 2012. He quickly derailed the interview with Gretchen Carlson into an awkward mess, with Carlson’s demeanor going from being enthusiastic to frustrated with him in about a minute.
When asked by Steve Karras of the Huffington Post if Fox needs improvements in their fact checking, Rice brought up the fact that they had over a week to learn who he really was, that real information about him could have been easily found during a Google search, and that even after seeing his high school commencement video from 2010, they didn’t seem to realize that he was a few years younger than he claimed to be and wouldn’t have been of eligible voting age to have voted for Obama in 2008 to begin with.
Overall, this is why it is of utmost importance to ensure that all guests who appear on any type of program are researched before the interview takes place. It leads to an obvious waste of time and resources, and it also does not look good for the image of any media outlet. But what happens when there’s an outright “fake guest” appearing, with obviously false credentials that not only get overlooked, but possibly invented by the interviewer and staff themselves? Read the next “Fact Check Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself” for more!