(NewsNation) — Journalism has been called the “first rough draft of history,” and that means sometimes reporting doesn’t age well. But it’s important to point out when the media gets things wrong and acknowledge where bias may have played a role.
Here are three stories from 2022 where some in the media jumped to conclusions:
The ‘Red Wave’ that wasn’t
In the lead-up to the 2022 midterms, most media outlets — right, left and center — were expecting a big win for Republicans. Pundits on both sides of the aisle predicted a “red wave” that would almost certainly deliver a strong GOP majority in the U.S. House and potentially flip control of the U.S. Senate.
For some, the “wave” analogy was too small to capture the scale of the Republican victory on the horizon. In October, the New York Post said the midterms were starting to look more like a “red tsunami.”
Much of the forecasting was grounded in historical precedent. The president’s party tends to do poorly in midterm elections. Add record-high gas prices plus skyrocketing inflation to the equation and you would be right to expect a sea change in Congress. But that’s not exactly what happened.
Republicans did manage to take control of the House, but by a much smaller margin than many expected. Democrats retained control of the Senate and even flipped a Pennsylvania seat held by retiring GOP Sen. Pat Toomey. Republican Senate candidates were unable to win in key battleground states like Arizona, Nevada and Georgia.
When the dust settled and all the votes were counted, it looked more like a red ripple than a red wave.
Alleged racism at BYU
In a statement posted to Twitter, 19-year-old Rachel Richardson, a Black volleyball player at Duke University, said she was “targeted and racially heckled” throughout “the entirety” of an Aug. 26 match at Brigham Young University (BYU).
The statement appeared to confirm allegations made the day before by Richardson’s godmother, Lesa Pamplin, who said the Duke sophomore was called a racial slur “every time she served” at the game in question.
Almost immediately, BYU Athletics posted a statement denouncing racism and said it had “banned a fan who was identified by Duke.”
While the university continued to investigate the incident, numerous mainstream media outlets presented the allegations as a matter of fact:
- ABC News: “Duke volleyball player subjected to racial slurs hopes for changes in college sports”
- CBS Sports: “Duke volleyball player who was called racial slurs by BYU fans during match says school mishandled incident”
- MSNBC (Opinion): “The racism on display at Brigham Young Friday fits a historical pattern”
- USA Today (Opinion): “In the BYU-Duke volleyball story, a racist, a plethora of failures, and a hero”
Questions started to arise after a conservative student newspaper at BYU spoke to several people who were in the student section at the match, none of whom corroborated Richardson’s claims.
After an “extensive review,” which included an analysis of all the video and audio evidence available, as well as outreach to more than 50 people who were at the game, BYU Athletics said it could not find evidence to support Richardson’s claims.
The university lifted the ban against the individual who had previously been identified.
Following the investigation, Pamplin — the first to draw attention to the story on Twitter — said the college’s findings had not changed her position on the matter. She did not attend the game.
Girl travels to Indiana for abortion
On July 1, the Indianapolis Star reported that a local obstetrician-gynecologist had received a call from a colleague about a 10-year-old girl in Ohio who was pregnant.
The girl — who was reportedly six weeks and three days pregnant — was no longer able to get an abortion in the Buckeye State due to a six-week ban that had just taken effect following the Dobbs Supreme Court decision. The 10-year-old went to Indiana to be treated by the OB-GYN, the Star reported.
The story was meant to highlight patients who were traveling to Indiana for abortion services due to restrictive laws in their own states but quickly drew national attention.
A week after the story broke, President Joe Biden referenced it at a news conference and said he couldn’t think of “anything more extreme” than forcing a 10-year-old to give birth to a rapist’s child.
Multiple right-leaning outlets cast doubt on the reporting. Those doubts appeared to be justified after Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost told Fox News he hadn’t heard “a whisper” from law enforcement in the state regarding an investigation into the rape of a 10-year-old.
But questions around the quality of the sourcing soon shifted to claims that the story was an outright lie.
- The Wall Street Journal (Opinion): “An Abortion Story Too Good to Confirm”
- NY Post (Opinion): “Activist tale of a 10-year-old rape victim’s abortion looks like a lie” (The headline has since been changed)
Less than two weeks after the initial report, 27-year-old Gerson Fuentes was arrested after Columbus police said he confessed to raping a 10-year-old girl. According to police, the girl’s mother reported the rape and pregnancy to local officials on June 22 and she did eventually travel to Indiana to get a legal abortion.
Ohio AG Yost later said he regretted the pain he caused and had “compassion and grief” for what the little girl went through.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.