Anybody crying over an elected prosecutor getting bad press? One person is, and that’s the prosecutor. Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby.
@FOXBaltimore’s blatantly slanted,dishonest,misleading,racist, and extremely dangerous coverage must come to end. Last year, they ran 248 stories about me and and my office, while WJZ ran 46, WBAL ran 26 and WMAR ran 10 during that year.
The number of stories, of course, have nothing to do with anything, although spewing numbers without substance has become a commonplace argument to show disproportion, as if that, in itself, means anything. And to be fair, Mosby, another prosecutor who has reinvented herself to play to the progressive prosecutor crowd, wasn’t likely to get a good reception from WBFF, the Sinclair-owned Fox-affiliated TV station in Baltimore. So what?
The Baltimore State’s Attorney’s Office says it filed a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission on Wednesday requesting an investigation of WBFF, the Sinclair-owned Fox-affiliated TV station in Baltimore.
The letter of complaint written by Zy Richardson, communications director, alleges a pattern of coverage of the state’s attorney’s office that is “blatantly slanted, dishonest, misleading, racist, and extremely dangerous.” It further charges that the station has engaged in what “appears to be an intentional crusade” against Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby, “which given today’s politically charged and divisive environment, is extremely dangerous.”
That Fox Baltimore doesn’t like the way Mosby is doing her job is remarkably unsurprising. Some might argue that the media should have been a lot less adoring of prosecutors for a very long time, critical of their actions, their policies and their exercise of discretion, and we would have all been better off. But that’s not the point. The point is that the media, whether in the name of “moral clarity” to favor their tribe’s elected progressive prosecutor, or antagonistic toward the prosecutor, is under no duty to provide news coverage that pleases, or at least doesn’t offend, the prosecutor. Even when the prosecutor pretends to be progressive.
Using the office of state’s attorney to file a complaint with the FCC is a new approach to silencing bad press.
The complaint alleges a “dangerous pattern” to WBFF’s coverage of the state’s attorney’s office and Mosby, “beginning with a slanted, rigged, misleading or inflammatory headline … followed by a conspiracy theory . . . and supported with guest commentary from disgruntled ex-employees or political opponents that lend false credibility to the biased coverage or omission of facts.”
“While the frequency of the coverage in question by WBFF would give any reasonable person pause, it is the tone of coverage that violates FCC rules,” the complaint says. “The coverage by WBFF represents acts that are not merely against the public interest; they also represent acts that are inflammatory against the public safety of an elected official.”
Stringing adjectives together no more makes her case than does her “frequency of coverage” argument, which only gives pause to a reasonable person about the vacuous nature of the complaint. So what exactly is the substance of this “slanted, rigged” reporting that hurts Mosby so dearly?
The complaint includes links to six WBFF reports that it cites as evidence for its allegations about animus toward Mosby. They mostly question her competence and integrity, as shown by the headlines from the two most recent in April: “Rollout of new policies by Mosby needed more collaboration, experts say” and “Marilyn Mosby claims 93% conviction rate – here are the cases she doesn’t count.”
The two articles are certainly unflattering, but hardly unusual, and clearly within the ordinary bounds of reporting and commentary. Indeed, the first, about Mosby’s new policy of not prosecuting “low level” crimes that have been established by the legislature but fail to meet her approval is a highly controversial and newsworthy issue. Any media outlet would be remiss not to report it.
That Fox Baltimore presents quotes from people challenging Mosby’s move, questioning her execution, seems entirely normal. As for her conviction rate, the short article is utterly banal. If she wants to hold a press conference about how great she’s doing, is she shocked that the media questions it? These are, to be blunt, pretty pedestrian stories about an elected official, a prosecutor, even if they’re not the stories that the prosecutor wants the media to publish. So she grieves them as rigged for not loving her enough?
The complaint alleges that in 2020, WBFF “deliberately broadcast the home address” of Mosby and made a “formal inquiry attempting to find out the schools” her children attended.
Those actions “rise beyond mere professional irresponsibility and become what can reasonably be deemed malicious, against the public interest, and a pointed threat to the State’s Attorney’s life and that of her family,” the complaint says.
While I’m of the view that the home and family of elected officials should be off-limits, whether it’s Mosby or city council members in Portland, and that it is irresponsible and potentially threatening, it is neither unlawful to do so nor an unusual choice for the media of either stripe. Some would very well argue that knowing such information is very much in the public interest, as elected officials should not be immune from public pressure in the performance of their duties. As to her children’s schools, it’s unclear whether this was relevant to whether they attend public schools or private, or this was intended to be used in a fashion that might serve to have crazies attack her children. If the latter, that’s deeply disturbing.
There are no doubt plenty of folks who abhor Sinclair’s and Fox’s news coverage, just as some people don’t think Joy Reid is particularly smart and honest, and they are entitled to be as critical as they want to be, including filing FCC complaints against them if that’s their choice. But when an elected official, a prosecutor no less, grieves to the FCC because of critical media coverage, a line is crossed that the First Amendment prohibits. Marilyn Mosby may well believe that WBFF is obsessed with her and wrong in its criticism. Tough nuggies. That’s part of the job when you get elected State’s Attorney. Even if you want to play progressive prosecutor on TV.