MEMORY HOLE: CNN Falsely Accused Comedian David Letterman of Manipulative Editing
CNN claimed a yawning boy was digitally inserted into a video behind the President.
In March 2004, CNN falsely accused The Tonight Show with David Letterman of digitally altering video clips of a President George W. Bush speech in Orlando, Florida. The Letterman segment titled “George W. Bush Invigorating America’s Youth” showed clips of seventh-grader Tyler Crotty repeatedly yawning and checking his watch behind the President.
The segment was hilarious but perhaps too embarrassing for the White House. Even CNN had a laugh but after the commercial break CNN host Daryn Kagan came back to say that CNN was “told by the White House that the kid…was edited into the video.”
KAGAN: That video from David Letterman—We’re being told by the White House that the kid, as funny as he was, was edited into the video.”
Later, another CNN reporter Kyra Phillips again said that CNN was told that the video was altered.
PHILLIPS: Okay, we’re told that that kid was there at that event but not necessarily standing being the President, so you can put it all together.
“Let me put it all together for you,” Letterman replied, “that is an out-and-out absolute one hundred percent lie. That kid was exactly standing where we said he was.”
That night CNN phoned the Letterman show now claiming that the White House never called. However, the following night, Letterman said that according to a credible source, the White House had called CNN about the Letterman segment.
LETTERMAN: Today, ladies and gentlemen, I have from an undisputable source, a very very high placesd source that in fact the White House did call CNN…I’m telling you this stinks so high. They did call CNN and tried to muscle them into pulling the story, or making me look like a dope, or something went haywire, that’s all I can tell you right now.
CNN apologized to Letterman the next day, continuing to deny that the White House did not tell them it was fake, despite previously and repeatedly reporting that they had. (Emphasis added.)
KAGAN: We need to clear up something from a few days ago. You might recall that we had some fun with a tape that we took from the Letterman show. It’s of a kid who had trouble staying alert during a Presidential speech in Orlando last month.
So we aired it on this show, and then after we did, they had me come on here and tell you that the White House called and told us it was faked. Well, turns out due to a, what we might say, 'a misunderstanding’, among the folks that are usually so fantastic behind me in the newsroom. Turns out that was not true. The White House, turns out, I guess, never did call us about the tape.
The Letterman show if you’ve been watching at night, strongly denies it was fake—boy, do they strongly deny that—and we’ve been looking through our tapes, and apparently we now see no evidence that it was faked.
Who is the “they” that “had [Kagan] tell you that the White House called and told us it was faked”? What was the “misunderstanding”? How does one “misunderstand” that there is a call from the White House denying the reality of a videotape? In search of the answers, I emailed Kagan—now long retired from CNN—but I’ve received no response.
Even after the apology from CNN, Letterman continued to smell something fishy.
LETTERMAN: This whole thing just smells. Doesn’t it smell a little bit?. “I’m pretty sure that the White House contacted CNN. Here’s what I think. The White House contacted CNN because the people in Florida were upset because their big huge fat Republicans donors.
The Washington Post reported that the seventh grader’s father Richard Crotty was a “major Bush fundraiser” with close ties to the Bush family, “going way back with the Bushes,” he worked on Bush Sr.’s presidential campaign and was appointed county chairman by Gov. Jeb Bush in 2001. Not to mention, the White House assistant press secretary Reed Dickens was reportedly representing Crotty’s son as a press agent—the “go-to guy for anyone wanting to interview” the Crotty child.