A screenshot of an altered photo shared by Fox News, which has since been removed from its website.

Fox News is taking heat after publishing a digitally altered image and a misleading photograph last week in its reporting on Seattle’s Black Lives Matter protests in Seattle, Washington.

Last Friday, Huffington Post reporter Michael Hobbes shared a set of pictures that shows Fox News clearly composited an image of a person carrying a rifle over two photographs of Seattle’s Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone (CHAZ). While the editing job is far from subtle if you look closely – note the lighting discrepancies between the backgrounds and the gun-wielding subject, as well as the extra area of red between his torso and left elbow – the fact the same individual was used in two separate images makes it clear this was a post-production job.

A Fox News spokesperson provided the following comment to Seattle Times:

‘We have replaced our photo illustration with the clearly delineated images of a gunman and a shattered storefront, both of which were taken this week in Seattle’s autonomous zone’

It appears that there are weapons in the autonomous zone, but as The Seattle Times notes, even Fox News’ follow-up statement is misleading, since the photo of the armed man was taken on June 10th in the Capitol Hill neighborhood while the wrecked storefront image was captured in downtown Seattle, back on May 30th, according to metadata provided by Getty Images.

Photojournalism ethics expert Kenny Irby told Seattle Times in response to the posting of the altered images, ‘I think it’s disgraceful propaganda and terribly misrepresentative of documentary journalism in times like this, when truth-telling and accountability is so important […] There is no attribution. There is no acknowledgment of the montage, and it’s terribly misleading.’ National Press Photographers Association (NPPA) executive director Akili-Casundria Ramsess also told The Seattle Times it was ‘completely egregious to manipulate this the way they have done.’

In a reply to Hobbe’s post on Twitter, Seattle Times Editor Gina Cole responded with a screenshot showing Fox News also shared an article under the headline ‘Seattle helpless as armed guards patrol anarchists’ ‘autonomous zone,’ shake down businesses: cops’ with a photo of an individual running through the streets with a burning car in the foreground and a burning storefront in the background.

However, the image Fox News featured with the article was taken not in Seattle this past week, but two weeks ago, 1,650 miles away in Minneapolis. It was taken by AP photographer John Minchillo, during the Black Lives Matter protests in Minnesota’s capital, as noted by Suki Dardarian, Senior Managing Editor & VP of Minnesota’s Star Tribune. Meanwhile, Seattle’s protests remains largely peaceful, and SPD has apologized for repeating the groundless claim that local businesses had been ‘shaken down’.

Note the creation date on AP Image’s website: May 30, 2020 05:13:07 PM

In response to the criticism, Fox News took down the images and shared the following statement on Saturday in the form of an Editor’s Note at the end of the article:

‘A FoxNews.com home page photo collage which originally accompanied this story included multiple scenes from Seattle’s ‘Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone’ and of wreckage following recent riots,” the note read. “The collage did not clearly delineate between these images, and has since been replaced. In addition, a recent slideshow depicting scenes from Seattle mistakenly included a picture from St. Paul. Fox News regrets these errors.’

This isn’t the first time Fox News has been caught altering images or sharing misleading images under unrelated headlines. But it’s not the only offender. CBS was caught this past April using video footage of an Italian hospital while reporting on the COVID-19 pandemic in New York City. CBS apologized at the time for what it called an ‘editing mistake’.

Editor’s note (June 15, 2020): A previous version of this article incorrectly stated it was CNN that was caught using incorrect video footage in April — it was in fact CBS. The article has been updated accordingly.

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