WBAL Reporter Out After ‘Scrotum' Gaffe

Reporter John Sanders is no longer employed at WBAL Baltimore following a scandal that stemmed from a Fox News video he is said to have doctored. A recent report on Fox News about a monkey that escaped from a Seattle zoo described the primate's "bright blue scrotum" in an effort to help residents identify the escapee. Sanders edited another Fox clip, involving reporter John Gibson, to make it appear as though Gibson is referring to Attorney General Eric Holder's "bright blue scrotum." According to WBAL, Sanders posted his video on a "personal YouTube page" without the consent of anyone at the station.

Sanders was interviewed on Breitbart.tv and said he meant the clip as a joke, to be distributed among friends. He claims he included annotation in the clip describing it as a spoof and making it clear that Gibson never used those words in discussing Holder. But apparently clips without the annotation made their way around the blogosphere. One prominent Website, the Huffington Post, apparently took the doctored clip at face value and printed a correction and an apology to Gibson late last week.

"John Gibson never compared Eric Holder to a monkey with a bright blue scrotum," read the retraction. "Rather, as seen in the unedited video below, Gibson played audio of Holder saying ‘nation of cowards'--so his full, unedited remarks were: ‘We were talking about Eric Holder today on the radio and his comment that this is a nation of cowards.'

"The video was doctored to include Trace Gallagher's voice saying, ‘bright blue scrotum' where Gibson played Holder's ‘nation of cowards' remark. The Huffington Post does not know the source of the video's doctoring..."
WBAL refers to Sanders as "a former WBAL-TV employee" in a statement, and makes it abundantly clear that Sanders was fooling around on his own, not on behalf of the station. "This video was not approved by, used, or sanctioned in any way by WBAL-TV or Hearst-Argyle Television and we do not condone such behavior," the statement reads. "Further, this video does not represent the views of WBAL-TV or Hearst-Argyle Television."

Holder is the nation's first African American attorney general and the "spoof," annotated or not, comes against the backdrop of the ongoing criticism of a New York Post cartoon (Fox News and the Post are both News Corp. properties) that used the shooting of a rampaging chimpanzee to criticize the economic stimulus package driven by President Barack Obama. That cartoon was seen by many as invoking a hateful slur.

Michael Malone

Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.