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At the top of its 10 p.m. newscast on Saturday, Orlando Fox O&O WOFL reported that a “civil rights group” was starting to make its presence felt in Sanford, FL, where racial tensions have escalated following the shooting of Trayvon Martin.
WOFL’s labeling of the National Socialist Movement–which has a swastika in its official insignia–as a “civil rights group” has drawn the ire of social affairs activists and bloggers, who believe that the station was negligent in its characterization of the organization.
“Civil rights groups attempt to expand freedom to more people,” Judd Legum, who wrote about the WOFL report for ThinkProgress, explained via email. “They are a neo-Nazi group who doesn’t think the constitution applies to anyone who isn’t white.”
In her story, WOFL’s Bisram referred to the NSM as both a “civil rights group” and a “white rights organization,” echoing the language used by the group’s leader, who she interviewed.
WOFL originally posted the story on its website with the headline “Civil Rights Group Patrolling Sanford.” Over the weekend, the station pulled the original post and replaced it with one that calls the NSM a “neo-Nazi group” (it appears that the initial post included video of the report while the new post does not).
Based on the video of the report uploaded to YouTube (above) and the actions on WOFL’s website, it would appear that the station did an about-face in characterizing the group. Some context is needed, however.
Before and after Bisram’s piece ran on Saturday, WOFL anchors Tracy Jacim and Keith Landry called into question the NSM’s characterization of itself as a civil rights group.
“They actually call themselves ‘a civil rights group,’” Jacim said, introducing the piece. “It is made up of thousands of white-only Americans across the country.”
Following Bisram’s report, Landry told viewers that the Southern Poverty Law Center calls the NSM a neo-Nazi group.
“But the National Socialist Movement says that’s not what they’re about,” Landry added. “We will follow up if we need to.”
WOFL has not responded to TVSpy’s requests for comment.
>Update: According to a WOFL spokesperson, the station retracted the original post in order to add additional context to the story (and avoid misinterpretations). WOFL updated its follow-up post today to include an editor’s note as well as video of the story. The video clip includes what anchors Jacim and Landry told viewers before and after the report.
“The report originally published Saturday inadvertently referred to the National Socialist Movement as a civil rights group,” the editor’s note explains. “We intended to refer to them as a ‘self-proclaimed’ civil rights group.”
In a frightening example of how the state is tightening its grip around the “free” Internet, it has emerged that You Tube is complying with thousands of requests from governments to censor and remove videos that show protests and other examples of citizens simply asserting their rights, while also deleting search terms by government mandate.