Fox News falls for Monty Python joke in report criticising Seattle protesters

Danielle Zoellner
Protester have occupied the area around a Seattle police station deeming it Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone: AP
Protester have occupied the area around a Seattle police station deeming it Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone: AP

Fox News’ coverage of the Seattle protests has taken another hit after the news organisation quoted a Reddit Monty Python joke as real for its viewers.

Martha MacCallum, host of Fox News’ The Story, was covering Seattle’s Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone (CHAZ) for her viewers, which included claims from the cable news channel that there were leadership problems within the organisation.

To illustrate this point, Fox News shared a screenshot of a Reddit post entitled “I didn’t vote for Raz”. Raz Simone, a rapper, is the alleged unofficial leader of CHAZ.

“I thought we had an anonymous collective,” Ms MacCallum said, reading the Reddit post. “An anarcho-syndicalist commune at the least, we should take it in turns to act as a sort of executive officer for the week.”

What Fox News failed to realise was that this post was a joke that played off a popular scene from the 1975 comedy Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

In the scene, King Arthur approaches two peasants who are mud-farming out on the land and announces himself as their king. But Dennis, one of the peasants, informs the dumbfounded king that he and his cohorts have established their own form of government – which results in a debate about who actually is in charge.

“We take it in turns to act as a sort of executive officer for the week, but all the decisions of that officer have to be ratified at a special bi-weekly meeting by a simple majority in the case of purely internal affairs, but by a two-thirds majority in the case of purely external affairs,” Dennis says, a nearly verbatim quote used in the Reddit post.

The Reddit user even went as far as to later include the quote where Dennis says the king can’t “simply expect to wield supreme executive power just because someone threw a sword at him”. This portion of the post was not read aloud by Ms MacCallum to viewers but it was shown in the screenshot aired.

Although Fox News did not recognise the joke, people on Twitter did and the moment quickly went viral.

But this type of misinformation from Fox News is notable, specifically because it is America’s most watched cable news channel. Spreading this misinformation could skew viewers’ perspectives about what is actually going on inside CHAZ.

Opinions have differed about the police-free occupation. People with the movement overtook multiple blocks of Seattle, including the area surrounding a now-abandoned police precinct, last week.

President Donald Trump and Fox News have called the people involved with CHAZ anarchists and claimed they're involved with Antifia, a far-left militant group. But the area has actually remained rather peaceful and morphed into a sort of a music festival, with people camping, drinking, and playing music for others.

CHAZ formed as a police-free settlement in support of the Black Lives Matter movement following the killing of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and other black Americans at the hands of police.

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan has vowed to protect the settlement's First Amendment rights of speech, but the occupation has sparked conversations on if the area should be dispersed.

Fox News’ coverage, including the moment wrongly quoting a Monty Python joke as reality, has largely criticised the settlement.

The conservative site also had to remove doctored pictures on Friday that pushed misleading information about CHAZ after the Seattle Times reported that the photos used were inaccurate.

A spliced 10 June picture of an armed man at the Seattle protests was combined with two other pictures: One also from 10 June of a sign reading: “You Are Now Entering Free Cap Hill,” and another image captured on 30 May of a shattered storefront.

Coverage on Fox News' site also labelled Seattle as “CRAZY TOWN” in a headline while displaying a banner image of a city block on fire. The picture used actually came from protests in St Paul, Minnesota.

Fox News took down the pictures following the Seattle Times report and released an editor’s note addressing the mistakes.

“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 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, Minnesota. Fox News regrets these errors,” the note read.

Fox News declined to comment about the Monty Python error when contacted by The Independent.

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