WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Conservative commentators on Sunday mistakenly accused Reuters of pulling the plug on the final moments of broadcast coverage of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s appearance at a black church this weekend.
Reuters said it had no role in filming the Trump event. CBS News filmed on behalf of a pool of media companies and discontinued the feed in the final moments of Trump’s appearance because of the schedule set by the campaign, according to a CBS producer involved.
“The Detroit Trump footage being circulated on Twitter and elsewhere was not filmed by Reuters,” Abbe Serphos, Reuters global head of communications, said in a statement.
Despite having no involvement in filming the Saturday event, Reuters was targeted for criticism by commentators including Ann Coulter. They were apparently under the false impression that Reuters had ordered its camera operator to shut down as Trump was receiving a blessing from the pastor.
Sopan Deb, a CBS journalist who was the pool producer for the event at the Detroit church, said the decision to cut off the video feed was made because Trump campaign staffers were hurrying reporters into a waiting motorcade.
“I was the pool producer,” Deb said in a tweet. “We were forced to pack up our cameras and leave during this.”
CBS News and the Trump campaign did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Sunday. Deb could not be reached for further comment beyond his remarks on Twitter. Coulter could not be reached.
The sudden controversy was fanned by social media and came on the holiday weekend that traditionally marks the start of major campaigning for the Nov. 8 election.
It followed Trump’s visit to a largely black church in Detroit on Saturday, where he told the crowd his economic agenda would create jobs and educational opportunity for African-American voters as part of what he called a “civil rights agenda for our time.”
At the end of the nearly hour-long Saturday morning service at the Great Faith Ministries church, Bishop Wayne T. Jackson draped a prayer shawl over Trump to applause from the crowd in the church.
“I have prayed over this personally, and I have fasted over it,” Jackson said.
Shortly after Trump accepted the shawl, the pool feed used by broadcast networks was cut off as reporters prepared to move to the next campaign event.
“How convenient that at one of the compelling moments…(the) satellite feed dropped,” conservative radio talk show host Laura Ingraham said on Twitter.
Deb, the CBS reporter, said the suggestion of bias was “totally inaccurate.” In a tweet responding to Ingraham, he said: “If you want to make this an issue, please take it up with the campaign. We tried to stay and shoot this whole thing.”
Ingraham could not be immediately reached for comment.
In a point of contention with journalists, Trump staffers have sometimes told reporters travelling with the candidate they need to leave events before Trump if they want to avoid risking their spot in the group of reporters travelling in the motorcade with the candidate.
A video posted on a website affiliated with conservative radio show host Alex Jones claimed to capture a difference of opinion between the camera operator and a producer on site about whether to continue filming the Trump event on Saturday.
Before the video cuts, one person can be heard to say, “I’m shooting this,” and then, almost inaudibly, “I’ll take a demotion.” A second voice says “Shut it” and then “blackout,” the site said.
Reuters could not independently verify the authenticity of the offstage audio.
“Reuters obtained the footage from third-party providers and the voices heard on the video are not Reuters staff or contractors,” Serphos said.
Trump has criticized media organizations including the Washington Post, the New York Times, CNN and others for what he has claimed are biases in their coverage of his campaign.
On the day of his visit to the Detroit church, Trump lashed out at CNN. “Great visit to Detroit church, fantastic reception, and all CNN talks about is a small protest outside,” Trump said in a tweet.
Reporting By Patrick Rucker and Emily Stephenson; Editing by Mary Milliken