The 1993 episode of CNN’s “Larry King Live” featuring an anonymous caller who was later identified as the mother of Biden accuser Tara Reade was no longer listed in Google Play’s catalog late Saturday.
Twitter user J.L. Hamilton shared a screenshot showing the Aug. 11, 1993, broadcast of “Larry King Live” was no longer listed in the season three catalog of the iconic CNN talk show. Mysteriously, though, the Aug. 10 broadcast, which is listed as “Episode 154” is followed by the Aug. 12 broadcast, which is listed as “Episode 155,” suggesting that episode and the ones that follow could be incorrectly listed and off by a number.
Fox News later verified the Aug. 11 episode is not listed on the streaming service. It is unclear when it was removed from the catalog.
The allegation was repeated by Tiana Lowe at the Washington Examiner:
[A]fter months of the media hedging on the Reade story, the specific Larry King Live episode apparently featuring Reade’s mother has inexplicably gone missing on CNN’s Google Play archives of the show. …. Given CNN’s relative silence on the Reade allegation, the network’s top bosses’ toxic obsession with Trump, and the size of the Larry King Live archive on Google Play, it cannot possibly be ruled out that the episode’s disappearance was the result of Biden-backing CNN executives intentionally memory-holing it. Now tell me, do you corrupt your credibility so thoroughly when you think a man is innocent?
The Daily Caller reported the same thing.
This allegation created quite a buzz. Every political hack and incurious partisan — you know, the kind who get huffy about “fake news” except when they spread it themselves — hurried to their keyboards to tap out knowing and cynical takes about the dishonest media that covered up this episode.
Are you fricken kidding me with this bullshit already?
CNN 'Larry King' episode featuring Biden accuser's mother disappears from Google Play catalog | Fox News https://t.co/NaTyboP5FX
— Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr) April 26, 2020
This is getting ridiculous… https://t.co/mcqvCRBMuu
— Joe Concha (@JoeConchaTV) April 26, 2020
— Tom Fitton (@TomFitton) April 26, 2020
Hmmmm CNN 'Larry King' episode featuring Biden accuser's mother disappears from Google Play cataloghttps://t.co/uce9R65XcS
— Jason Chaffetz (@jasoninthehouse) April 26, 2020
I could go on, but you get the idea.
So is it really true? Nope, it does not appear to be.
Here’s the grain of truth. If you go to Google Play, and search for Larry King episodes from 1993, you do in fact see that the search results show no episode from August 11, 1993. Go ahead and click to see for yourself, even though I am about to show you a screenshot:
BOOM! as they say on Twitchy. The precise thesis of the Fox News article, borne out by actual screenshot evidence! Now go forth and spread this rumor far and wide!
… or maybe don’t. First, before we get to the really hard evidence that this is bullshit, let’s apply some common sense to the notion that CNN (which broadcast Larry King Live) was trying to cover this up by … publishing a whole article about it and putting it on their front page yesterday:
They literally put the story and the video on their front page yesterday. https://t.co/DNPG2Ya5Ta
There is no "collusion" between the Biden campaign and CNN to "cover up" this story. Don't let your politics make you stupid.
— (((Yair Rosenberg))) (@Yair_Rosenberg) April 26, 2020
Helluva cover-up, to publish an article about it. But still: why the removal from the archives? Well, if you’re asking that question, you probably have not noticed the (faulty) assumption you’re making. I’ll take you through how I uncovered it. First, I noticed (as the Fox News article did) that the numbering was consecutive, as if the episode had never been there. The call by Tara Reade’s mom happened on August 11, 1993. The episode the night before (August 10) was Episode 154 according to the screenshot. The episode the night after (August 12) was Episode 155. What’s the deal? Did someone go back and renumber all the episodes? Was the missing episode called Episode 154.5?
Curious, I clicked through Episode 155 to see what it said there. Was it labeled Episode 155 when you click through? Here’s what I saw:
See that language in the bottom left corner? It says “This show is currently unavailable.” So I clicked through some other episodes from Season 3, and every time I clicked through I got the same message. So I tried a few other seasons, up to and including the most recent. Every time I clicked through, I found that I could not actually pull up the episode.
I figured maybe I didn’t understand how Google Play worked. After all, so many outlets had confidently reported that you could access the other episodes. I went to Twitter and put up my findings:
Although I get the same result for all seasons so either I just don't understand how Google Play works (very likely) or they're all unavailable.
— Patterico (@Patterico) April 26, 2020
TV’s Andy Levy sent me a link to this tweet from CNN spokesman Matt Dornic:
This is B.S. CNN didn’t remove anything. We do not have a distro deal for LKL w/ Google Play. Listings on the site are not sourced thru CNN. Click any episode, it will say “not available to watch.” True for @foxnews programs too. I’ll wait 4 ur correction & apology. Screenshots: pic.twitter.com/Lb2ZJw3kcX
— Matt Dornic (@mdornic) April 26, 2020
Turns out I understood Google Play well enough. It was just the case, apparently, that not a single one of the media outlets or talking heads who retweeted this ridiculous conspiracy theory had bothered to check to see if any other episode of Larry King was available on Google Play.
Note that the original version of the Fox News story did not have Dornic’s response (thank you, Wayback Machine!), saying merely: “Neither CNN nor Google immediately responded to Fox News’ requests for comment. Fox News also reached out to the representation of Larry King and have not heard a response.” (I love those “they did not respond immediately” sentences in media stories. Just how many minutes or seconds do they give people to respond?) But now their story says:
On Sunday afternoon, CNN provided as a statement a reply tweet from CNN Communications spokesperson Matt Dornic, who denied that the network removed anything from Google Play, calling the allegation from Hamilton “B.S.”
“Listings on the site are not sourced thru CNN. Click any episode, it will say ‘not available to watch,'” Dornic added in the reply to the Twitter user.
Which pretty much blows up the whole premise of the story, wouldn’t you say? The guy who made the original observation thinks so. He has deleted his original tweet and is now retweeting the response from the CNN spokesman.
Now, there’s still the issue of the absence of that episode from the search results. Here’s what I have to say about that: it is odd, but it has nothing to do with the validity of the dumb conspiracy theory.
It *is* odd. It has zero meaning as a data point to support the anti-CNN conspiracy theory, given that the episode *still* would not be available even if it showed up in search results. But I agree it's odd.
— Patterico (@Patterico) April 26, 2020
So here’s the thing. If CNN spokesman Matt Dornic is full of crap, and other episodes of Larry King can be played on Google Play, here’s your chance to make yourself famous. Go make a screen recording of yourself playing any episode of Larry King Live from Google Play. CNN’s Matt Dornic says it can’t be done. If he’s lying, go to the link, click on one of those episodes you think actually is available, and play it. Because, as always, there’s a chance I’m wrong. And if I am, you can make a name for yourself as the guy who proved a CNN spokesman was full of crap.
If you have been repeating the conspiracy theory, you owe it to the truth to do this. If you can’t play any Larry King episode on Google Play, it means the conspiracy theory is crap — which means you really ought to go to all the places where you repeated it, take it back, and admit you were wrong.
Oddly, many of the people to whom I have pointed out these facts have suddenly gone radio silent. A few quibble with questions about why the episode is missing from the search results and such, but not one person who was pushing this theory has come back to me and said: “You know what? You’re right. I tried playing other episodes and I can’t. I guess I was wrong to push this.”
It would be so refreshing if people would do that in this age of partisanship. And if I turn out to be wrong about this — which is possible, although the possibility seems increasingly remote — I’ll admit it.
Now let’s get out there and put an end to baseless rumors — even if they are about the media and confirm your biases. The truth is more important than confirming your prejudices.