A Reporter’s Innocent Mistake or Racial Negligence?

Posted by Heather Kilby


Photo courtesy of lynn-a.blogspot.com

Everyone knows how outspoken Hollywood actor Samuel L. Jackson has been throughout his career. Well, just a few days ago during an interview with KTLA news anchor Sam Rubin, Jackson spoke up again, and kept going, in response to Rubin “mistaking” him for actor Laurence Fishburne. Jackson was actually being interviewed to promote his new movie “Robocop” but it turned into a slightly heated and uncomfortable discussion after Rubin asked him about his ‘super bowl commercial.’ Open mouth, insert foot moment – a reporter’s worst nightmare. According to the CBS article, Jackson instantly responded “what commercial?” Apparently Jackson was not in a super bowl commercial but Fishburne was featured in a Kia commercial and that is where the awkwardness of the interview began. During the interview Jackson jumped to the conclusion that Rubin confused the two actors because of their race and his stereotypical way of thinking. In my opinion, Jackson had every right to.

I watched the video several times and have read the backlash on both sides. I truly believe it was the fault of the reporter. He was clearly negligent and appears to have some racial ignorance. I am not condoning the necessity to “pull the race card”, however, in this case I think Jackson had it right. This reporter should have known the difference between the two actors and maybe should have researched his subject a bit better. I mean come on, the two look and sound nothing alike.

Now, there is in fact a small twist to this debate. Many are ranting in Rubin’s defense because there was actually a “Captain America 2” preview that aired during the super bowl in which Jackson is indeed in. I stress preview because I personally do not consider commercials and movie previews (trailers) the same. It was clear that Rubin was referring to the Fishburne Kia commercial (thinking it was Jackson) and not the movie preview. Rubin did not restate his question more clearly that he was referring to this “Captain America 2” preview, but instead remained completely flustered and attempted to change the subject several times. If it was me and my journalistic integrity was on the line, I would have immediately corrected myself and made it evident I was referring to his role as Nick Fury in the “Captain America 2” preview.

Rubin later did release a statement about the interview further explaining his intentions and defending his journalistic integrity. I think it was crap.

Things could have been much worse and Rubin may not have been attacking Jackson per say, but his mix-up is an example of racial neglect and unfortunately I am not buying his excuses. I think this sort of “mistake” shows the reality of the naïve nature many people possess (including our media); it is just shameful it had to come out of a news reporter’s mouth and other media outlets are trying to cover up the bigger picture at hand.


4 responses to “A Reporter’s Innocent Mistake or Racial Negligence?

  1. My opinion is a little less defined than yours, probably because I haven’t done the same amount of research. I don’t find it hard to believe that it was an honest mistake, even though it was a really, really stupid and embarrassing one. However, what I think you pointed out that is so vital is the fact that the reporter didn’t do his research properly. He should have known better. I think that speaks a lot to journalistic integrity and responsibility: don’t call yourself if a journalist if you’re not willing to put in the necessary work to make yourself respectable and provide content that is accurate. To me, this kind of goofy blunder just makes Rubin lose so much credibility as a journalist.

  2. This reminds me of the news coverage following the death of Nelson Mandela, in which a billboard in India depicted Morgan Freeman, mistaking him for the late Mandela. I do agree with you that this certainly stems from ignorance and people being totally misinformed. It is sad that things like this happen. And I also agree that the journalist’s statement was “crap.” But if we live in a nation where social media blows up at the idea of a multicultural America (a la that Coca Cola SuperBowl ad), then we have a long way to go.

  3. Often celebrities that look alike can be mistaken for each other and it’s a harmless mistake, but this is not the case. Freeman and Fishburne don’t look the same at all. This reporter should be embarrassed to have made such a huge mistake. This is sloppy journalism and the reporter has to know that. A gracious apology was due instead of Rubin defending himself. Now he seems childish and unwilling to take responsibility. If I was in charge, Rubin wouldn’t be getting another big story for a while.

  4. linleysanders2013

    I wonder if it’s the anchor’s fault, or if someone behind-the-scenes made the mistake and he was reading from a list of set questions? Either way, it’s quite the cringe-worthy mistake, and one that people won’t soon forget.

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