"Hey, was Tony Stewart involved in this in any way? Let's make it all about him!" is what we imagine the Good Morning America producer in charge of this morning's terrible NASCAR brawl story said before cutting together a segment on this weekend's race that bares little resemblance to reality and exists only to remind you that Tony Stewart killed someone.
If you missed it, on Saturday night, a number of events occurred at the end of the NASCAR race that resulted in some bashed up race cars, some in-garage burnouts, and an epic ambush from Matt Kenseth on Brad Keselowski that can only be described as worthy of COPS (that's actually how Dale Earnhardt Jr. described it).
What was probably the least noteworthy part of the end-of-race incidents, a race that aired on ABC just like Good Morning America does, was when Tony Stewart backed up into Brad Keselowski.
But that's not the way it played on Good Morning America this morning:
Here's their "report:"
You can almost hear the glee in reminding you that Tony Stewart killed a dude in the way this report is edited together, carefully reordering events in a timeline that elevates Stewart to the main antagonist despite his minor role in everything.
Here's the real sequence of events as they occurred at the race: Brad Keselowski and Matt Kenseth tangle on a restart, Brad Keselowski and Denny Hamlin race in close quarters near the finish, Hamlin brake checks Keselowski on the cool down lap, Keselowski attempts to spin out Hamlin, Keselowski side swipes Kenseth entering pit lane and rear ends Stewart, Stewart does a reverse burnout into Keselowski's car, presumably for crashing into him, Hamlin chases Keselowski into the pits, gets out and attempts to fight Keselowski, they get separated, then Matt "Secret Ninja" Kenseth pops out of fucking nowhere with the takedown of the year.
Here's what GMA saw: Tony Stewart was there and he backed up into Keselowski and then, going backwards in time, there was a battle on the restart, and then Tony Stewart (who killed a guy) ran into Keselowski, and then there was a huge fight and then Tony Stewart and Tony Stewart and Tony Stewart.
What's worse is that when they initially say Stewart is involved, they don't even give you details on why he was or what happened, just that he backed into a competitor. Neglecting to mention that he was rear ended on pit lane when he was sitting at a standstill is a pretty important omission since that's why he presumably backed into Keselowski. All they needed to do was show the five seconds before of him getting hit to understand why it happened.
They also edit the rest of the story together to omit most of what was actually going on, placing them in an order that isn't logical or chronological. The way it looks in this report the viewer is lead to believe that Tony Stewart's backing into Keselowski precipitated the fight when, in reality, Stewart was just an inadvertent participant in an on-track event and appears to have not even been present for the after-race brawl. This shows ignorance at best and a desire to create a story that doesn't exist at worst.
Was it dumb of Stewart to back up into Keselowski? Of course it was. Does Stewart's involvement in any event make it more newsworthy or interesting for a general audience? Of course.
But it is infinitely dumber to report on this as if that was the actual story and then bring in Christine Brennan — someone who doesn't appear to regularly write about NASCAR or seem to have even tweeted about NASCAR in the last year — to call it "unconscionable." (Brennan's colleague at USA Today, Jeff Gluck, who we can be sure actually watched the race, pointing out that GMA's report seems to have seen the incident "differently" than he did.)
If there's anything that's "unconscionable" here it's the manufactured outrage at something that regularly happens and goes largely ignored by GMA until someone like Stewart they deem newsworthy gets involved, leading them to remove the provocation that preceded his actions and then juxtapose video of a fight that he wasn't involved in to give the false notion that Stewart was there, or at least started it.