One thing that gave us some much-needed levity over the harrowing course of the weekend that Tropical Storm Florence crawled across our state was the clip of the ridiculous Weather Channel reporter in Wilmington seeming to lunge like a punch-drunk boxer against phantom gusts as two young men in short pants casually strolled past.

The clip immediately generated countless spoof videos made by inland dads lurching against the spray from garden hoses and ducking toys launched from offscreen. It was fun to watch because that reporter was a fool, and his silliness deserved to be exposed. And let’s admit it, a lot of hurricane coverage is more hack-y dramatization than reporting.

But then there’s a dark side. While we were all laughing at this fool, a mother and her infant were crushed to death inside their house by a falling tree in Wilmington. Elderly residents were evacuated from a nursing home in Lumberton as family members frantically tried to determine their whereabouts. Storm refugees found themselves trapped on interstate overpasses or holed up in overcrowded shelters.

And inevitably, it wasn’t long before howls of “Fake news!” and, “If the media will like about this, what else are they lying about?” proliferated on social media. The right-wing precincts of the web also quickly surfaced an image of CNN host Anderson Cooper standing waist deep in water as his camera crew took up position a couple feet away in water that barely covered their ankles. As it happens, the footage was taken during Hurricane Ike in 2008, and Cooper pointed out that the depth of the water was variable; he said he could have taken two steps and the water would have been up to his neck. Snopes graded the meme “miscaptioned.” So who’s fake news now?

Sadly, the Weather Channel reporter in Wilmington was truly faking. The Weather Channel lamely defended the reporter’s clumsy performance, saying in a statement: “It’s important to note that the two individuals in the background are walking on concrete, and Mike Seidel is trying to maintain his footing on wet grass, after reporting on-air until 1:00 a.m. ET this morning and is undoubtedly exhausted.”

At the very least he deserves to be suspended for two weeks. This nonsense makes everyone in the profession look bad, and maybe if he gets some rest his judgment will improve.

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