‘NewsHour’ issues notes about video showing Trump backer’s tattoos

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A segment about a family of Donald Trump supporters in North Carolina has prompted two explanatory notes from PBS NewsHour, after website visitors noted that a source was emblazoned with allegedly racist tattoos.

Commenters pointed out that the segment showed Trump backer Grace Tilly sporting tattoos of an Odin’s Cross and the number 88, symbols used by some white supremacists. Tilly answered in comments on the site, denying any racist links.

The tattoos were not mentioned in the interview, which aired without narration.

In an initial editor’s note Wednesday, NewsHour said in part, “As you can see in the comments section posted with this story, Ms. Tilly argues that these tattoos are not representative of neo-Nazi positions but are connected to her family’s Celtic religious beliefs. That is what she told our producers as well. Others among our online commenters vehemently disagree.”

That note was expanded Thursday, adding that “regrettably, none of us at the NewsHour recognized the questions that could arise from Grace Tilly’s tattoos, and we didn’t raise them with her until after the report aired.” After those questions surfaced the producer contacted Tilly to ask about the tattoos, the note said, and Tilly replied that they were “religious in nature and have nothing to do with a neo-Nazi theme or white supremacy.”

After the issue attracted attention from news outlets including the Washington Post, PBS Ombudsman Michael Getler weighed in Thursday. He wrote that “if the NewsHour understood more than I did as a viewer, it would have been proper, indeed incumbent upon them, in my view, to illuminate the viewers” by explaining the tattoos.