CPAC’s Attempt at Covering Up a Minor Server Glitch Backfires
Ben Terris, a reporter for the Washington Post noticed this morning that CPAC’s webpage for Dr. Ben Carson in fact featured a photo of Senator Tim Scott. On cue, the giggles of CPAC’s inability to recognize two different African American men began in earnest.:
CPAC Website Apparently Mixed Up Two Black Republicans
The website for the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) appeared to have mistakenly posted a photo of Sen. Tim Scott (R-NC) in a biography for conservative activist Dr. Ben Carson, both of whom are scheduled to be speakers at the event this week.
It seems, this was not the first time CPAC’s mobile site had made a photo-related error…
And it appears, CPAC admitted its error initially:
@PaytonGuion It’s possible there may have been a server caching glitch but we never screwed up from editorial side
Which it subsequently walked back :
@ali We definitely didn’t make any mistake from website content side.
Now a new wrinkle - CPAC is actually accusing Terris of manipulating the image, as Brendan James reports:
A spokesman for the Conservative Political Action Conference said on Wednesday that an image posted to Twitter by a Washington Post reporter earlier in the day, which appeared to show the CPAC website had mixed up photos two black Republicans scheduled to speak at the event, was fake.
“It’s a photoshop,” CPAC spokesman Ross Hemminger told TPM by phone when asked about the image.
Hemminger disputed that CPAC had made an error.
“I’ve spoken with the web people who verified that it was definitely photoshopped,” Hemminger said, promising to send evidence that the image was a fabrication.
By noon on Wednesday, Hemminger had not sent such evidence. (TPM will update if he does.)
Terris denies photoshopping the image:
To which, CPAC responded by providing a cache of the webpage from yesterday, before Terris had taken his screenshot:
The problem with this angle of defense, that Terris is committing a fraud to smear CPAC, and that the cached page is proof, is twofold:
1) Cached pages are not screenshots, they do not cache images.
Cached pages are a text cache of sourcing code from a webpage. Images are not cached, and the cache itself is not a ‘moment in time’ capture of a websites images. The images are pulled directly off the hosting server, even in cached pages. In this case, they are pulled off the CPAC server, not the server where the text ‘source code’ of the cached page is stored.
You can demonstrate this quite easily - open the cached page, right-click on the image of Dr. Carson, and select ‘open image in new window/tab’ - which brings you to here: Image: Ben-Carson-338x507.jpg - the original image hosted on the original
In real terms, what this means is while the text on the page is from yesterday, the image has been culled afresh from the webpage when you actually open the cached page in real-time. If the original image was named BenCarson.jpg but was instead a picture of Tim Scott, and that image was corrected to one of Carson, without changing the name or redirecting location for the original image on the server, the cached page would always show the new, corrected image, not the original image at time of caching. This can further be shown by clicking on a webcache of a page say from the early 90’s where the servers have since gone offline - the text and source code will still show up - but the images will not.
2) The CPAC server has a history of this particular glitch:
What this shows us is likely the CPAC mobile page has a glitch that confuses the redirection of photographs from the server, lining them up with the wrong biographies on their mobile site. And, while this means CPAC likely did not commit an error of ‘racial confusion’ as TPM suggested, it’s reaction to that slight has been to demonstrate it does not understand how html and web architecture works.
What is more puzzling: after CPAC initially admitted a mobile server side glitch, it proceeded to waylay that excuse in an endeavor to accuse a respected journalist of fraud. While getting poked for a silly error, CPAC revealed that it is so sensitive to questions related to it’s racial motivations to go as far to demonstrate it does not understand how the internet works.
As the cliche’ goes - the irony is when the cover-up is worse than the original crime. Talking Point Memo’s all too easy cheap shot pushed CPAC into proving Freud’s proverbial ‘slip’ will continue to confound those with vulnerable egos.
update: I incorrectly referred to Ben Terris as ‘Brian’ - this has been corrected.