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My Poynter post: PETA says media hyped reaction to Chris Christie spider killing

Models protest the use of fur in fashion during an event organized by PETA.

Associated Press

Models protest the use of fur in fashion during an event organized by PETA.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals already have a well-earned reputation for pugnacious protests in favor of animal rights.

Marching naked with signs reading “I’d rather go naked than wear fur.” Carrying simulated blood-spattered skinned animals to protest use of fur during New York’s Fashion Week. Dressing as bloody seals while lying on the road near the Canadian embassy in Washington D.C. to protest killing of seals in that country.

So when news outlets across the country reported that PETA was “angry” and “going after” New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie when he killed a spider during a meeting with schoolkids last month, it seemed a moment tailor made for quick blog posts and 30-second mentions during TV newscasts.

But, in a post I wrote for, representatives from PETA say they issued a pretty even-handed statement after a reporter from Talking Points Memo contacted them, only to see reports based on TPM’s story spin their reaction into more critical territory.



What PETA said: “He probably did it without thinking. Some people put the spider outside, but spiders are often scary to people, and that can prevent them from pondering their worth.”

But even the original TPM story, which PETA thought was mostly fair, reported the group as saying Christie was being “thoughtless,” which seems a slightly more critical way of referring to their position. 

PETA eventually contacted 60 different media outlets by email, asking them to change how they referred to their statement; according to the group, 45 outlets didn’t even respond, only six actually changed what they reported.

The group complained that such stories are small enough to fall into a curious area of media – where people are repurposing stories floating around pop culture, adding a bit of snark until the original meaning is distorted to fit stereotypes about the subject.

Click here to read more about PETA’s story at, including a response from one journalist asked to change the story who felt the group was “overreacting.”

Below is a bit from Jimmy Kimmel Live, which a PETA spokesman said they thought was pretty funny.

[Last modified: Wednesday, June 5, 2013 10:41am]


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