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Exploitative NBC Makes Teen Girl Cry in Disgusting Fake News Ratings Ploy

In a complete violation of journalistic ethics, Friday's NBC Today aired an invented hidden camera scenario in which two teen girls were portrayed as participating in racial discrimination as judges of a fake singing contest. Reporter Natalie Morales described the shameful stunt as "such a great education for parents" and "truly a lesson for all of us." [Listen to the audio]

Morales described the scheme: "Allison and the girl next to her, Nia, think they're here to judge a singing contest. They don't know that the other judges are actors we've planted to discriminate against Nick Rodriguez, who is also working with us....The actors go after Nick. Using insults experts say are common for Latino boys." The male actor denigrated Rodriguez for wearing a "backwards hat" and joked that "he could do some salsa dancing or whatever." The female actor suggested Rodriguez "could be illegal" and "May be involved in drugs."

As the young actors behaved like complete cartoons of bigotry, Morales narrated: "Allison's mom is surprised her daughter is not leaping to defend Nick, though both girls are looking anxious." The mother agreed to the absurd demonstration and was watching video of the incident behind the scenes.

Morales explained: "I go in to tell them what our shoot is really about, along with Rosalind Wiseman, an expert in teen ethics." What about this cruel prank is supposed to be ethical?

Allison begins to tear up as she confesses: "I feel like I gave in to peer pressure. I didn't want to say that because he wasn't American – I hated how they said that, and I just feel really, really bad right now." Wiseman lectures as if it were a scientific experiment: "And so I think this is really important to show, is that people who, even people who feel so strongly about this stuff can still get caught in ways that they don't mean to do it."

Morales excitedly notes what happened next: "The interview is over, but just then, Allison shows us a moment of true empathy. She wants to tell Nick she's sorry." The teen girl sobs as she asks: "Can I apologize to him?" Morales replies: "That would be great." In reality, Morales is the one who should be apologizing.  

Wiseman is clearly pleased by how guilty they have made the girl feel: "There's a teen who's role modeling for all of us how to take responsibility. Even in that moment feeling very focused on herself, all of the sudden she realized, that as bad as this is for me, it's worse for him."

Once again, the scenario was completely manufactured and no one was actually being discriminated against.

Speaking to fill-in co-host David Gregory after the taped segment, Morales proclaimed: "...really important for parents to be specific when talking to their kids about the issue of discrimination. Tell them what discrimination can look like, use examples that we're seeing even in the news today, there's so many stories..." How helpful that she just invented a story for parents to cite.

Gregory praised the faux journalism: "Such an important series of reports."

Here is a full transcript of May 4 work of fiction:

8:40AM ET

DAVID GREGORY: As parents we've all tried to teach our children that prejudice and intolerance are wrong. But would your kids know what to do when faced with a situation involving discrimination? Natalie met some brave parents who wanted to find out for her series "My Kid Would Never Do That." Natalie, what did you find?

NATALIE MORALES: David, this is such an important issue and with the help of some willing parents we see how kids handle discrimination. And what they learn is truly a lesson for all of us. It's a subject that's hard to talk about, let alone confront. Does your teen know what to do when they see discrimination?

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: "My Kid Would Never Do That"; How Do Children Respond to Discrimination?]

ALLISON: Hi, I'm Allison.

MORALES: Allison's mother has agreed to take part in a Dateline hidden camera demonstration about discrimination, because she says their family feels strongly about tolerance and equality.

ALLISON'S MOM: She's grown up with a mix of all people, and it's just expected that she would never mistreat anybody.

MORALES: Allison and the girl next to her, Nia, think they're here to judge a singing contest. They don't know that the other judges are actors we've planted to discriminate against Nick Rodriguez, who is also working with us.

Nick gives a standout performance, while the next singer fakes stage fright. We leave them alone, hidden cameras rolling, to decide who to eliminate. The actors go after Nick. Using insults experts say are common for Latino boys.

UNIDENTIFIED BOY [ACTOR]: And this guy came in with like the backwards hat and he-

UNIDENTIFIED GIRL [ACTOR]: Kind of ghettoish, true.

BOY: You know what I mean? And he sort of-

ALLISON: Not very professional, right.

BOY: Like he could do some salsa dancing or whatever.

[LAUGHTER]

MORALES: They laugh at the joke, but look down at the table.

GIRL: Like he could be illegal.

BOY: Well, he's probably crossed the border coming here.

GIRL: May be involved in drugs.

MORALES: Allison's mom is surprised her daughter is not leaping to defend Nick, though both girls are looking anxious.

ALLISON'S MOM: Yeah, I can tell she's being torn.

GIRL: Have we all come to an agreement?

BOY: I think it's time to, I don't know, take a vote.

ALLISON: Yeah.

NIA: Yeah. I think it will be...

ALLISON: So we decided him.

NIA: ...him, he's the one.

ALLISON: He's gonna to go.

MORALES: They don't like it, but they go along and vote Nick out. And moments later, Allison and Nia sound like they already regret the decision.

ALLISON: No, I'm not gonna come across as racist, I'm sorry.

NIA: I'm not. I'm not going to do that either. I'm not that type of person.

MORALES: I go in to tell them what our shoot is really about, along with Rosalind Wiseman, an expert in teen ethics. How do you feel?

ALLISON: I feel like I gave in to peer pressure. I didn't want to say that because he wasn't American – I hated how they said that, and I just feel really, really bad right now.

ROSALYN WISEMAN: And so I think this is really important to show, is that people who, even people who feel so strongly about this stuff can still get caught in ways that they don't mean to do it.

MORALES: The interview is over, but just then, Allison shows us a moment of true empathy. She wants to tell Nick she's sorry.

ALLISON [CRYING]: Can I apologize to him?

MORALES: That would be great.

WISEMAN: There's a teen who's role modeling for all of us how to take responsibility. Even in that moment feeling very focused on herself, all of the sudden she realized, that as bad as this is for me, it's worse for him.

NICK RODRIGUEZ: It's okay.

ALLISON: I'm really, really, really sorry.

GREGORY: And this is really, at the end, about peer pressure, right?

MORALES: Absolutely. And you know, really important for parents to be specific when talking to their kids about the issue of discrimination. Tell them what discrimination can look like, use examples that we're seeing even in the news today, there's so many stories, and also for parents to be the best example for their kids, as well. How often do we hear jokes where stereotypes are used and we laugh it off? If you stand up to that person and say, "You know, that's kind of not right, it makes me feel uncomfortable," that is a great message to send to your kids.

GREGORY: Especially if they're not thinking of it that way.

MORALES: Absolutely.

GREGORY: Natalie, thank you so much.

MORALES: You got it.

GREGORY: Such an important series of reports.

MORALES: Absolutely.

GREGORY: The full report this Sunday on Dateline at 7/6 Central Time right here on NBC.

-- Kyle Drennen is a news analyst at the Media Research Center. Click here to follow Kyle Drennen on Twitter.