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Those North Texas Trail Life Scouts Weren't Saluting Hitler After All

The Associated Press photo, as it ran in the San Jose Mercury-News.
The Associated Press photo, as it ran in the San Jose Mercury-News.

Trail Life USA, the splinter group that formed when Irving-based Boy Scouts of America decided to admit openly gay members, is many things: openly evangelical, unapologetically homophobic, generally lame. It is not, however, a modern-day incarnation of the Hitler youth.

You'd be forgiven for thinking otherwise. Over the weekend, The Associated Press ran a big feature on the group, focusing on a newly formed chapter in North Richland Hills. Included in the spread was a photo of maybe 20 kids standing in a circle, their arms extended in an unmistakable sieg heil as they recited the Trail Life USA creed.

What isn't clear from the caption, and what the AP failed to point out until well after the Internet had gleefully seized upon the photo as evidence that Trail Life is a neo-Nazi brainwashing operation, is that the kids were actually taking part in a "Taps" ceremony. They started with their hands straight above their heads and lowered them as the song progressed.

The photo was debunked earlier in the week by The Washington Post, among others, but I had only seen the photo described as a neo-Nazi salute until Fox News' Todd Starnes began accusing the AP of intentionally "smearing" Trail Life USA.

In this case, Starnes has a point. That photo just screams Nazi. There's no way that escaped the notice of every person at the AP who worked on that story.

Send your story tips to the author, Eric Nicholson.


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