Why did the media try to smear United's beating victim?
You've heard the story by now.
 
Man purchases plane ticket from United Airlines. Man boards plane. Man is told he was randomly selected to be removed from a flight due to overbooking issues. Man is also offered cash incentive to take a later flight instead.  
 
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Man, who is actually a doctor who needed to be on said flight to go see a patient, refuses offer. Man is physically dragged off plane by security, ends up bloodied and disoriented. Passengers, because smartphones allow everyone to be a citizen journalist these days, film the man being dragged.
 
 
On cue, video goes viral and ends up as the lead story (which is quite a feat in the age of Trump) on pretty much every newscast.
 
This story should end with a lawyer somewhere announcing a lawsuit against United to the tune of six or seven figures. 
 
But nothing is simple in our media culture anymore. 
 
The messenger, or in this case, a dragged doctor named David Dao, must also have his past examined, as if he were being vetted like a presidential candidate. 

And the results cut to the essence why the media, fairly or not because how broad the brush has become, is so loathed, so mistrusted, in this country right now. 

The headlines tell the story: 

The New York Post: "Doctor dragged off flight was convicted of trading drugs for sex."

New York Daily News: "Doc pulled from United flight previously convicted of drug crimes."

TMZ: "United Airlines Doctor David Dao Convicted of Exchanging Drugs for Sex."

Daily Mail: "United passenger traded drugs for gay sex with patient."
 
The Washington Times: "Doctor dragged off United flight was convicted of multiple felony drug charges in 2004."

People Magazine: "Revealed: All About the Doctor Dragged Off Overbooked United Flight — and His Troubled Past."
 
The Courier-Journal in Louisville:
The last publication was the paper that broke the "story" around Dao's past and compelled the other aforementioned publications (outside of TMZ) to run with an angle that has exactly zero-point-zero percent to do with him being removed from the flight in the manner that he was. 
 
But this is how it works in our clicks-obsessed culture, where stories aren't based on relevance but on retweets. Any credible editor with an ounce of integrity above junior high would have simply informed any reporter or writer who pitched Dao's past as another story that it isn't remotely relevant to the only focus that matters: United's barbaric treatment of a paid passenger.  
 
Things also got particularly interesting for one Washington, D.C.-based reporter who thought it might be a good idea to show her twitter followers all of the court and legal documents on her desk regarding Dao for a Wednesday report she was set to give that afternoon on the air. 

"My desk is covered w court & legal docs re troubled past of the doctor pulled off United. Our report 4p." wrote ABC-7 (Washington, D.C.) reporter Lisa Fletcher in a tweet she has since deleted after a backlash as brutal as one would expect. 
 
 
But Fletcher never heard about that old saying about what to do when finding oneself in a hole and proceeded to dig herself deeper.
 
Fletcher said in a third tweet that she was receiving death threats, which goes to show you how few adults we have left in this country. But she's absolutely wrong on the second point: By covering Dao's past as a story, she is defending United even if she somehow doesn't know it. 
 
Because again, what Dao did years ago or even yesterday has no connection to United's random decision to remove him from that flight nor does it on the way the airline proceeded in completing the process. 
 
There is, unfortunately, recent precedent on this front as well. 
 
 
But becoming famous even for just the proverbial 15 minutes means having your life examined some elements of a morally-bankrupt media, including any comments one may have ever made on the internet about actress Jennifer Lawrence's derriere, adult film preferences or the shooting death of Trayvon Martin. 
 
Bone, a married coal plant operator who just asked a question on a very public stage, paid dearly for it. 
 
But his backstory got plenty of retweets, and plenty of clicks.
 
Just like Dr. David Dao, who is in a hospital watching his reputation get destroyed by the worst tenants of the Fourth Estate, because he refused to give up a seat he paid for.
 
Joe Concha is a media reporter for The Hill.
The views expressed by contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.