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Twin Cities TV station branded a 'laughing stock' over #Pointergate, stands by police sources

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Minneapolis-based TV station KSTP is still the focus of national headlines as reaction over 'Pointergate' continues into the weekend.

The Twin Cities station has been the subject of widespread criticism since it broadcast this report stating that police sources had criticized Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges for 'flashing a gang sign' while pictured with a man currently on a stayed prison term for drug and firearm charges at a canvassing event last month.

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The report featured a comment from a retired police officer that Hodges was 'legitimizing gangs' with the gesture, unleashing a firestorm on social media with commenters observing that she was merely pointing her finger, an assertion backed up by the Mayor's office in a comment to Bringmethenews.

The story generated a multitude of social media memes, and the hashtag #Pointergate was one of the top trending topics in the United States on Friday.

And the criticism has continued to flow, with Mashable last night commenting that the story had turned KSTP into a "national laughing stock".

It pointed out that Hodges had been pictured on numerous occasions doing the same pose, that the man pictured with her is not a gang member, and that Minneapolis police chief Janee Harteau was at the scene when the picture was taken.

Vanity Fair referred to it as "the most pathetic news story of the week" that revealed "the sad realities of life in America".

Independent news website Mother Jones meanwhile dubbed Pointergate as "this week's most racist local news story", in which an innocuous photo was warped.

It says the story is "infuriating" because of this behind-the-scenes video, from the canvassing event, which appears to show Hodges and the canvasser trying out several hand gestures before settling on the finger point, before the man describes his desire to move on from his past.

KSTP stands by police sources

But KSTP has hit back at criticism of their story, saying they had received similar comments from other people within Twin Cities police forces.

A statement on its website says: "Law enforcement sources alerted KSTP-TV to a photo they believed could jeopardize public safety and put their officers at risk, especially given the recent increase in gang violence.

"Multiple sources from several law enforcement agencies told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS the photo had the potential for undermining the work they are doing on the streets.

"5 Eyewitness News blurred the individual’s face and did not name the group he was working for because police called into question only the judgment of Mayor Betsy Hodges."

The station also published a story late Friday night with comments from Michael Quinn, a 30-year veteran of the police force, who is adamant that the gesture is "a known gang sign of one of he most violent gangs in Minneapolis, and they will use this to their advantage."

He said criticism of the story is misguided, because the general public does not understand that "signs have real meaning on the street and gangs take them seriously".

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