Rollie Chance is alive — and wants some media accountability

posted at 11:31 am on September 21, 2013 by Ed Morrissey

When the FBI greets you by saying, “I didn’t have a good day because you are the first shooter who came back to life,” you know you’re not going to have a good day, either.  Veteran and Navy contractor Rollie Chance and his family endured a few hours of shock, embarrassment, and fear after two major network broadcasters published his name as the Navy Yard shooter in Monday’s massacre.  Now Chance wants to see some accountability for the error:

Then shortly after noon, he got a phone call from someone who said they were with ABC News. “They asked me if I knew Rollie Chance,” Rollie Chance said. “Then they said, ‘Did you know Rollie Chance was the perpetrator of the Washington Navy Yard shootings?’”

Chance, 50, thought the call was a joke. He told the caller, “I guarantee you 100 percent Rollie Chance didn’t do it,” and hung up.

Moments later, FBI agents arrived at his home. Soon after, reporters began piling up at the curb. And on Twitter, reporters for both NBC and CBS named Chance as the now-deceased killer. CBS also identified Chance on national radio. ABC, which called Chance, did not report any connection.

The two network news outlets quickly retracted their tweets and CBS corrected its radio report. But Chance is wondering how he will ever erase the accusatory Internet trail that led to his door and is trying to work through days of anxiety for his family, including his 9-year-old daughter, whom he held out of school for a day.

“Verify before you vilify,” Chance implored in an interview Friday with his lawyer Mark Cummings. He joined a list of innocent people wrongly connected to high-profile crimes, to include the brother of the Newtown school shooter, two Boston men wrongly linked to the Boston Marathon bombings, and security guard Richard Jewell at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics bombing.

The mistake most closely parallels that of the Newtown case, but in that instance there was more substance in the erroneous identification.  The shooter had used his brother’s ID, which created the confusion at the crime scene.  This error was only a little less explicable.  Chance’s badge was found near the shooter’s final location, a badge that Chance lost almost a year earlier.  Police assumed that the badge belonged to the shooter, and multiple sources within law enforcement passed the information to the news media.

Chance notes that a false accusation in the Navy would have consequences, and wonders why there doesn’t seem to be any for the media:

He said if he had falsely accused someone in the Navy, he would be held accountable. “The media should have a certain amount of accountability,” he said.

Glenn Reynolds suggests that Chance should sue, as “Enormous damages would ensure greater circumspection.” As true as that might be, Glenn must know that’s an unlikely outcome.  The media outlets in this case didn’t make up the name, and especially not out of malice. Law enforcement sources gave them the name; NBC’s Chuck Todd said that his network got the name from multiple sources before going to air.  In order to prove libel in a lawsuit, Chance would have to prove that the networks maliciously aired his name as the suspect either knowing it was false or with reckless disregard for whether it was true.  If the networks got that name from multiple sources as Todd said, then there really isn’t a case for libel, and therefore no damages — as enraging as that might be.

The only accountability we can apply to these outlets in this case is the shame of getting it wrong and the damage to their credibility that results.  Perhaps with enough of that kind of damage, networks won’t be so quick in the future to run with a suspected gunman’s name, or his supposed political influences, and so on.  As this episode showed, though, the media doesn’t seem to learn from their past mistakes.


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Not a Chance.

VegasRick on September 21, 2013 at 11:36 AM

They should keep looking for his AR-15 shotgun. After all, you never know …

OhEssYouCowboys on September 21, 2013 at 11:37 AM

If the media had confirmation from multiple sources you can hardly call this one a media mistake. Blame this on the LEOs who blabbed prematurely to the news outlets.

flipflop on September 21, 2013 at 11:37 AM

“The media should have a certain amount of accountability,” he said.

……………..R I G H T !

KOOLAID2 on September 21, 2013 at 11:38 AM

Defamation of character.

nobar on September 21, 2013 at 11:47 AM

You mentioned “Shame” in the same sentence with msm. Are you crazy? There is no shame and there has never been any shame connected with them. They will step in the face of a newborn if it will get them to the front of the “Scoop” line. As a collective group of , I dare not use the word professionals, people they are one of the most despised and unrespected groups on the planet.

inspectorudy on September 21, 2013 at 11:49 AM

I don’t understand how the “sources” get a pass. While I realize that the media won’t identify them, these are, I assume, officers of the law and this should not be tolerated from those who take an oath to “protect and serve”. And they couldn’t even use fame as a justification since they are anonymous. Just another example of the devolution of all that we have held in esteem.

Cindy Munford on September 21, 2013 at 11:51 AM

They will step in the face of a newborn if it will get them to the front of the “Scoop” line.

Provided, of course, the scoop involves dirt on a Republican. The MSM all get whiplash from looking the other way so vigorously when a Democrat is the culprit.

Fabozz on September 21, 2013 at 11:56 AM

The Libtard controlled media increasingly must always have its ” smoking gun” – regardless of truth or accuracy.

FlaMurph on September 21, 2013 at 11:57 AM

In order to prove libel in a lawsuit, Chance would have to prove that the networks maliciously aired his name as the suspect either knowing it was false or with reckless disregard for whether it was true.

That’s only the burden for “public figures,” and I don’t think you can make the case that this guy was a public figure before this event.

From wikipedia:

the person must prove that the statement was false, caused harm, and was made without adequate research into the truthfulness of the statement.

But even if he wins, it will not in any way impact reporting.

Timin203 on September 21, 2013 at 12:01 PM

Several years ago my brother in law was suffering from intestinal bleeding and while driving home it appears something ruptured causing him to black out and go headlong into a wall.

But before this was determined a local police department (San Diego)told the San Diego Tribune that alcohol was the cause, who in turn reported it as fact.

Minor probem however, my brother in law didn’t drink.

Imagine the pain felt by our family to include my father in law and mother in law to have the integrity of their now dead son impugned by a rush to judgement and one based on zero facts.

My father in law (former VP of engineering-AT&T Corporate) demanded and received a public apology from the Tribune but the officer in question was never repremanded nor did the agency accept an responsibility nor issue an apology.

To this day the article on alcohol is still available online.

theblacksheepwasright on September 21, 2013 at 12:08 PM

Police assumed

Yeah, that’s pretty much what they do.

mankai on September 21, 2013 at 12:10 PM

Yes, but we can all take solace that when the MSM networks made the mistake they weren’t wearing Pajamas or some such.

jaydee_007 on September 21, 2013 at 12:15 PM

“multiple sources” provided the ahem, “news” his name…..

why not name those sources in the process…..

RealMc on September 21, 2013 at 12:18 PM

People who fall victim to this media malpractice should start sueing the hell out of these MSM hacks.

jawkneemusic on September 21, 2013 at 12:19 PM

I would demand that each network air a one hour primetime documentary on the defamation of Rollie Chance. Plus, some money. Lots of it.

faraway on September 21, 2013 at 12:21 PM

The only accountability we can apply to these outlets in this case is the shame of getting it wrong and the damage to their credibility that results.

What are these foreign concepts called “shame” and “credibility” to which you refer?

/Leftards in general, the LSM in particular

ShainS on September 21, 2013 at 12:21 PM

The media have already made enough willful ‘mistakes’ in the past to warrant them getting no pass from me for an ‘honest’ one.

Liam on September 21, 2013 at 12:22 PM

iowahawk was right on it:

David Burge ‏@iowahawkblog 16 Sep

Conclusion Jumpers – to the Keyboardmobile!

BigWyo on September 21, 2013 at 12:25 PM

Truth, ethics, accountability and responsibility are things of the past. As soon as Obama entered, the moral compass immediately pointed south.

crosshugger on September 21, 2013 at 12:27 PM

OT: I find this outrageous. Parent manhandled and arrested in MD for question common core at school meeting.

http://therightscoop.com/questions-about-common-core-get-man-expelled/

jawkneemusic on September 21, 2013 at 12:31 PM

Law enforcement sources gave them the name; NBC’s Chuck Todd said that his network got the name from multiple sources before going to air.

How do we know they were law enforcement sources? How do we know they got the name from multiple sources? Because the people reporting it say they were and did? LOL.

But beyond that, did NBC verify that these sources were in a position to know the fact first hand or was it merely hearsay, and therefore rumor? Jazz, frequently defendants lie, plaintiffs lie, prosecutors lie, defense attorneys lie, witnesses lie, police lie. All also frequently don’t see, hear or speak well. Why is it, Jazz, that when Chuck Todd says something, it must be true and by true, I include not misleading. How good were these sources? And when it comes right down to it, unless Todd himself collected the information himself, he’s just reporting what reporters claiming that they got the information from multiple sources.

What facts are pretty clear are that in the initial stage of these kinds of events, that the vast majority of information reported is wrong rather right. That the media ignores this problem with regard to facts that don’t harm the privacy and well being of private individuals is one thing, but disregarding it when it comes to harming the privacy and well being of private individuals is nothing less than reckless.

Harm was done here, by the media, and they ought to pay restitution for the harm caused.

Dusty on September 21, 2013 at 12:32 PM

The media outlets in this case didn’t make up the name, and especially not out of malice. Law enforcement sources gave them the name; NBC’s Chuck Todd said that his network got the name from multiple sources before going to air.

Nonsense.

I would take this to court and win in a heartbeat. I would sue everyone involved in the information chain including law enforcement. There was no positive identification he was the shooter at the time any information was passed along or exchanged. Proof? It was later corrected when the information was verified.

Strike one? Loose lipped, unprofessional morons in law enforcement.

They collectively damaged Mr. Chance and that is demonstrable. The media then made a half-hearted effort to correct the record. They not only libeled him but damaged his reputation with fallacious information. It’s all very provable and in front of a sympathetic jury who resoundingly despises the media a lawsuit has very good chances to succeed.

Somebody needs to take responsibility for this nonsense in order to prevent such things in the future and ultimately provide recompense to Mr. Chance which he most certainly deserves.

Marcus Traianus on September 21, 2013 at 12:35 PM

In order to prove libel in a lawsuit, Chance would have to prove that the networks maliciously aired his name as the suspect either knowing it was false or with reckless disregard for whether it was true.

Sorry, Ed, malice (or malicious intent) only needs to be shown if the individual was a “public figure” prior to the libel, a much higher standard than would be applied to this case.

TXUS on September 21, 2013 at 12:36 PM

jawkneemusic on September 21, 2013 at 12:31 PM

I saw that this morning. How weird is it that almost no one came to his defense.

Cindy Munford on September 21, 2013 at 12:40 PM

The only accountability we can apply to these outlets in this case is the shame of getting it wrong and the damage to their credibility that results.

Their what?? They can’t damage something they don’t have.

RoadRunner on September 21, 2013 at 12:44 PM

Maybe I’m being too cynical, but I imagine the media are depressed Aaron Alexis wasn’t a white suburbanite who really used an AR-15, and that his two handguns weren’t bought but taken from his victims. Further upsetting to their meme is proof that background checks, no matter how tight, will never stop mass murders.

What about those twelve in Chicago gunned down by gangbangers? Where is the MSM call to do Do Something (TM) about murderous street gangs?

Liam on September 21, 2013 at 12:45 PM

“Chance would have to prove that the networks maliciously aired his name as the suspect either knowing it was false or with reckless disregard for whether it was true.”

Jazz, maliciousness and reckless disregard for whether it was true applies to people in the public spotlight, that is “public figures”, not (apologies to Rollie) nobodies.

Just quickly from a search, here’s an Expert Law summary on defamation:

Generally speaking, defamation is the issuance of a false statement about another person, which causes that person to suffer harm. Slander involves the making of defamatory statements by a transitory (non-fixed) representation, usually an oral (spoken) representation. Libel involves the making of defamatory statements in a printed or fixed medium, such as a magazine or newspaper.

Typically, the elements of a cause of action for defamation include:

- A false and defamatory statement concerning another;
- The unprivileged publication of the statement to a third party (that is, somebody other than the person defamed by the statement);
- If the defamatory matter is of public concern, fault amounting at least to negligence on the part of the publisher; and
- Damage to the plaintiff.

In the context of defamation law, a statement is “published” when it is made to the third party. That term does not mean that the statement has to be in print.

Damages are typically to the reputation of the plaintiff, but depending upon the laws of the jurisdiction it may be enough to establish mental anguish.

Under the heading of “Public Figures” in the article:

Under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, as set forth by the U.S. Supreme Court in the 1964 Case, New York Times v Sullivan, where a public figure attempts to bring an action for defamation, the public figure must prove an additional element: That the statement was made with “actual malice”. In translation, that means that the person making the statement knew the statement to be false, or issued the statement with reckless disregard as to its truth.

Dusty on September 21, 2013 at 12:45 PM

“Chance would have to prove that the networks maliciously aired his name as the suspect either knowing it was false or with reckless disregard for whether it was true.”

What if he sued for something other than libel? Perhaps endangerment. Until the shooter is caught you do not have a positive ID and the networks knew that when they aired his name.

Zaggs on September 21, 2013 at 12:50 PM

Dusty on September 21, 2013 at 12:45 PM

Ed.

Cindy Munford on September 21, 2013 at 12:50 PM

Zaggs on September 21, 2013 at 12:50 PM

Maybe but I think the shooter was already dead at that point.

Cindy Munford on September 21, 2013 at 12:51 PM

Oh, darn, My apologies in referring to Jazz, rather than Ed.

(As public figures, neither has a chance in hell of winning a defamation suit against me.)

Dusty on September 21, 2013 at 12:52 PM

Ed.

[Cindy Munford on September 21, 2013 at 12:50 PM]

I noticed, Cindy, thanks. I would have corrected right away but was busy verifying my sources and calling my lawyer.

Dusty on September 21, 2013 at 12:54 PM

Dusty on September 21, 2013 at 12:54 PM

LOL! Normally I wouldn’t have said anything but Jazz takes a beating every weekend. Pretty cool is what you found out could work for Mr. Chance.

Cindy Munford on September 21, 2013 at 12:58 PM

Where any of the media’s statements false? I would assume that they all used the words “suspect” or “person of interest” or something. I think Ed is right about a defamation lawsuit.

blink on September 21, 2013 at 1:02 PM

Well, he turned out to not be a dead shooter after the media had confirmed that he was. I’d say that qualifies as “false.”

Timin203 on September 21, 2013 at 1:06 PM

The media should have known that the real gunman was named Wi Tu Lo and was aided by Sum Ting Wong.

Elsewhere the subject came up yesterday and I was reminded of a Mark Twain quote from over 100 years ago…“That awful power, the public opinion of a nation, is created in America by a horde of ignorant, self-complacent simpletons who failed at ditching and shoemaking and fetched up in journalism on their way to the poorhouse.” – License of the Press (speech)

teejk on September 21, 2013 at 1:11 PM

There needs to be public backlash at the media for doing this to people.

blink on September 21, 2013 at 1:04 PM

But aren’t most news outlets hemorrhaging money already? People don’t watch, they are losing money, I don’t know what else could be done other than a lawsuit. Although Mr. Jewell didn’t live long and enjoy, he got a dime or two out of NBC.

Cindy Munford on September 21, 2013 at 1:21 PM

Where any of the media’s statements false? I would assume that they all used the words “suspect” or “person of interest” or something. I think Ed is right about a defamation lawsuit.

[blink on September 21, 2013 at 1:02 PM]

As for your first highlight — false — I don’t know whether “suspect” or “person of interest” was used, but in the midst of the mayhem, I doubt that those caveats have much meaning outside the confusion of hunting the perp down. As for your second, highlight — and — you must have missed the paragraph, “Damages are typically to the reputation of the plaintiff, but depending upon the laws of the jurisdiction it may be enough to establish mental anguish” which came right after the first part I excerpted. So, I don’t think the “and” has much bearing.

You might also keep in mind a defamation suit is likely to be judged based on preponderance of the evidence, not a beyond a reasonable doubt basis. It seems to me the crux of the defense lies in the sources of information, and the judging thereof by the judge or jury. If NBC refuses to provide that evidence, I would think then that they have no evidence.

blink on September 21, 2013 at 1:04 PM

I won’t quibble about whether lawsuits can fix the Societal problem. I’m not concerned with some amorphous societal problem, I am concerned with an individual’s problem, that individual being Rollie Chance. Great harm was done here to one person and I’m not going to slough it off for not helping society because it wasn’t done to me.

Dusty on September 21, 2013 at 1:43 PM

“Verify before you vilify,”

Great line.

BuckeyeSam on September 21, 2013 at 1:59 PM

IF any of the media reported “the shooter’s name is Rollie Chance,” he might have a case, but that’s doubtful. The typical formulation might be “multiple law enforcement sources tell XYZ News . . .” or they identify him as a “person of interest,” etc.

It’s not an easy tort to prove, but it’s easier for a private citizen than for a public figure.

Adjoran on September 21, 2013 at 2:16 PM

‘Media accountability’. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHA!!!!!

ghostwalker1 on September 21, 2013 at 2:57 PM

As the story broke the fact was that the found ID card was related to the crime. As more information came to light the details of the story changed.

Perhaps someone should sue Rollie for not keeping his ID card in a safe place?

The fact remains his ID was found in the crime scene.

Mark was here on September 21, 2013 at 3:26 PM

This is reckless endangerment of a man’s life.

Putting him up as the probable shooter without first checking to see if he is, you know, at home, might be a good idea.

What happened to all those layers of editors and fact checkers?

Do they go on vacation as soon as a crisis starts?

ajacksonian on September 21, 2013 at 4:01 PM

That only has an impact on the amount of damages. That has nothing to do with whether or not defamation has occurred.

[blink on September 21, 2013 at 3:19 PM]

Maybe you are right, but I don’t read it that way and I don’t it should be inferred that way from the sentence structure. I read “Damages are typically to the reputation of the plaintiff” being damage to the reputation not damages as in compensation for the damage(s) to the reputation. If my read is accurate, then emotional anguish can suffice for establishing damage and compensation can be awarded for that only.

As for your comment that “And truth is the ultimate defense in a defamation suit”, I expect you mean that NBC might claim that Rollie Chance was at one time a suspect. Well, that would have to be proved, wouldn’t it. They could get confirmation from the Police departments that at no time was Rollie Chance a suspect. Then what does NBC do?

I would think that you are concerned about fixing the systemic problem that caused Rollie’s individual problem.

I am. I want to do it one at a time, which each individual case. I suggest he sue them. How do you plan to do it? Shaming? Another law?

The problem is that it’s legal to say “Law enforcement is saying that Rollie is the shooter” or “Rollie is the alleged shooter” because those statements were true.

Really? The law enforcement said that, publicly? That was their official determination at the time? I understood these to be anonymous sources, you know, from people who who were not authorized to speak on behalf of law enforcement.

Dusty on September 21, 2013 at 4:42 PM

and multiple sources within law enforcement passed the information to the news media.

which means he should be able to sue those organizations for damages. wonder if journalists pay for those “tips”. this is a perfect example of why the shield laws being considered shouldn’t be passed. a reporter in this situation shouldn’t be protected by law from revealing his source.

chasdal on September 21, 2013 at 4:58 PM

Interesting question here. Apparently, multiple sources in law enforcement suggested there was evidence that Rollie Chance was the shooter. It would seem the media could defend against a charge of libel or slander based on their sources.

But those sources are not named. So how can the media cite them as evidence that Rollie Chance was named as a suspect if the agencies never officially said that, and all their sources are anonymous?

It’s true that the media can’t (normally) be compelled to reveal their sources. But can they cite anonymous sources as evidence? Wouldn’t they be liable if they can’t actually name the anonymous sources who gave the false information? As far as the law is concerned, wouldn’t quotes from anonymous sources be considered as nonexistent evidence?

There Goes the Neighborhood on September 21, 2013 at 5:59 PM

Richard Jewell

Resist We Much on September 21, 2013 at 6:46 PM

Perhaps the police should be banned from providing ANY information to the media until the facts are sorted out. The media only repeated what they were told so the problem stems with the cops.

Who are these ‘sources’ who go running to the media at the drop of a hat? Let’s get their names out there and make them go viral. THEN maybe cops will learn a lesson and keep their mouths shut.

Common Sense on September 21, 2013 at 7:53 PM

I’m sorry, but it’s a very LARGE leap to go from finding a wayward badge to concluding that THAT wayward badge belonged to the shooter. It is certainly not a logic conclusion.

There is still something about the genesis of that story we’re not being told.

EdmundBurke247 on September 21, 2013 at 11:26 PM

Where did they source Chances name, the State Department?

-When the plane crashed in SF a news outlet ran the “names of the Chinese flight crew”. Someone at the NTSB confirmed the names.
-The marathon bomber was “lost by the FBI” while off to bomb school, even though Russia warned the FBI about the immigrant.
-Fast & Furious/Holder & Co., … enough said.
-Wild Midwest shoot ‘em ups in Chicago under Rahm.
-Putin trumps Obama/Kerry.
-IRS audits conservative nonprofits.
-Benghazi Obama, Hillary & Huma.
-Kenya … another miss

This is only the short list of administrative blunders.
How much more of these can we afford?

kregg on September 22, 2013 at 8:06 AM

These real journalists are the ones who will soon be protected under a new law that may eliminate any online journo because they aren’t real enough. They will be able to keep on keeping on with their false accusations, slime, and slanted reporting without worrying about who gets hurt in the process.

Kissmygrits on September 22, 2013 at 10:29 AM