As you probably heard by now, while the attack on the Dallas PD headquarters was underway, CNN anchor Fredricka Whitfield went on air with one of their legal analysts and chose to use a few rather… odd descriptors for the attacker. On the odd chance that you missed it, here’s the very short video and the transcript.
An operation like this, it now spans 18 miles. It was very courageous and brave, if not crazy as well, to open fire on the police headquarters, and now you have this scene, this standoff. Do you believe these are the hallmarks of more than one person involved now?
Calling someone in the midst of launching what was effectively a full blown military assault on a police station either courageous or brave borders on the insane. The expected backlash started almost immediately, but the calls for a mea culpa weren’t just coming from the usual political operatives. The Dallas Police Department was put off as well.
— Fort Worth Police OA (@FWPOA) June 13, 2015
As Amy Miller of Legal Insurrection reports, one day later Whitfield was on the air to apologize. Or not apologize, but clarify. Or something.
Responding to pressure, Whitfield, addressed her choice of words today, saying, “I misspoke, and in no way believe the gunman was courageous, nor brave.
What was called for in this situation? Miller notes that Joe Concha at Mediaite felt that this wasn’t a firing offense, or even cause for a suspension, but was in horribly poor taste. Miller seems to agree, at least to a point.
In my original post on this, I called Whitfield’s words “ignorant” with regards to the severity, fear, and danger of the situation the Dallas PD found itself in. I stand by that statement, but I also think that Concha has a point with regards to intent.
Whitfield should have apologized, not because I expect every journo who makes an ignorant comment to fall at my feet and plead for the life of her career, but because what she said was just that shockingly stupid. It offended people; it shocked a community; it led some of her viewers to believe that we were about to hear an irrational discussion about the motivations of a madman.
That earns an “I’m sorry” that neither her viewers, nor the Dallas PD, are likely to ever get.
I was pondering this yesterday and I’m not so sure I agree with Amy on this. Was this just a mistake or some sort of misstatement which didn’t reflect what Whitfield was trying to say? On one level… sure. The woman has been on television doing the news for decades, first at NBC News and then at CNN. If she had some sort of propensity toward career self-immolation we’d have seen it long before now and far more I often I’d wager. With that in mind, she clearly would have known that saying something like that would bring down the wrath of much (though sadly not all) of the nation on her head.
But since it was neither intentional nor scripted in the teleprompter, where did those words come from? You don’t find anyone accidentally calling Charlie Manson a warm and cuddly lover of humanity. I have to wonder if this isn’t a case where the media has been so busy fueling the fires of anti-cop sentiment across the nation that some of the reporters covering the story truly do believe the hype. “Courageous and brave if not crazy.” To the rational mind, crazy is the only word of the three which was even in the ballpark, assuming you couldn’t find evil in your dictionary that morning. Rather than the wrong choice of words, were we actually witnessing a moment where the mask slipped and Whitfield was revealing how she really feels about the police and those who would do them harm?
That theory seems to be backed up by the lack of any meaningful apology here. If she truly felt the opposite of what was represented by her words and and regretted the message that sent about our first defenders, wouldn’t a heartfelt “I’m sorry!” have been on the tip of her tongue almost immediately? I think there’s more here than what’s being portrayed, personally, but only CNN can decide what they want to do about it. My guess would be nothing, or we’d already have seen it happening.