The tragic bombing in Boston on Monday has stirred the nation, prompting a mad dash to find the individuals who performed the cowardly act. However, news outlets rushing for scoops were swayed by an erroneous report from CNN that a “dark-skinned male” was taken in to custody. After this was proven false by federal law enforcement sources, CNN and other networks began the slow tap dance of retraction. MSNBC host and National Action Network President Rev. Al Sharpton immediately seized on to CNN’s error, addressing the hidden racism behind the suspect’s description.
On Wednesday, CNN reporter John King reported that he received information from a federal official that a suspect was arrested and even provided a description of the suspect based on his sources. Unfortunately, CNN would later recant their report, releasing an article by Tom Watkins called “Confusion Over Arrest Reports in Boston Bombing” at 2:36 p.m. EDT:
There is conflicting information as to whether someone has been arrested in connection with the Boston Marathon bombings. A federal law enforcement source told CNN’s Fran Townsend that someone was arrested. But later, two senior administration officials and another federal official told Townsend that there had been a misunderstanding among officials and that no one has been arrested.
In response, Rev. Sharpton blasted King’s irresponsible journalism and his dangerous implications in the wake of the bombing:
[T]he false reporting by the media in the Boston bombing case was offensive and inflammatory, including specific references by CNN’s John King who labeled the alleged suspect as a “dark-skinned male,” perpetuating a stereotypical characterization devoid of relevant facts about the suspect’s identity.
It was irresponsible and misleading to characterize the suspect by his race and it made every dark skinned male in Boston a suspect. If I reported that a “white-skinned male” was being sought after, I would be publicly maligned as a “racial agitator.” The media must be responsible and put facts in proper context.
Then on Rev. Sharpton’s MSBNC program, “Politics Nation,” he picked apart King and CNN’s reports, emphasizing that King’s network reported ahead of itself regarding the suspect’s description:
As Rev. Sharpton wisely noted, individuals who had loved ones and associates harmed and injured by the Boston blasts are seeking justice for this heinous crime.
CNN, a major news outlet, going full steam ahead on a report from an unnamed source without checking facts could have had dire consequences if it wasn’t discounted.