How MSNBC's San Bernardino Suspects' Home Tour Undermines The Justice System
On Friday, MSNBC broadcasted a live tour of the San Bernardino shooting suspects' home after the landlord allowed NBC News' Kerry Sanders into the apartment, showing photos, children's toys, and a woman's driver's license. The video was a shocking and intimate look inside the life of the couple accused of the mass shooting Wednesday that killed 14 and wounded 21. The suspects, Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik, both died in a shootout with the police Wednesday after the attack, and while it seems likely they were responsible for the murders, they're still only suspects. Because the authorities haven't officially declared Farook and Malik the shooters, MSNBC's tour was a premature invasion of the San Bernardino suspects' privacy, as well as the privacy of their child and family. Update: In a statement to Bustle, MSNBC said that the apartment owner allowed the press inside the apartment "after law enforcement officials had finished examining the site and returned control to the landlord." It noted that it regretted some of the live shots.
Protecting the privacy of mass murderers may not be a priority, but the basis of America's justice system is that people are innocent until proven guilty. It's vital that the country not jump to conclusions about suspects, especially in high-profile mass shootings, until the authorities have definitively said who committed the crime. While the San Bernardino attack is investigated, Farook and Malik should be treated as suspects, not convicted murderers — which are vastly different descriptors.
Broadcasting a video of someone's home is much more invasive than simply showing a photo of a suspect. Not to mention, one could probably find something seemingly suspect in most people's homes. Of course, Americans were interested to get an inside look at the lives of people who allegedly committed a mass shooting, but many people were also taken aback by the methods, calling it "breaking and entering."
Even if the country isn't concerned about invading the privacy of two people suspected of killing 14 innocent people, this live tour was also an invasion on the couple's six-month-old daughter and the rest of their family. The video showed photos of unnamed people in the apartment, as well as another woman's driver's license — with a clear view of her address. This woman could be a completely innocent bystander who will now be associated with the horrific attack. Without knowing who this woman is or her relation to Farook and Malik, the broadcast put her in danger of people seeking retribution for the attack.
MSNBC said in a statement to Bustle: "MSNBC and other news organizations were invited into the home by the landlord after law enforcement officials had finished examining the site and returned control to the landlord. Although MSNBC was not the first crew to enter the home, we did have the first live shots from inside. We regret that we briefly showed images of photographs and identification cards that should not have been aired without review."
A spokeswoman from the FBI's Los Angeles office told Mic: "The FBI did not let them in." A reporter at the scene said on air that they saw the landlord being paid $1,000 to let the crew enter, while the landlord told CBS he didn't let them in, "they rushed" in when he opened the door.
The media needs to remember that suspects are not yet convicted criminals, and treat them appropriately. Even after a conviction, their friends and family shouldn't have their privacy violated on national TV.