On Friday, reporters from several national media outlets stormed the home of the San Bernardino shooting suspects, rooted around their possessions and talked about what they were finding, as they were finding it, during a live broadcast. The journalists dug around the apartment, which was also home to a 6-month-old baby and one of the shooter’s parents, and read aloud bank statements, driver’s licenses, and just about anything else they found lying around. It was an utterly surreal piece of live television on several levels, and the most outrageous moments of the San Bernardino media scrum are worth examining in full.
Reporters from MSNBC, CNN, and others gained access to the home Friday morning after the FBI had conducted its own investigation on the premises. (Later, MSNBC said in a statement to the Hollywood Reporter that it regretted several shots that were aired on live television.) They were let in by a landlord, who used a crowbar to pry away a barrier in front of the door that the FBI had erected. The apartment was still full of personal possessions, as well as federal documents, and the reporters revealed bits of information on this material, including the home address of one of shooter’s parents.
Oy vey. Here are some of the most absurd moments from Friday's completely bizarre media escapade:
Reporters Revealed Personal Information Of Non-Suspects
The apartment was full of the inhabitants’ personal effects, and the reporters on the scene had no compunctions about reading aloud and broadcasting images of what they found. They showed the driver’s license and Social Security card of Rafia Farook, the mother of one of the shooters, and revealed her bank routing number.
There Were Still Tons Of FBI Documents Lying Around
Despite some conflicting initial reports, the apartment wasn’t an active crime scene when the media entered — the FBI had already “cleared” it, according to an agency official. And yet, for reasons that are unclear, the FBI left a bunch of its own records at the scene, including a list of material that it seized from the residence.
Networks Aired Footage Of The Baby’s Toys
Was this really necessary? While traipsing around the apartment, MSNBC reporter Kerry Sanders started rummaging around the crib of the shooters’ 6-month-old child, and did an on-air inventory of the child’s toys. “All the things that you would expect to find in a child’s room,” he said. That’s #journalism for you.
A Producer Chastised Her Reporter On-Air For His Conduct
At one point during CNN’s foray into the apartment, reporter David Begnaud strolled into one of the bedrooms and read the name that he saw on an ID card. His producer, who was also present, chimed in moments later: “David, we should probably be very sensitive about talking about anybody’s names on those documents,” she said. It’s never a good sign when your boss criticizes your job performance in front of a live TV audience.
Non-Media Members Were Allowed In As Well
A CNN reporter allegedly said on-air that a woman with a dog was seen entering the building. Unless she was a reporter and that was her service dog — a possibility — this would seem to indicate that just about anybody was allowed to mosey around in the shooters’ apartment and take home a memento, or perhaps review some FBI documents.
An MNSBC Anchor Implicitly Criticized Her Own Network For The Mess
Melissa Harris-Perry, an MSNBC host, responded to the media scrum by tweeting that “corporate ownership has consequences.” This is a reference to the “firewall” that traditionally exists between a news organization’s business side and its editorial side; there’s a basic understanding that the interests of a media outlet’s corporate ownership should never override the journalistic ethics of its editorial branch. Harris-Perry is suggesting that, in this case, the firewall has been breached.
A CBS Reporter Claimed, Laughably, To Be Restraining Himself
At one point during David Begnaud’s investigation, he saw a collection of personal documents on a bed — but refrained from touching them, because “it’s not my personal property, and I don’t think it’s appropriate to do so.” How noble!
Twitter, in a rare show of unity, uniformly criticized the networks for their behavior.
MSNBC released a statement later saying that it "regret[s] that we briefly showed images of photographs and identification cards that should not have been aired without review." Which, of course, was only one part of the problem.