As Fox News Reporter Faces Jail Time for Protecting Source, Jake Tapper Wants to Know: ‘Where’s the Public Outrage?’

This undated image from video provided by CNN shows Jake Tapper on the set of his show “The Lead with Jake Tapper.” Tapper says he wants the show to be a broad look at the news, encompassing business, politics and entertainment. Credit: AP

During the “Buried Lead” segment of his CNN show, Jake Tapper shed light on the concerning situation brewing in Colorado, where Fox News investigative journalist Jana Winter is facing prison time for refusing to give up her confidential sources. Tapper in particular wanted to know: “Where is the public outrage?”

Citing anonymous law enforcement sources, Winter in July 2012 reported that Aurora movie theater shooter James Holmes gave his psychiatrist a notebook outlining how he planned to “kill people” prior to his killing spree.

“This was a huge scoop, and clearly of public interest. It raised key questions: did the system fail the victims of the Aurora shooting? What exactly happened? Winter’s scoop helped provide a check on those in power who do not always like to talk about ways in which the system – and they – failed,” Tapper writes on “The Lead” blog.

He makes a good point. Last Thursday, court documents also revealed the same psychiatrist told campus police that Holmes was suicidal — more than a month before the attack. “Yet instead of a focus on how the system failed, we’re talking about whether Winter should go to jail for reporting on Holmes’s journal, which was found in a mail room after the attack,” Tapper writes.

One of Winter’s friends reportedly told CNN, “She does not want to go to jail but is prepared to. She will not ever give up her sources and this whole ordeal has been very stressful.”

CENTENNIAL, CO – APRIL 01: reporter Jana Winter returns to the court house after a midday recess to face Arapahoe County District Judge William Sylvester regarding evidence in the case of Aurora theater shooting suspect James Holmes at the Arapahoe County Justice Center on April 1, 2013 in Centennial, Colorado. Winter is facing contempt charges for not revelaing her sources that broke a gag order in the case. It was announced that District Attorney George Brauchler will seek the death penalty for suspect James Holmes who is charged with 166 counts of murder, attempted murder and other crimes in the Aurora theater shooting on July 20, 2012. Credit: Getty Images

Watch the segment via CNN below:

Tapper was joined Monday by Matthew Cooper of the National Journal, who faced similar circumstances when he was pressured to out his source during the Valerie Plame Wilson scandal. He was facing possibly 18 months in jail.

“The problem is that if people are going to find out stuff – they’re going to know what their politicians are doing, what their other institutions are doing – a lot of that depends on journalists using confidential sources,” Cooper said. “If they can’t protect those sources, they can’t do their job.”

There are certain exceptions that a journalist’s reporting could unfairly impact a public trial or perhaps even threaten national security, however, this certainly isn’t one of them.

“She was trying to expose how those people in Aurora got killed,” Cooper added.

Coming to Winter’s defense on Monday, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press filed an affidavit defending her.

In the meantime, Cooper has just a few pieces of advice for Winter as someone who has been there: “Stay strong, have a good lawyer… and protect your source.”

The judge in the Colorado theater shootings said Monday it’s too early to decide whether Winter should have to reveal her confidential sources or risk going to jail.

However, Winter still has to appear at a hearing in a Colorado on Wednesday, the judge said.


The Associated Press contributed to this report. Featured image via AP