CNN ignited a firestorm of backlash over the weekend after characterizing what police called "felony murder" as a mere accident.
What is the background?
Two teenager girls — ages 13 and 15 — were charged with felony murder after allegedly carjacking Mohammad Anwar in Washington, D.C., last Tuesday.
Police say the teenagers attacked Anwar with a stun gun during the carjacking. The car later crashed, and Anwar died from injuries after being thrown from the vehicle. Anwar was a Pakistani immigrant who moved to America in 2014 to build a better life for his family.
The enhanced murder charges against the teenagers stem from a legal doctrine that "allows a killing that occurs in the course of a dangerous felony, even an accidental death, to be charged against the felon as first-degree murder," according to Nolo's Plain-English Law Dictionary.
Video of the shocking incident later circulated on social media, showing the alleged carjacking in progress and the car speed away with Anwar hanging outside. The car can be heard crashing as the videographer races toward the scene. Nearby National Guardsmen pull the teenage girls from the wrecked car, which rested on its side, as Anwar's mangled body twitched on the nearby ground. The video showed witnesses failed to provide Anwar with aid.
One of the teenage girls can be heard saying, "Please, my phone is in there. My phone is in there."
What did CNN say?
The news outlet posted on Twitter Saturday that Anwar died because of "an accident in which he was fatally injured
"Police said the girls, 13 and 15, assaulted an Uber Eats driver with a Taser while carjacking him, which led to an accident in which he was fatally injured," CNN tweeted, along with a link its story on the crime.
Police said the girls, 13 and 15, assaulted an Uber Eats driver with a Taser while carjacking him, which led to an… https://t.co/THc9u7xJN5— CNN (@CNN)1616870584.0
What was the reaction?
CNN was universally condemned for its framing of what police say was "felony murder." Many critics suggested the race of the suspects, both of whom are black, played a role in CNN softening the language used to describe the crime.
In fact, by Sunday morning, CNN's framing of the crime as an "accident" was one of Twitter's top trending topics with more than 100,000 tweets.
- "HEY! ANYBODY HOME? THIS IS NOT AN 'ACCIDENT,'" liberal commentator Keith Olbermann said.
- "These girls made a whoopsie when they murdered this man. Total accident. They were in wrong place at wrong time! They're good kids! Kids murder in cold blood/ make mistakes," comedian Tim Dillon mocked.
- "Wonder what took CNN so long to report what the rest of us did days ago. Doesn't advance their poisonous race narrative, that's why," Fox News host Laura Ingraham reacted.
- "A white man shoots 6 Asians and 2 white people, and he is a white supremacist. A middle eastern man shoots up a store, and well, 'Don't jump to conclusions,' they say. 2 young black girls assault a man with a taser and murder him, and it's an accident. Oh, the hypocrisy," another person said.
- Two girls murdered a man after car jacking him. Fixed it for you," another person responded.
- "They murdered him and one of the girls was more concerned with her cellphone still being in the car than the man she just murdered laying dead on the sidewalk," one person noted.
- "If these girls were white, this headline would be worded much differently and the outrage factor would be dialed up," another person said.
- "fair to ask why national media highlight certain local crime activity and not others," one person suggested.
- "It's always interesting how CNN and other news organizations are highly selective when determining whether or not it's worth mentioning the demographics of those involved in incidents such as this," another person noted.
- "So they 'accidentally' killed him?" another person questioned.
- "'Fatally injured' is a weird way to say MURDERED," another person said.
Fortunately, more than $400,000 had been raised for Anwar's family by Sunday afternoon.