Gun Laws & Legislation

USA Today Perpetuates Riot Causing Errors

Guns and Gear Contributor
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By Alan Korwin,

A misleading statement appears on Page 3B in Wednesday’s issue of USA Today (“Ex-officer says no force will hire him” 8/5/15), which perpetuates the trouble that roiled the nation over the Ferguson, Mo., race-riot incident. Reporter John Bacon, summarizing the event that led to widespread looting, arson, riots and social unrest, writes, “Wilson, 29, shot Brown, 18, following a scuffle Aug 9.” 

If this were true, officer Wilson could not have been exonerated. People can’t be shot for “a scuffle.” The statement is typical of the erroneous reporting that fueled the riots and persists to this day. An accurate statement would read, “Wilson, 29, shot Brown, 18, while Brown attempted to steal the officer’s gun.” That of course doesn’t fit the national media’s preferred narrative, but it is the truth, which journalists profess to honor, and should. 

Police officer Wilson had shot and killed a belligerent suspect who had just committed a strong-arm robbery. That fact, though unknown to the officer at the time, was caught on video tape and revealed afterward, further identifying the suspect as a dangerous individual. Accurate reporting would have evaporated the entire incident, since it was based entirely on falsehoods. 

USA Today’s published version yesterday perpetuates the false stereotype that: Brown was innocent and shot for no reason, that Wilson was guilty and his actions were unconscionable, that the justice system is biased and failed, and that blacks are falsely targeted by police over nothing more than scuffles, because black lives don’t matter. 

Reporting similar to what USA Today printed yesterday could actually foment nationwide riots — and did. Media everywhere constantly said “Officer shoots unarmed black man,” instead of the truth, “Officer shoots man attempting to steal his gun.” A day later, the story expanded to, “Officer shoots strong-arm robbery suspect caught on video tape, who attempts to steal officer’s gun.” 

To this day, media from the loftiest heights to the dregs of the profession still frame this as cop shoots unarmed black guy. Their licenses to be reporters should be revoked. Oh, that’s right. They’re unlicensed reporters. No official training, tests, renewals, minimum requirements, government oversight, nothing — just like guns. It’s that nuisance Bill of Rights thing. 

Perpetuating that sort of reporting, which USA Today does with Wednesday’s story, violates every tenet of ethical journalism, misleads the public, is dangerously deceptive and just simply inaccurate. It was not a scuffle — it was a felony attempted gun snatch from a uniformed officer, a deadly threat. This is why Wilson was not charged and Brown was legally shot, and earned it. 

You try to take an officer’s gun, creating a lethal threat, you can expect to die. Because the facts were deliberately obscured, the black community in particular got incensed, where no rancor was appropriate. That’s good for pandering politicians who use it for votes and furor. Bad for everything else, and a disgrace to the journalism profession. 

At this point in time, with all these facts widely known but USA Today continuing to misrepresent the event, no one I know really expects a correction, or a change in the paper’s unethical and immoral behavior, but I’m respectfully asking USA Today to change its approach, and make the change anyway, for the benefit of the nation and our profession’s integrity. I’ve received no response. 

The correction, if USA Today would choose to make it, would read: “USA Today incorrectly reported that Michael Brown was shot after “a scuffle” with Officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson on Aug. 9. Brown was actually shot during an attempt to steal officer Wilson’s gun, a life-threatening felony, and a justifiable use of force on the officer’s part, for which Wilson was not charged. We apologize for the misleading report.” 

Request to USA Today: Please make the correction and set USA Today on a path toward greater credibility and increased readership.

Alan Korwin is the author of 14 books, 10 of them on gun law, and has been invited twice to observe oral argument in gun cases at the U.S. Supreme Court. Reach him at http:/, where he is the publisher of Bloomfield Press.