Vox’s Aaron Rupar spread viral misleading context regarding the Atlanta shooting incident by sharing a clip that he claimed showed a law enforcement official making excuses for the shooter.
“‘Yesterday was a really bad day for him and this is what he did’ — a law enforcement official explains Robert Aaron Long’s decision to kill 8 people in a strange manner,” Rupar tweeted March 17 alongside a short clip of Cherokee County Sheriff Capt. Jay Baker speaking.
Rupar’s tweet soon went viral, amassing more than 10 million views and sparking subsequent misinformation from multiple publications. Some on social media, however, pointed out that Rupar’s tweet was missing key information: Baker was not defending or dismissing the situation, but rather explaining what the shooter Long allegedly told investigators.
“How many people even bothered to watch this clip, let alone the full video?” writer Cathy Young tweeted regarding Rupar’s clip. Young shared the full video of the press conference showing that Baker was, in fact, explaining to reporters what Long said after the shootings.
Full video, btw (h/t @deplorable_diva)https://t.co/8E7lGqZlD0
— Cathy Young (@CathyYoung63) March 18, 2021
“He claims – and as the chief said, it’s still early – but he does claim that it was not racially motivated,” Baker noted in the video showing fuller context. “He apparently has an issue, what he considers a sex addiction, and sees these locations as something that allows him to go to these places. And it’s a temptation for him that he wanted to eliminate. Like I said, it’s still early on, but those were comments that he made.”
Shortly after, a reporter asked if Baker felt the alleged shooter “understood the gravity” of his actions.
“Um, when I spoke to investigators – they interviewed him this morning – and they got that impression, that yes, he understood the gravity of it and he was pretty much fed up and he kind of at the end of his rope and yesterday was a really bad day for him and this is what he did,” Baker explained, indicating this was how the accused shooter portrayed the situation.
Reason’s senior editor Robby Soave tweeted that Rupar’s shortened clip and misleading context was “remarkable dishonesty.” Soave noted that by watching the full video, “it’s clear the police spokesperson [Baker] is summarizing the suspect’s explanation of his own actions to investigators.”
Wow. If you watch the full video, it’s clear the police spokesperson is summarizing the suspect’s explanation of his own actions to investigators. Vox journalist Aaron Rupar framed this to make it sound like the cop was making excuses for him. Remarkable dishonesty. https://t.co/fxHaEWoMnp
— Robby Soave (@robbysoave) March 19, 2021
CNN’s Chris Cuomo played an even shorter version of the clip on his show, saying it’s “obviously insensitive” and asking correspondent Amara Walker how Asian Americans are reacting to the news.
“He was just having a bad day? I think a lot of Asian Americans hear that and they’re hurt by it,” Walker said. “It sounds like this authority … downplaying what happened. I mean 8 people killed in three spas across Atlanta. Six of the eight were Asians … And so when you downplay it to, ‘He was just having a bad day,’ again, we’re going into the realm of dehumanizing these victims.”
USA Today and The Daily Beast were also among those to leave context out regarding the commentary. (RELATED: Biden Says Atlanta Massage Shootings Are ‘Very Troubling’ But He’s Still ‘Waiting For An Answer’ On Shooter’s Motive)
NBC News was one publication to characterize Baker’s comments accurately, noting in an article on March 18 that he was referring to what the suspect told investigators. ABC News also noted further down in an article that “some police officials” told the network Baker was trying to explain what Long said.
Rupar defended his tweet after some noted that it was missing context, tweeting “Huh? how is the summary misrepresented?”
huh? how is the summary misrepresented? all the context needed to understand what he’s saying is in the clip
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) March 18, 2021
Long is accused of a mass shooting that left eight people dead in Atlanta massage parlors. Police explained that the investigation is ongoing, but the suspect has claimed the attacks were not racially motivated.
Following backlash from the comments as well as revelations that Baker owned a t-shirt that described COVID-19 as the virus imported from “CHY-NA,” he was removed as spokesman for the case.