Horror spread quickly across America as the story unfolded: An Army psychiatrist went on a shooting rampage at Fort Hood in Texas, killing 13 and wounding 30. But as more information emerged, clearly pointing to an act of terrorism, many in the "news" media simply chose not to report news.
By late afternoon, it emerged that the shooter's name was Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan. But that night, CBS and NBC completely avoided mentioning that the shooter was a Muslim. ABC's Charles Gibson suggested he was a "Muslim convert," which wasn't right, but at least he wasn't playing hide-and-seek with the facts. ABC reporter Martha Raddatz spoke for the media in choosing this tidbit: "As for the suspect, Nidal Hasan, as one officer's wife told me, 'I wish his name was Smith.'"
The coverage grew more factual the next morning, with all the networks noting Hasan was Muslim, and that he shouted "Allahu akbar" (God is great) as he opened fire. ABC's Diane Sawyer, though, repeated Raddatz: "We heard Martha Raddatz say last night that the wife of a soldier said, 'I wish his name had been Smith,' so no one would have a reflexive question about that."
A reflexive question, as in "If a Muslim extremist attacks an Army base shouting 'Allahu akbar!' while spraying semi-automatic fire, killing and wounding dozens, is it terrorism?" Ms. Sawyer had nothing to worry about. Here's how her colleagues covered it.
THEME: The shooting wasn't just tragic because it killed patriotic Americans who were serving their country. The shooting was "much worse" because it gins up fear-mongering right-wingers.
Newsweek's Evan Thomas: "I cringe that he's a Muslim. I mean, because it inflames all the fears. I think he's probably just a nut case. But with that label attached to him, it will get the right wing going and it just -- I mean these things are tragic, but that makes it much worse."
THEME: In the Age of Obama (as opposed to those Bush years), Americans can be expected to behave after terrorist attacks and not overreact.
From USA Today: "'We haven't heard of anything violent, which is a good thing,' said Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Muslim advocacy group. 'It shows our society has matured in how it responds to these incidents.'"
THEME: Let's not be too quick to judge these Muslims. After all, we have our Christian nut cases, too.
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