Trump Condemnation Of Church Fire Not Covered By All Networks
On Nov. 1 when a historically black church in Greenville, Mississippi, was set on fire, it made national headlines. The words “Vote Trump” had been spray painted onto the outside.
The next day all three networks had limited coverage. There were key differences.
ABC only showed images of the outside of the church with the words “Vote Trump” spray-painted onto the wall.
“Amid all the excitement today this ominous image,” ABC’s Tom Llamas said. “An African-American church in Mississippi torched, and scrawled on the wall outside ‘Vote Trump’.”
In a live exchange with Llamas, anchor David Muir mentioned that the Trump campaign had denounced violence before, without specifying the campaign’s disapproval of the church burning.
Llamas noted the Trump campaign’s denunciation of the official newspaper of the KKK’s endorsement:
“The publication does not represent the views of the tens of millions of supporters that are supporting the Trump campaign right now.”
CBS’s Scott Pelley said:
“Police are investigating a fire last night at a predominately African-American church in Greenville, Mississippi. Someone spray-painted ‘Vote Trump’ on the Hopewell Baptist Church. There are no suspects, but the mayor is calling it a hate crime.”
CBS failed to mention that the Trump campaign had condemned the church burning and denounced the KKK newspaper endorsement.
NBC’s Peter Alexander led his coverage with this:
“Meanwhile the fiery campaign rhetoric is now spilling over, a fire in a Mississippi African-American church last night.”
Like the other two networks, NBC showed images of the crime; however, NBC was the only network that specifically said the Trump campaign has condemned the church burning.
NBC also included an interview from the Greenville police chief Delando Wilson.
“We feel that the quote that was placed on the church is basically, it’s an intimidation of someone’s right to vote,” he said.
Former Los Angeles Times reporter Maggie Farley said if ABC and CBS had a statement from the Trump campaign, they would have included it in their coverage.
“One of the pitfalls of daily journalism is that you have to go with what you have at airtime,” she said. “The internet allows for constant updating, but when the cameras go on, you work with the facts you have.”
She said NBC’s Peter Alexander may have contacted someone in the Trump campaign for a response on the church burning, allowing him to include it in his coverage.
Farley also said ABC’s inclusion of the denunciation of the KKK newspaper endorsement “may have been a proxy in the report for their disapproval of the church burning.”
Farley recognized that each network had slightly different coverage of the incident, but she said:
“It would be odd and irresponsible if they had Trump’s disavowal and did not use it.”