CNN Won’t Apologize for Jumping the Gun on Coast Guard Story
CNN is unapologetic for jumping a story about Coast Guard vessels shooting at a boat near the Pentagon today (9/11) during an appearance by President Barack Obama. The story was incorrect as it turns out, and despite being told twice by the Coast Guard that nothing was going on, CNN ran with it.
This comes right after Obama used a story about Walter Cronkite holding a story about a fire because he did not have confirmation (Walter was right, the story wasn’t what it seemed, and everyone else was wrong.)
Here’s the CNN statement:
CNN staff were monitoring law enforcement activity this morning given the 9/11 anniversary. After hearing a U.S. Coast Guard radio transmission that a boat had breached a security zone on the Potomac River a short distance from the Pentagon where the President had just attended a 9/11 anniversary ceremony, CNN contacted the Coast Guard public affairs office at the agency’s headquarters. The Coast Guard spokeswoman said she was unaware of any activity taking place on the Potomac River.
After hearing a further radio transmission about 10 rounds being expended, and after reviewing video of rapid movement by Coast Guard vessels as the President’s motorcade crossed the Memorial Bridge, CNN reported the story. Simultaneously, during a second phone call, the Coast Guard spokeswoman informed us that its National Command Center and other command posts knew nothing about any activity in the area.
Given the circumstances, it would have been irresponsible not to report on what we were hearing and seeing. As with any breaking news story, information is often fluid and CNN updated the story with the official explanation from the Coast Guard as soon as it was provided.
Uncle Walter would have handled it differently!
During a memorial service for Cronkite two days ago, the president talked about how Cronkite wanted to get the story first, but “he understood the importance of getting it right.” He described how Cronkite was working a story early in his career about an allegedly massive blaze at a city hall. His boss demanded he get on the air immediately. But Cronkite said no, he first wanted to confirm the extent of the fire with the fire department.
“You don’t need to confirm it,” yelled the station manager, “my wife’s watching the whole thing,” and went on the air himself. Cronkite found it was a small fire, not a big one. No fatalities as rumored before.
“He lost his job,” said Obama, “but he got the story right.”