CNN Understates Case for Police in Violent Arrests

bradwilmouth | February 2, 2022
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Cross posted to the MRC's NewsBusters blog

Over the weekend, CNN aired a pre-recorded special, hosted by reporter Sara Sidner, which devoted an hour to portraying police officers as engaging in widespread racial discrimination against African Americans. As is typical of the liberal network, there was no acknowledgement that people of all races are sometimes subjected to violence during arrests as she declared that it is a system that is "fraught with bias."

NewsNation host Dan Abrams -- also chief legal analyst for ABC News -- notably called out CNN for airing the special right after several high-profile cases of police officers being murdered as he also questioned some of Sidner's flaky analysis.

As Sidner went through a list of several black motorists who were subjected to questionable violence in recent years, the CNN reporter in most cases understated what the suspect had done that contributed to the situation being escalated to violence.

In recalling that Daunte Wright in Minnesota was pulled over for an expired tag and inappropriate display of air freshener, it was not mentioned that the officers ran his tag number before stopping him and already had reason to believe there was a warrant out for his arrest before they pulled him over. It was also not mentioned that his legal problems that led to the warrant had started when he allegedly tried to rob a woman at gunpoint. This and other criminal activity by Wright were ignored by CNN in the past year.

When she related that Caron Nazario in Virginia was pulled over after officers failed to see his temporary tag displayed in his back window, it was not mentioned that the tinted glass that he was illegally using was the reason the tag was difficult to see in the first place. Nazario also failed to stop immediately, all of which raised red flags with the pursuing officers.

Her accounting of the shooting death of Philando Castile inn Minnesota after the officer, Jeronimo Yanez, mistakenly believed he was pulling out his gun, did not mention that Castile failed to use the proper protocol to make sure his hands were on the steering wheel when informing the officer of having a firearm in his car.

It was also not mentioned that  Castile's daily marijuana use meant that it was illegal for him to possess a gun, and might have influenced his failure to follow the cop's instructions to keep his hands in the open.

Sidner also used Castile's mother to argue that her son had been racially profiled for years because he had been pulled over about 50 times in a decade. It was not mentioned that for most of that time, Castile had frequently driven on a suspended license and without the legally required insurance, which traffic cops could easily have discovered just by running his tag number (a commonplace and routine practice for traffic cops). Driving without insurance -- a danger to other motorists or pedestrians who might be financially ruined by an accident -- is not a minor offense.

On his Monday show, Abrams devoted a segment to responding to the CNN special. He pointed out that Sidner used a source, UNC professor Frank Baumgartner, who tried to argue that it was inappropriate to do police searches if 75 percent failed to find anything illegal, even though finding something illegal 25 percent is still a substantial amount of time.

Abrams also called out Sidner for dismissing the dangers of being a police officer as she recalled that in 98 percent of traffic stops, cops are not injured seriously, as Abrams pointed out that cops being injured two percent of the time is still significant.

The CNN special, not surprisingly, gave no indication that only 25 percent of those killed by police officers on duty are black.

Sunday's CNN special was sponsored in part by Samsung. and AT&T. Their contact information is linked. Let them know how you feel about CNN putting on such a deceptive presentation that undermines police officers from keeping us all safer.

Transcript follows:

CNN Special Report

Traffic Stop: Dangerous Encounters

January 30, 2022

'"a system fraught with bias" (intro)

SARA SIDNER: It was a traffic stop of a black person like many you've heard about in the news over the past several years. There's the case of 20-year-old Daunte Wright -- initially pulled over outside Minneapolis for a minor violation, an air freshener hanging on his rearview mirror and an expired tag. Wright tried to flee as officers tried to arrest him for an outstanding warrant. It ended in his death, shot by an officer who says she confused her gun for her taser.

Also near Minneapolis, an officer killed Philando Castile after pulling him over for a minor traffic violation, a broken tail light. His girlfriend said Castile reached for his identification, and informed the officer that he had a gun which he had a legal permit to carry, but the officer claimed Castile's hand was on the gun. (clip of shooting from dashcam shown)


Army officer Caron Nazario was terrified when two officers in Southern Virginia approached his SUV with guns drawn during a traffic stop. ... The officers reported they didn't see the temporary paper tag in Nazario's car. ... He was pepper sprayed. Nazario survived, and is suing for a million dollars in damages. One of the officers was fired, but Virginia's attorney general is now suing the city, alleging that police practiced discrimination against black drivers.

About 50,000 of us drivers in the U.S. get stopped each and every day. That's about 20 million per year. It's the most common civilian police interaction. But it is more common for black folks, and potentially more dangerous.

PROFESSOR FRANK BAUMGARTNER, UNIVERSITY OF NORTH CAROLINA: My best estimate is that a black person getting into a car is twice as likely to be pulled over as a white person, roughly speaking.


SIDNER: Castile had a legal permit to carry. (dashcam video and audio from traffic stop) When Castile reached for identification, the officer claimed he saw Castile's hand on his gun, reacted lightning fast. (clip from traffic stop)

VALERIE CASTILE, MOTHER OF PHILANDO CASTILE: I woke up to my daughter crying and screaming that he was on Facebook dying.

DIAMOND REYNOLDS, GIRLFRIEND OF PHILANDO CASTILE: He was reaching for his wallet, and the officer just shot him in his arm.

OFFICER JERONIMO YANEZ: I told him not to reach for it! I told him to get his hand out!

REYNOLDS: You told him to get his ID, sir, his driver's license. Oh, my God, please don't tell me he's dead.

VALERIE CASTILE: I can tell you, I knew when my son passed. I had feelings like you have when you're giving birth. When I started having those contractions, I knew that he was suffering that -- that he was trying to live. And when the contractions stopped, I knew he was dead.

SIDNER: That night, he was stopped for a broken tail light -- a minor traffic violation, something that had happened to him more than 52 times since 2002. Why do you think your son was stopped so many times?

VALERIE CASTILE: Because he was black. Because he was black. I mean, nobody can be that unlucky, and nobody is that horrible of a driver. It wasn't "he ran a stop sign" or "he was in a car accident." It's none of that. It's what they call now, "pretext stops."

BAUMGARTNER. For the most part, equipment violations are often used as a pretext to pull somebody over, tends to be people on the poor side of town, often times minorities. Those are stops where the officer first decided that they wanted to have a conversation with the driver, and, second, figure out a way to pull him over.