An hour ago, I watched CNN boast, in flashing graphics, of its "exclusive interview" with Scott Roeder, the man charged in the murder of Dr. George Tiller. CNN reporter, Ted Rowlands, quoted Roeder as saying the closure of Tiller's clinic would mean "no more slicing and dicing of the unborn child in the mother's womb and no more needles of poison into the baby's heart to stop the heart from beating, and no more partial-birth abortions." Rowlands also said that "if he is convicted in Tiller's slaying, 'the entire motive was the defense of the unborn.'"
Since when does CNN permit murder suspects to gloat over, or attempt to justify through a reporter, the results of the crime of which he is accused? What other journalistic institution would race to be the first to give an excused murderer a platform from which to boast about any murder, whether he committed it or not?
I have mentioned in this space before that my first boss, Bill Higginbotham of the United Press, told me that an interview I had done with the American Nazi, George Lincoln Rockwell, would not include Rockwell's statement on camera that if he were elected President he would execute 90% of all American Jews, because they were traitors. I thought I had a great exclusive that would demonstrate that Rockwell was a dangerous extremist.
Higginbotham, who was from Missouri, thought that too many of the people he grew up with would agree with Rockwell. He believed that some ideas were too dangerous to be spread to a broad audience. He killed that part of the interview, and he taught me a lesson -- you don't have to print everything anybody says, particularly if it comes from a nut-job. And that applies even if it's a story that will get you a lot of attention.
Time magazine reports that "According to a statement issued by his brother, David, [Scott] Roeder has suffered from bouts of mental illness." Maybe reporter Rowlands should've mentioned that fact before he quoted him. But even if he did, would that have justified giving Roeder a platform? We all know that abortion is a passionate and divisive issue, and most of us know that there are an awful lot of people that we grew up with will agree with Roeder. If FoxNews had given Roeder this platform, there'd be a lot of yelling and screaming about it. I think CNN should suffer the same fate.
(I apologize for the lameness of the title of this piece, but Bill Higginbotham also taught me about libel law.)
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