NBC's Brokaw Cautions Media to 'Take A Deep Breath' and 'Report What We Know' About Boston Bombing

Appearing on Tuesday's NBC Today, special correspondent Tom Brokaw warned his media colleagues about premature speculation regarding the motivation of the Boston bombing: "I think everybody has to take a deep breath...report what we know, and do the best we can with the information that we're able to get reliably." [Listen to the audio or watch the video after the jump]

That statement was prompted by co-host Savannah Guthrie observing: "It always bears reminding at this time, Tom, as a long-time practitioner of our craft, that early reports are often in error. I think we've become used to getting more information, even this soon after an attack, we often do know something of the nature of the attacker. In this case, there really are more questions than answers."

Brokaw began the exchange by explaining:

But it's important this morning to know that we need to know a great deal more about who was responsible for this, was this part of a wider network of some kind? Was it just some freelance lunatic? What was the political philosophy or ideology behind it, if there was any of some kind at all? Or was it more like Newtown, the shooting, was it just some deranged person who wanted to get attention? So until we find that out, I don't think that we can come to any sweeping conclusions about the long-term impact on this country.

Guthrie mentioned: "...the significance of this date....It was, of course, Patriot's Day in Boston, with the opening of the American Revolution. And unfortunately, we've seen acts of violence during this week as well."

Brokaw reiterated: "And we don't know whether that was just a coincidence or not....Was that just an accident of the calendar or was that part of a deliberate pattern?  As I say, there's a great deal more that we need to learn today about who was responsible for this and what the motivations might possibly have been."

Brokaw concluded the segment by praising national unity in the wake of the attack:

When I was looking at those scenes in Boston today, I didn't see anybody in the street rushing to help others, whether they were first responders or marathoners or bystanders, turning to someone and saying, "I can't help you because you're from a red state or from a blue state, or you're a tea party member or a Republican or a Democrat." These are the times when America is more than the sum of its parts, and that's a lesson not to be lost, especially in Washington.


Here is a full transcript of the April 16 segment:

8:48AM ET

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: Back at 8:48. In times of national tragedy like Monday's bombing in Boston, we often turn to our colleague and friend, NBC's Tom Brokaw, who has unfortunately covered so many events like this. Tom, good morning, it's good to see you.

TOM BROKAW: Good to see you, Savannah.

GUTHRIE: I-

BROKAW: I think that what we – go ahead, I'm sorry.

GUTHRIE: Oh, I was just going to ask you your initial impressions.

BROKAW: Well, my initial impression is this demonstrates once again just how vulnerable we are despite the fact that in this free nation we have such – so much more restrictive security in everything you do, in the workplace, in public places, and so on, but you can only guard against so much.

But it's important this morning to know that we need to know a great deal more about who was responsible for this, was this part of a wider network of some kind? Was it just some freelance lunatic? What was the political philosophy or ideology behind it, if there was any of some kind at all? Or was it more like Newtown, the shooting, was it just some deranged person who wanted to get attention? So until we find that out, I don't think that we can come to any sweeping conclusions about the long-term impact on this country.

What I do know this morning is that across the country, security will be ratcheted up at public events and in workplaces and in government offices, because that's always the response that we need to have. And unfortunately, it's going to be a fixed part of our life, I think, forevermore.

GUTHRIE: And there's no question that at times like these people are looking inward and remembering some of the terrible moments in our history. Of course people think of 9/11 and that feeling of vulnerability, but as you mentioned, Tom, it's much too soon to know what the nature of this attack is.

BROKAW: That's exactly the case. Take Oklahoma City, for example, which happened in 1995. We knew that that was a well-defined terrorist attack, carried out by Timothy McVeigh and his accomplices, who were determined to bring down the federal government if they possibly could. You have to remember that 168 people were killed in Oklahoma City.

I was just there last week. I saw the memorial again, it's a very somber but beautiful place, and everyone I talked to in Oklahoma City said the residual effect of that bombing was it made the city more compassionate. It united people in a way that they could not have anticipated at the time, and ironically, Oklahoma City was scheduled to have a memorial marathon next week on the 19th, another patriot's date, by the way, but now they're reevaluating all that and on their website they're expressing their solidarity with Boston. So we're united, unfortunately, by these acts of violence, whether it's mass shootings or these random, terrifying bombs.

GUTHRIE: And you mention the significance of this date. One does not have to look far to see examples of things that have happened of significance this week. It was, of course, Patriot's Day in Boston, with the opening of the American Revolution. And unfortunately, we've seen acts of violence during this week as well.

BROKAW: We have, and we don't know whether that was just a coincidence or not. The Virginia Tech shooting took place in mid-April, for example, Waco was in mid-April. Was that just an accident of the calendar or was that part of a deliberate pattern?  As I say, there's a great deal more that we need to learn today about who was responsible for this and what the motivations might possibly have been. Was it just a freelance lunatic or was it part of a wider network?

From the time of 9/11 on, and I've been talking with our national security experts on a regular basis, they've always been worried about what they called sleeper cells, either well-organized out there waiting for an opportunity or freelancers who get motivated by something that they see on television.

You remember that we were very lucky not so long ago with that car bomb in Times Square in which that man didn't know what he was doing, thank God. He's now going to spend the rest of his life in prison, but that could have been a terrible act of violence.

GUTHRIE: It always bears reminding at this time, Tom, as a long-time practitioner of our craft, that early reports are often in error. I think we've become used to getting more information, even this soon after an attack, we often do know something of the nature of the attacker. In this case, there really are more questions than answers.

BROKAW: I think everybody has to take a deep breath, Savannah, this morning, report what we know, and do the best we can with the information that we're able to get reliably. And then all care for each other a little more and be patient when you're in the security lines, not just at the airports, but trying to get into an office-place or into a public event of some kind. This is going to tax our patience, it's going to be another test of the resilience of the American people. I have no doubt that we're going to meet it.

And just one other comment, if I can. When I was looking at those scenes in Boston today, I didn't see anybody in the street rushing to help others, whether they were first responders or marathoners or bystanders, turning to someone and saying, "I can't help you because you're from a red state or from a blue state, or you're a tea party member or a Republican or a Democrat." These are the times when America is more than the sum of its parts, and that's a lesson not to be lost, especially in Washington.

GUTHRIE: Yeah, there are some moments that certainly transcend that. Tom Brokaw, always good to get your perspective, thank you.

BROKAW: Thank you, Savannah.

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC