Networks Skirt Mentioning Islamism in Machete Attack Coverage

ABC, CBS, NBC's Friday evening newscasts all failed to mention Islamism as a possible motive in their coverage of the machete attack inside an Ohio restaurant on Thursday. ABC's World News Tonight didn't even use the word "terrorism" during their report on Mohamed Barry's rampage. Alex Perez merely noted that "Barry was known to the FBI, but was not under a full-scale investigation." CBS's Jeff Pegues underlined that "police say the assault has the hallmarks of a terrorism-inspired attack." Pegues was also the only Big Three correspondent to report that Barry was "here in the U.S. on a green card." [video below]

All three programs noted that the restaurant owner's Israeli background. However, NBC's Pete Williams was the only one to specify that "the owner...is from Israel — a Christian Arab. Investigators are looking at whether Barry may have mistakenly thought he was Jewish." Williams also revealed that "radical comments by him [Barry] four years ago brought a brief look from the FBI, which then moved on."

ABC anchor David Muir led into Perez's report by highlighting that "law enforcement revealing a short time ago the man was known to the FBI." The correspondent soon reported that "the chaos beginning about six o'clock Thursday night at Nazareth Restaurant, owned by a local Israeli man. Police say the attacker, identified as 30-year-old Mohamed Barry, stormed in with a machete in hand." Perez concluded the segment with the same "known to the FBI" phrase as Muir.

On CBS Evening News, Pegues led with his "hallmarks of a terrorism-inspired attack" line. He also spotlighted that "30-year-old Mohamed Barry went to this Mediterranean restaurant and asked questions about the Israeli owner and the food." The CBS journalist ended his report with the detail about the green card. However, he failed to give a specific detail that was mentioned in CBS News's reporting on the attack online — that "the suspected attacker has a Somali background, and officials believe he may have traveled to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates in 2012."

Tell the Truth 2016

NBC's Lester Holt led into Williams's report by pointing out "the questions investigators are trying to answer: why did he do it, and could it have been an act of terrorism?" The correspondent included the details about the "Christian Arab" background of the restaurant and that "investigators are looking at whether Barry may have mistakenly thought he was Jewish." He also noted that "investigators say they don't know why Barry attacked now and chose that target — no known connections yet with ISIS."

Williams revealed, at the end of the segment, that "it may be, one law enforcement official says tonight, a blend of factors — a long, simmering interest in radicalism; and all the attention given to terror attacks worldwide."

The transcript of Alex Perez's report from ABC's World News Tonight; Jeff Pegues's report from CBS Evening News; and Pete Williams's report from NBC Nightly News, which all aired on February 12, 2016:

02/12/2016
06:38 pm EST
ABC — World News Tonight With David Muir

DAVID MUIR: In the meantime, breaking developments as we're on the air this evening, after a terrifying machete attack at a restaurant in Ohio — law enforcement revealing a short time ago the man was known to the FBI — that man tearing through the restaurant, injuring several people, then leading police on a high-speed chase.

ABC's Alex Perez with the 9-1-1 calls tonight.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN (from 9-1-1 call):  Some guy pulled out a machete and started stabbing people.

ALEX PEREZ (voice-over): Tonight, investigators are trying to figure out what triggered a horrific attack on this restaurant in Columbus, Ohio.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE DISPATCHER (from 9-1-1 call): How many people are hurt?

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: One seriously — we need an ambulance very badly.

PEREZ: The chaos beginning about six o'clock Thursday night at Nazareth Restaurant, owned by a local Israeli man. Police say the attacker, identified as 30-year-old Mohamed Barry, stormed in with a machete in hand.

TRACY, VICTIM: I was on the ground; and I just — I thought to myself that — you know, at any moment, I'm going to get a knife in my back.

PEREZ: She says Barry remained silent as he went table to table, hacking at customers — many defending themselves with chairs.

TRACY: There's blood everywhere.

PEREZ: Authorities say Barry took off in a car — police eventually tracking Barry down and shooting him dead.

DEPUTY CHIEF MICHAEL WOODS, COLUMBUS POLICE DEPARTMENT: Lone individual, machete, going into a public place — those are the things that — that give us concern.

PEREZ: The attack leaving four people at the restaurant injured — including one critically.

PEREZ (on-camera): And David, the FBI now working with investigators here, trying to figure out a motive. Law enforcement sources tell ABC News that Barry was known to the FBI, but was not under a full-scale investigation. David?

MUIR: Alex Perez with us tonight — thanks, Alex.


02/12/2016
06:38 pm EST
CBS Evening News

SCOTT PELLEY: Police are trying to figure out why a man armed with a machete attacked people last night in a restaurant in Columbus, Ohio. Four people were hurt — one critically.

Jeff Pegues is following this.

JEFF PEGUES (voice-over): Police say the assault has the hallmarks of a terrorism-inspired attack. Michael Woods is deputy chief of the Columbus Police Department.

MICHAEL WOODS, DEPUTY CHIEF, COLUMBUS, OHIO POLICE DEPARTMENT: Lone individual, machete, going into a public place, committing an assault on people that he apparently does not know. Those are the things that — that give us concern.

PEGUES: Investigators say last night, 30-year-old Mohamed Barry went to this Mediterranean restaurant and asked questions about the Israeli owner and the food. He left, and then returned half an hour later with a machete. In 9-1-1 calls, witnesses described Barry slashing diners.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN (from 9-1-1 call): He just walked in and started stabbing people.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN (from 9-1-1 call): Oh, my God! Oh, my God! Oh, my God! We need an ambulance here now!

PEGUES: Barry led police on a five-mile car chase before he was shot and killed, after investigators say he lunged at an officer.

PEGUES (on-camera): Law enforcement sources tell CBS News that Barry had been on their radar before; and that is why Columbus police quickly notified federal authorities after that attack. Scott, we've also learned that he was here in the U.S. on a green card.

PELLEY: Jeff Pegues, thanks.


02/12/2016
07:08 pm EST
NBC Nightly News

LESTER HOLT: The FBI is investigating a vicious attack that took place inside a restaurant in Ohio. It happened when a man pulled out a machete and went on a rampage — slashing and stabbing people as customers made panicked calls for help. The questions investigators are trying to answer: why did he do it, and could it have been an act of terrorism?

We get the latest from our justice correspondent, Pete Williams.

PETE WILLIAMS (voice-over): Police say a man walked into this Columbus restaurant around dinnertime; asked some questions; then came back a short time later with a machete.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN (from 9-1-1 call): Some guy pulled out a machete and started stabbing people I ran out with my kids.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN (from 9-1-1 call): There are several people injured here.

WILLIAMS: Some of those inside threw chairs to fight back. He ran out, drove away, and was stopped after a five-mile chase. Police say he was shot and killed when he lunged — holding a knife at one of them.

The FBI immediately began searching the home of the man identified as the attacker: 30-year-old Mohamed Barry. Law enforcement officials say radical comments by him four years ago brought a brief look from the FBI, which then moved on.

Restaurant employees say when Barry first came in, he asked where the owner is from. The owner, Hany Baransi, is from Israel — a Christian Arab. Investigators are looking at whether Barry may have mistakenly thought he was Jewish.

HANY BARANSI, RESTAURANT OWNER: I've been crying — I'm a 50-year-old man — I've been crying like a baby for the last 12 hours.

WILLIAMS : Four people were hurt in the machete attack — the most seriously: Bill Foley, who sings at the restaurant, now in critical but stable condition.

CHIEF KIM JACOBS, COLUMBUS, OHIO POLICE DIVISION: We are very grateful that our victims that sustained wounds last night are all expected to recover.

WILLIAMS: Investigators say they don't know why Barry attacked now and chose that target — no known connections yet with ISIS.

WILLIAMS (on-camera): It may be, one law enforcement official says tonight, a blend of factors — a long, simmering interest in radicalism; and all the attention given to terror attacks worldwide. Pete Williams, NBC News, Washington.

Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan is a news analyst at Media Research Center