Tuesday's "Today" show completely ignored two facts about a man who murdered a soldier at an Army recruiting station in Arkansas: He had just converted to Islam and was being investigated by the FBI for a trip to Yemen. Instead, NBC's Ann Curry, in anchor briefs throughout the show, vaguely explained that Abdulhakim Muhammad was "upset with the military." Both ABC and CBS mentioned the conversion and the Yemen trip.
In the 8am hour, Curry confirmed, "Police say the suspect had political and religious motives." (What kind? She didn't say.) The reporter did note that the alleged shooter would be charged "with an act of terrorism," but the rest of her comments were so vague as to be confusing. (The network journalist also never used the individual's name.) "Good Morning America" reporter Pierre Thomas, however, very clearly defined the situation. He pointed out that police say Muhammad is "a Muslim convert" and "was specifically hunting U.S. soldiers." Thomas added, "Sources tell us Muhammad had traveled to Yemen and had been arrested for allegedly carrying a fake Somali passport. Both countries are considered hotbeds of al Qaeda-inspired radical Islam."
The graphic ABC used even conveyed the man's religious affiliation. It read, "Military Recruiter Killed: Muslim Convert Charged in Attack?" GMA also repeated the story in an 8am anchor read.
CBS's "Early Show" only devoted one news brief to the shooting. However, news anchor Russ Mitchell mentioned all the key points that NBC ignored. He observed, "Arkansas police say the suspect, a U.S. citizen, was a recent convert to Islam." Mitchell also highlighted the trip to Yemen and that the FBI had been watching him.
ABC and CBS should be commended for reporting the facts of the case and not softening them with political correctness. NBC, at the very least, should give people enough information so as to know key points relating to this terrorist incident.
A transcript of the June 2 GMA segment, the "Early Show" news brief and the "Today" show news briefs can be found below:
DIANE SAWYER: Now to that shooting outside a military recruiting center in Little Rock, Arkansas on Monday, leaving one soldier dead, another seriously wounded. A suspect is in custody this morning amid reports that this is an act of homegrown terrorism. ABC's senior justice correspondent Pierre Thomas has the latest from FBI headquarters in Washington. Good morning, Pierre.
ABC GRAPHIC: Military Recruiter Killed: Muslim Convert Charged in Attack?
PIERRE THOMAS: Hi, Robin. That tragic shooting has a community stunned and the community in mourning. And it appears to be a brazen act of terrorism on U.S. soil. Just after 10:00am local time in Little Rock, Arkansas, a quiet Monday morning was shattered by shots from an assault rifle. When the shooting ended at this Army/Navy recruiting situation, one soldier, private Quinton Ezeagwula, only 18, was critically wounded. Another, William Long, 24, lay dying.
LANCE LUPLOW (witness): I hear about six, seven loud bangs. I come running across the street and there's a white male and a black male. And they're both in Army fatigues. And they're both shot real bad. One of them, he couldn't even talk. The other one had crawled inside. He was saying, "I can't believe this is happening." The other guy, I mean, he was out of it, he was just a blank stare. He was just looking up at the sky.
THOMAS: Police say this was no ordinary drive-by shooting. They belief the suspect, identified as Abdulhakim Muhammad, a Muslim convert, was specifically hunting U.S. soldiers.
CHIEF STUART THOMAS (Little Rock Police Department): It's our belief that he hunted with specific intent to target military personnel.
THOMAS: Military officials were clearly shaken, stunned that this happened here, so close to home.
CAPT. MATTHEW FEEHAN (U.S. Army Recruiting Commander): On behalf of the U.S. Army, or condolences go out to the families, especially the families of private long. Any loss of life is tragic.
THOMAS: Police say early indications are that Muhammad acted alone. But ABC News has learned that an international investigation was in full tilt last night, to see if others were involved. Sources tell us Muhammad had traveled to Yemen and had been arrested for allegedly carrying a fake Somali passport. Both countries are considered hotbeds of al Qaeda-inspired radical Islam.
BRAD GARRETT (Fmr. Special agent, FBI): It's very troubling. Did he just do this on his own? Does Yemen have any relevance as to what happened? Or did he- is he part of a group?
THOMAS: Because of Muhammad's travels, the FBI had already launched a preliminary investigation, targeting him before the shooting. Despite those efforts, the FBI was not able to stop Muhammad, who allegedly confessed. Today, the FBI will be looking for answers. Robin?
ROBERTS: All right, Pierre. Thank you. And, of course, thinking of the family of those two soldiers.
RUSS MITCHELL: The FBI is investigating a deadly shooting at a recruiting center in Arkansas as a possible case of home-grown terror. Two soldiers who had just finished basic training were gunned down yesterday. One died, the other is in stable condition. Arkansas police say the suspect, a U.S. citizen, was a recent convert to Islam. CBS News has learned the suspect had also been in Yemen recently and the FBI had been watching him, but did not have enough evidence to pick him up.
7am news brief
ANN CURRY: A suspect is in custody for allegedly opening fire Monday on a military recruiting center in Arkansas. One soldier was killed, another was wounded. Police say the suspect was upset with the military and will be charged with first degree murder and committing an act of terrorism.
8am news brief
CURRY: Police say a suspect has confessed to a shooting a military recruiting center in Arkansas on Monday. Police saying he had political and religious motives. One soldier was killed, another was wounded. The suspect is being charged with murder and committing acts of terrorism.
9am news brief
CURRY: In Arkansas, a suspect is in custody accused of opening fire Monday at a military recruiting center killing one soldier and wounding another. Police say the suspect had political and religious motives. He will be charged with first degree murder and with committing a terrorist act.