CNN's Reliable Sources Scolds Reporters for Linking AR-15 to DC Shootings, Ignores Piers Morgan

As NewsBusters reported several times last week, CNN's Piers Morgan refused to retract his repeated claim Monday that Aaron Alexis, the shooter at the Washington Navy Yard, used an AR-15 during the massacre.

On CNN's Reliable Sources Sunday, guest host David Folkenflik of NPR did a six-minute segment addressing the mistake several in the media made concerning this issue without once mentioning that the person probably most guilty of this error was Morgan (video follows with transcript and commentary):

DAVID FOLKENFLIK NPR, HOST: On Monday, often relying on officials, news organizations reported other elements wrong about the number of shooters and the weapons involved. Several news outlets reported that the shooter committed the mass murders with various guns, including an AR-15, a type of semiautomatic rifle.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

BOB ORR, CBS NEWS: Sources tell us that Alexis was armed with three weapons -- an assault rifle, a shotgun and also a pistol.

JOHN KING, CNN: They do believe most of the gunshots were fired from the AR-15.

SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS: He was able to get an AR-15 and other weapons on location.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

Notice that clips were shown of CBS News's Bob Orr, CNN's John King, and Fox News's Sean Hannity.

Conspicuously absent was Morgan who made his statements Monday evening after law enforcement officials were telling reporters that it appeared Alexis only brought a shotgun and that the other weapons involved were obtained at the scene.

This made Morgan one of the biggest offenders concerning this issue, yet the folks at Reliable Sources opted not to single him out or scold him for refusing to retract his claim.

Morgan actually doubled down on his error Wednesday when he played a video of colleague Morgan Spurlock purchasing an AR-15 from a Virginia gun store, "the very state where Aaron Alexis bought his gun."

Folkenflik opted not to scold Morgan for this either. I wonder why?


FOLKENFLIK: The AR-15 rifle was, for the record, used in the 2012 Newton, Connecticut, and Aurora, Colorado, mass murders. Linking the rifle to the shooting could shape the coverage and subsequent debate. Some gun owners complained that reporters don't know what they're talking about when it comes to guns.

One "Washington Post" reporter David Fallis has specialized on reporting on guns on recent years, and he's even helped to lead seminars to educate other journalists what to avoid on the topic. He joins us here in Washington.

David, thanks so much.

DAVID FALLIS, WASHINGTON POST: Thank you for having me.

FOLKENFLIK: As we now know, Aaron Alexis did not use the AR-15. Why does that matter?

FALLIS: Well, I think that when you were talking about writing about guns because it's such a highly, potentially inflammatory issue, the more outrageous or the more potentially explosive the claim, the higher the burden is on the reporter to verify that stuff. When you have a 24-hour news cycle opposed to old news cycles of once or twice a day, you are put under incredible pressure to verify that stuff instantaneously. I don't think that that abdicates. I think that makes it any less important to that.

It just -- if anything, it just ratchets it up that much higher because like he said, his name is out there and, you know, inexplicably linked to this for the rest of time.

Noel Sheppard
Noel Sheppard
Noel Sheppard, Associate Editor of NewsBusters, passed away in March of 2014.