Networks: Ferguson 'Relieved' By Eric Holder's Visit; 'A Step Towards Transparency'

Between Wednesday's evening newscasts and Thursday's morning shows, NBC, CBS, and ABC all praised Attorney General Eric Holder's visit to Ferguson, Missouri. On Wednesday's NBC Nightly News, correspondent Ron Allen proclaimed: "Those demanding justice for Michael Brown are relieved that Eric Holder is here because they simply don't trust the local authorities." [Listen to the audio or watch the video after the jump]

On Thursday's CBS This Morning, correspondent Vladimir Duthiers similarly announced: "The visit by Attorney General Eric Holder to Ferguson was really an effort by the White House to try to bring back confidence to a community that's just been torn apart by the shooting of the 18-year-old Michael Brown....Now, many here are seeing Holder's presence as a step towards transparency."

ABC's Good Morning America seemed to suggest Holder's visit brought peace to the community, as co-host Robin Roberts declared: "Tensions easing somewhat overnight....arrests were down significantly. Only six people arrested. This after Attorney General Eric Holder met with the family of Michael Brown."

In the report that followed, correspondent Alex Perez touted: "Attorney General Eric Holder visiting Ferguson yesterday, trying to ease the unrest."

Nightly News included a soundbite of Holder dismissing critics of his unusual invention in a local criminal matter: "I was a little disturbed to see in certain places people questioning why I was here. And my answer to that would be, why would I be any place other than right here and right now?"

CBS aired a more abbreviated clip of Holder asking: "Why would I be any place other than right here and right now?"

None of network coverage mentioned Holder's controversial 2009 comments that the United States was a "nation of cowards" when it came to talking about race.  

While NBC, CBS, and ABC hailed Holder as the great peacemaker bringing "transparency" to Ferguson, they ignored a federal judge on Wednesday ordering the Justice Department to turn over documents regarding the Fast and Furious gun-running scandal.


Here is a transcript of the August 20 Nightly News segment:

7:08 PM ET

WILLIAMS: Now in this country we turn to Ferguson, Missouri. The U.S. attorney general, Eric Holder, is there by order of the President, meeting face-to-face with federal investigators, members of that community, and the family of Michael Brown. NBC's Ron Allen is there for us to begin our coverage yet again tonight. Ron, good evening.

RON ALLEN: Good evening to you, Brian. Yes, those demanding justice for Michael Brown are relieved that Eric Holder is here because they simply don't trust the local authorities. The Attorney General here on a day that follows a relatively peaceful night with the hope that Ferguson just may have hit a turning point.

The nation's top cop has promised a fair and thorough look into Officer Darren Wilson's fatal shooting of unarmed Michael Brown eleven days ago.

ERIC HOLDER: I was a little disturbed to see in certain places people questioning why I was here. And my answer to that would be, why would I be any place other than right here and right now?

PROTESTERS: Hands up! Don't shoot!

ALLEN: Attorney General Holder arrived as protesters demanded Wilson's arrest and prosecution outside the courthouse where a county grand jury heard its first day of evidence.

KEVIN AHLBRAND [POLICE UNION PRESIDENT]: Everybody calls for justice. We're for justice too. And we want people to just wait until the facts are in before they reach conclusions.

ALLEN: Holder's main focus, a separate federal probe. More than 100 witness interviews and independent autopsy already conducted, looking at whether the officer violated the teenager's civil rights.

Last night on the streets, perhaps a turning point. Nearly fifty arrests, but for the first time in days police say smaller crowds, fewer agitators. This afternoon word that an officer seen in this video pointing an assault rifle at a protester after a verbal exchange...

UNIDENTIFIED MAN [POLICE OFFICER]: I'm going to [bleep] kill you!

ALLEN: ...has been relieved of duty indefinitely.

Volunteer peacekeepers like Pastor Renita Lamkin, a local minister.

RENITA LAMKIN: Are the streets are going to clear and are people eventually going to go home? Yes, that will happen. But does that mean that there's peace? No. Does that mean things are solved? No.

ALLEN: Late today, Holder met privately with the parents of Michael Brown while everyone here hopes for another relatively peaceful night. Ron Allen, NBC News, Ferguson, Missouri.

Here is a transcript of the August 21 This Morning segment:

7:11 AM ET

JEFF GLOR: Vladimir Duthiers is in Ferguson, where the U.S. attorney general spent much of Wednesday. Vladimir, good morning.  

VLADIMIR DUTHIERS: Hey, good morning. Well, the visit by Attorney General Eric Holder to Ferguson was really an effort by the White House to try to bring back confidence to a community that's just been torn apart by the shooting of the 18-year-old Michael Brown.

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Standing With Ferguson; Holder Promises Justice After Police Shooting]  

ERIC HOLDER: Why would I be any place other than right here, right now?

DUTHIERS: Eric Holder's message to the people of Ferguson, Missouri, "We want to help." He stopped by a local restaurant to speak with members of the community.

VIOLA MURPHY [COOL VALLEY MAYOR]: We want to rectify and have justice, you know, for everybody that's involved in this.

DUTHIERS: He also met with Missouri Highway Patrol Captain Ron Johnson.

CAPT. RON JOHNSON: How you doing, sir?

HOLDER: You are the man.

DUTHIERS: Holder is the country's first African American attorney general. During a private meeting Wednesday, he said he understood the black community's mistrust of police and recalled his own experience with racial profiling.

His visit came as a grand jury began hearing evidence to determine whether to bring charges against officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown. Outside the courthouse, protesters gathered, many arguing that prosecutor Bob McCulloch should step down from the case.

Five members of McCulloch's family work for the St. Louis Police Department, including his father, who was killed by a black suspect. Many point to that incident as the reason he should step down. He argues that's a reason to stay on the job.

BOB MCCULLOCH: Did it effect me? Absolutely affected me. And what it did for me is – or to me – was made me a, I think, a fierce advocate for victims of violence.

[CLIP OF PROTESTORS]

DUTHIERS: But some here are not convinced.

JERRYL CHRISTMAS [FMR. ST. LOUIS PROSECUTOR]: You know the joke in the prosecutor's office, everybody knows. You can get a grand jury to indict a paper bag.

DUTHIERS: Jerryl Christmas once worked in the St. Louis city prosecutor's office. We here grand jury like today, we think, "Oh, well, something is getting ready to happen, justice getting ready to be served," but what they don't know is this is the beginning of a process that's probably going to end up with this case not being issued or a lesser included charge.

DUTHIERS: Now, many here are seeing Holder's presence as a step towards transparency.

(...)

Here is a portion of the August 21 GMA segment:

7:08 AM ET

ROBIN ROBERTS: Now to the latest from Ferguson. Tensions easing somewhat overnight. Police calling it a very good night and the reason they say that is that arrests were down significantly. Only six people arrested. This after Attorney General Eric Holder met with the family of Michael Brown. ABC's Alex Perez is in Ferguson, has the latest. Good morning, Alex.

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Ferguson Police Shooting Investigation; Attorney General Meets With Victim's Family]  

(...)

ALEX PEREZ: Attorney General Eric Holder visiting Ferguson yesterday, trying to ease the unrest.

ERIC HOLDER: People know that a federal thorough investigation is being done.

PEREZ: Holder also meeting with Brown's family as a grand jury met for the first time, hearing evidence that could lead to charges against Officer Wilson.

(...)

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