Imagine the outrage and attempts to implicate hate speech by conservatives if someone planted and threatened to explode bombs, and ended up leaving a suicide note railing against President Obama. But just over a year ago, a similar individual who expressed his hatred of President Bush and Karl Rove in a suicide note received little attention. As Aspen, Colorado, delayed its New Year’s celebrations while the city faced threats from several bombs planted by would-be bank robber James Blanning as he tried to extort money from local banks by threatening to detonate the bombs, little attention was given to the left-wing sentiments expressed in his suicide note in which he railed against President Bush, Karl Rove, the rich, and the war in Iraq.
Anchors Gretchen Carlson on FNC’s Fox and Friends and Tamron Hall on MSNBC News Live mentioned some of the left-wing ramblings on January 2, 2009, while on CNN’s American Morning and The Situation Room, a clip of an Aspen law enforcement official was shown in which he recounted some of the political sentiments. The broadcast networks all reported the general story, but did not mention his political views. FNC’s Carlson informed viewers that Blanning’s note "criticized President Bush," and that he "resented the rich and was upset that Aspen had become a ritzy resort." MSNBC’s Tamron Hall noted that "he hated Bush and Rove with a passion."
CNN’s American Morning twice showed a report by correspondent Thelma Gutierrez that included a clip of Aspen’s Assistant Police Chief Bill Linn relaying that Blanning "had a problem with the Bush administration and wars in the Middle East." The same report ran twice on the same day’s The Situation Room.
Below are transcripts of relevant portions of the January 2, 2009, Fox and Friends on FNC, MSNBC News Live, and CNN’s American Morning and the Situation Room:
#From FNC’s Fox and Friends:
GRETCHEN CARLSON: "Disturbing new details about that Aspen, Colorado, bomb scare. The man who sent those gift-wrapped bombs, well, he also left notes in them. Police say he was threatening mass death. He also demanded $60,000 and criticized President Bush and the Aspen police chief. The gift-wrapped bombs were sent to two banks on New Year’s Eve. Two more were found in an alley that prompted a mass evacuation and cancellation of Aspen’s New Year’s celebration. They were detonated without anyone getting hurt, though. So here’s the suspect, 72-year-old James Blanning. He killed himself after the incident. Police say he resented the rich and was upset that Aspen had become such a ritzy resort."
#From MSNBC News Live, airing during the 9:00, 10:00, and 11:00 a.m. hours:
TAMRON HALL: And new details this morning in the bomb threat that led to a New Year’s Eve evacuation of downtown Aspen, Colorado. The Aspen Times received what appears to be a last will and testament from the suspect on New Year’s Eve. The rambling note mentions the bombs, that he hated Bush and Rove with a passion, and that he, quote, "was and am a good man."
Well, parts of Aspen were evacuated after, police say, the former resident left explosive devices made out of gasoline and cell phone parts at two banks along with notes demanding $60,000. The bombs were safely detonated. Surveillance cameras captured the man’s picture, the suspect, 72-year-old James Blanning, as he left some of those packages at one of the banks. Blanning was found dead yesterday. He killed himself.
#From CNN’s American Morning, and The Situation Room:
THELMA GUTIERREZ: Suzanne, bomb experts say the bombs were made from plastic bladders filled with five gallons of gasoline. Cell phones were also attached to the devices to remotely set them off. Now, police also say that the suspect demanded $60,000 in used $100 bills, but neither of the banks handed over a penny of it. This is 72-year-old James Blanning, captured on a bank surveillance camera just as he is about to deliver a plastic tub with two packages wrapped in Christmas paper to a Wells Fargo bank.
BILL LINN, ASPEN ASSISTANT POLICE CHIEF: Those packages contain notes threatening detonation of devices contained in those tubs and, quote, "mass death if his demands were not met."
GUTIERREZ: And this chilling warning: "You had better be a very cool individual and not start a panic, or many in Aspen will pay a horrible price in blood." The bank employee immediately calls Aspen police. Then, 12 minutes later, they receive a second call, this time from the Vectra Bank, which also received identical notes.
LINN: He claimed the devices each contained what he called a big firecracker made of unique chemicals and electronics. The notes, which are exactly the same at both banks, seem to indicate that four banks in Aspen were targeted. The notes also indicated the author had a problem with the Bush administration and wars in the Middle East, and he declared this to be, quote, "a suicide mission."
GUTIERREZ: By late afternoon, just as New Year's preparations are getting under way, downtown Aspen is evacuated. The bomb squad and federal officials move in. In the evening, the bomb squad detonates a device at Vectra Bank. It explodes in a fireball. On the steps of the Aspen Times, this handwritten note is found by an employee, indicating Blanning is planning on taking his own life. Then, in the pre-dawn hours New Year's Day, James Blanning is finally found inside his car dead from what police say was a self- inflicted gunshot wound. When the surveillance photograph of Blanning was developed, the sheriff immediately recognized him from an incident back in the '90s, when Blanning threatened to hang himself at the courthouse over issues he had with the way in which Aspen was growing. Now, police say that Blanning had served time in prison in the '90s for fraudulent land sales.