A spokesman for ABC News has accused The Daily Caller of provoking “400 horrible, pornographic messages” to an editorial producer who tweeted public requests for interviews from people closely connected to the victims of the Newton, Conn. school shooting.
The accusation came despite the fact that a number of other websites had reported on the producer's trolling for victims.
Jeffrey Schneider, a senior vice president with the network, told the website in a voice mail message on Monday that readers of The Daily Caller had harassed broadcast producer Nadine Shubailat after the site posted an article detailing her efforts to contact two people with close ties to the tragedy.
Also on Monday, David Martosko, executive editor of the site, responded to Schneider's charge by pointing to the coverage of the story on Gawker, Salon.com, Newsy, an article on the Reddit social site -- which attracted more than 1,300 comments -- and postings from all over the world.
Nevertheless, Schneider described in detail the actions the network had to take to keep Shubailat and her family safe, including taking her Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+ accounts offline after those tweets went viral on Friday afternoon.
We had to change her email, and she had to change her Facebook page because of the unbelievably vile and horrible threats she received after you posted your story. Your readers jammed her with porn sites … and other things. So that’s why that happened.
He stated that one of the messages contained a threat regarding her young son.
“It said: ‘His body should be covered with the blood that’s on your hands,’” Schneider recalled angrily. He noted that the message included a photograph of her son copied from a publicly accessible portion of her Facebook profile.
By Monday afternoon, everything in her Facebook page was also removed.
The ABC executive defended the producer's actions by pointing to freedom of the press. “Shubailat angled for interviews Friday via Twitter during the early, chaotic hours after the shooting -- when many parents with children at the school didn’t know whether their sons and daughters were alive.
“Do you want us to wait until the police and the government release that information?” Schneider asked. “I can’t believe that’s the kind of country you want to live in.”
He also accused the site of falsely reporting that the network had fired Shubailat because of the controversy.
”I certainly hope you’ll either be taking down or amending your story about Nadine being fired,” Schneider said in one message, “which is self-evidently just a lie. … Nadine very much works here.”
Martosko responded that The Daily Caller “never reported that the ABC producer’s employment at the network was over.” Instead, Monday morning’s article carried a subhead reflecting that she was “still on ABC payroll, but not on Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+.”
The article’s first paragraph read, in part: “ABC denies Nadine Shubailat has been fired for soliciting interviews online from panicked people.”
In addition, Martosko noted, Schneider did not mention an on-camera interview on Friday in which ABC News correspondent George Stephanopoulos spoke with Connecticut State Police Lieutenant Paul Vance, the chief law-enforcement spokesman in the days following the shooting.
Vance was still acting in that role during a news conference on Monday, when he asked reporters and other news bureaus to leave the victims' families alone while they grieve.
I’m pleading with you, as you know this is an extremely heartbreaking, difficult thing for these folks to endure. Please abide by their request.
While a massacre that resulted in the deaths of 26 people -- including 20 children -- is definitely a big news story, let's hope that reporters will abide by the wishes of the victims' families and give them the time they need to mourn this devastating loss.