CNN Misleadingly Suggests Most Killed by Police Are Black

June 13th, 2020 10:42 AM

On Tuesday's New Day on CNN, the liberal news network's flagship morning show served as a microcosm of one of the big problems with how the media covers police-involved violence, exaggerating it into more of a racial issue than it actually is.

The three-hour show highlighted three cases in which suspects died during arrests under circumstances similar to George Floyd's death.

As two of the cases involved black suspects while another was Hispanic, the show spent overwhelmingly more time on the black victims while the one Hispanic victim was forgotten about after receiving a brief early on. No mention was made that whites killed by police outnumber blacks by a 2-1 margin and make up about half of fatal police shooting victims.



The deceptive selection of which cases get more attention is consistent with how the same show has focused disproportionately on black victims, making it appear that police violence hits just one race, and stoking racial tensions unnecessarily.

Shortly after 6:00 a.m. Eastern, co-host John Berman teased the cases of Javier Ambler of Austin and Antonio Valenzuela of New Mexico.

At 6:09, he then introduced a four-minute report on Ambler as it was made clear that he was black:

So we have a new arrest video … that's raising all kinds of questions this morning. This incident happened last year, but a police bodycam video was just released. A 40-year-old black man is heard on the video telling police he couldn't breathe. Javier Ambler died shortly after.

After a report by reporter Ed Lavandera concluded, Berman returned to read a mere 34-second piece regarding the Valenzuela case.

Valenzuela was not mentioned for the rest of the show, but the full report on Ambler ran again after 7:00, and a brief ran shortly after 8:00. Additionally, the case of Manuel Ellis of Tacoma, Washington, was featured at 8:36 in a segment in which his mother and sister were interviewed.

In all, not including the plug from shortly after 6:00, the one Hispanic victim was only given 34 seconds, while the two black victims combined received 15 minutes and 29 seconds of coverage.

The same show has a pattern of misleadingly showing their viewers many more cases of black victims even though there are in reality many more victims of other races. In the past two years since June 2018, out of 20 cases of deadly police shootings covered by New Day, including the show's weekend edition, 17 focused on black victims while three involved Hispanic fatalities.

But, while all 17 black victims were clearly identified by race, usually with a photo, only one report involving Hispanic victims included enough information to determine race.

Last year, after a Minneapolis police officer was convicted of shooting unarmed white woman Justine Damond, New Day notably did not bother to update viewers on the case even though they updated several cases in which cops were convicted of killing black suspects, including Laquan McDonald, Jordan Davis, Botham Jean, and Anthony Hill.

And, while the show misleadingly makes it appear that almost all police violence victims are African-American, the show's anchors do not even take the opportunity to clarify the actual racial breakdown when they have a chance to do so.

On Saturday's show, Texas Democratic Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee incorrectly claimed that "more than 50 percent" of police killings involve African-American victims, but co-host Christi Paul did not bother to correct her.



And on Tuesday, CNN analyst Abby Phillip cited the Washington Post database on deadly police shootings, but did not bother to mention the racial breakdown it consistently finds.

Additionally, on the same show, co-host Alisyn Camerota interviewed Houston police chief Art Acevedo about the George Floyd case, but did not bother to mention that his department has been embroiled in a case in which an officer was charged with falsifying a search warrant to perform a raid on an apparently innocent white couple which resulted in their deaths.

Below is a transcript of the first couple of minutes of the interview of Manuel Ellis's mother and sister from the Tuesday, June 9, New Day show on CNN. Click "expand" to read more. 

6:01 a.m. Eastern

JOHN BERMAN:  As George Floyd is laid to rest, new cases of deadly police encounters are just now coming to light. Video has just been released from Austin, Texas, of an incident from March of 2019. Bodycam video shows a black man being tasered while being restrained. The man can be heard saying, quote, "I can't breathe," twice. He later died. And we're just seeing now from an incident in New Mexico, an officer there is charged with manslaughter after being caught on a camera using a choke hold on a man under arrest. This incident from February.


6:09 a.m.

BERMAN: So we have a new arrest video -- this one from Texas -- that's raising all kinds of questions this morning. This incident happened last year, but a police bodycam video was just released. A 40-year-old black man is heard on the video telling police he couldn't breathe. Javier Ambler died shortly after.


6:13 a.m.

BERMAN: So, in New Mexico, a now-fired police officer is facing manslaughter charges in connection to a deadly arrest back in February. Christopher Smelzer put the suspect, Antonio Valenzuela, in a choke hold after he fled a traffic stop. Paramedics tried to revive Valenzuela, but he was pronounced dead at the scene. His death was ruled a homicide. The Las Cruces Police Department says it banned the use of vascular neck restraints after Valenzuela's death.


8:36 a.m.

ALISYN CAMEROTA: Eery echoes of George Floyd's death have brought new attention to the case of Manuel Ellis, a suspect killed in police custody three months ago. Newly released video shows police in Tacoma hitting Ellis. It's important to note that this video does not show the entire incident. It does capture what officers are saying to Ellis while he's on the ground. … Now, an attorney for Ellis's family says that Ellis's voice can be heard in the background of this recording. This is a police radio call, and he says you can hear Ellis screaming, "I can't breathe."

(clip of audio)

Joining us now is Marcia Carter -- that's Ellis's mother -- Monet Mixon, his sister, as well as James Bible, the family's attorney. … Monet, what have police told you about that night and why everything became so aggressive and violent?

MONET MIXON, SISTER OF POLICE SHOOTING VICTIM: The police haven't told me anything.

CAMEROTA: What do you understand about what happened that night? I mean, can you just piece it together from some of these videos?

MIXON: So we didn't get a video until Friday. I knew from the day that I was told that my brother was killed in police custody -- I knew that day that they were lying, and it was a coverup.

CAMEROTA: How did you know that?

MIXON: Because I know my brother.

CAMEROTA: Meaning your brother wouldn't have been combative with police?

MIXON: Exactly. He would not have been combative with police. We were not taught -- we were not disrespectful, especially when it comes to, like, authoritative figures. We've always been taught that you have to respect especially law enforcement because of what they could potentially do to you. So we've known this our whole lives. He would teach it to my kids, so it's just no way that that happened.