Despite swirling controversy over the Obama Justice Department’s decision to censor 911 transcripts of Orlando terrorist Omar Mateen pledging allegiance to ISIS during his shooting rampage, on Monday, ABC’s Good Morning America and NBC’s Today avoided any mention of the glaring omission.
The ABC morning show barely even noticed that the 911 calls were set to be released on Monday. Wrapping up a report on the ongoing investigation, correspondent Linzie Janis only offered a single sentence: “And today, authorities will release partial transcripts of the gunman's communications with hostage negotiators during the three-hour standoff that night.”
Like GMA, Today only noted that “partial transcripts” were being released, with correspondent Gabe Gutierrez explaining: “Later today, the FBI is expected to release partial transcripts of the three 911 calls between the gunman, Omar Mateen, and police here at the Pulse nightclub.” He added, “Earlier, authorities had said that Mateen had pledged allegiance to ISIS during those calls.”
Moments later, Gutierrez reported: “This morning, federal investigators are digging deeper into the Orlando gunman's motive, as this newly-released propaganda video praises Omar Mateen for the massacre at the Pulse nightclub. It does not indicate he had any prior contact with ISIS.” Despite highlighting the obvious ISIS connection, he never told viewers that the Obama administration was censoring that portion of the killer’s conversation with police.
In fact, the Today show actually avoided reporting a scoop from its own network. On Sunday’s Meet the Press, Attorney General Loretta Lynch admitted the redaction to host Chuck Todd.
Only CBS This Morning actually pointed out the censorship, as correspondent Jeff Pegues revealed: “The transcript will include redactions, including his pledge to ISIS.” A soundbite followed of Attorney General Lynch on Meet the Press (the same clip NBC refused to show): “What we're not going to do is further proclaim this individual's pledges of allegiance to terrorist groups and further his propaganda.”
At the top of the 8 a.m. ET hour, co-host Norah O’Donnell reiterated: “The transcripts will not include some of the material, including the gunman's pledge to ISIS. Lynch says, quote, ‘We're not going to further proclaim this individual's pledges of allegiance to terrorist groups and further his propaganda.’”
However, beyond acknowledging the redactions and Lynch’s defense of them, CBS never challenged the reasoning for the decision nor suggested there was anything controversial about the move.
Here is a full transcript of the June 20 report on This Morning:
7:00 AM ET TEASE:
GAYLE KING: Mourners mark one week since the Orlando shooting massacre claimed 49 lives. Conversation between the shooter and 911 operators will be released today.
7:09 AM ET SEGMENT:
NORAH O’DONNELL: And we're about to hear new information from 911 calls during the deadly siege at Orlando's Pulse nightclub. Tens of thousands held a vigil in Orlando last night honoring the 49 people killed in that mass shooting eight days ago.
GAYLE KING: And there were more farewells to the victims over the weekend. And later today, the family of Brenda McCool will hold her funeral in Orlando. McCool was the mother of 11 who died shielding her son from gunfire, that’s according to one relative. Jeff Pegues is tracking the shooting investigation for us and joins us now. Jeff, good morning.
JEFF PEGUES: Good morning. The Attorney General says the transcript will show what the killer was thinking and doing inside the Pulse nightclub as the mass shooting unfolded. By the time he made the calls, he'd already trained his guns on many of the victims inside.
[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: The Words of a Killer; Transcripts of 911 Calls Set to be Released Today]
During the three-hour ordeal inside Pulse nightclub, the killer called 911 twice and then hung up both times. But by then, police had his phone number and called back. On Face the Nation, U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch said that there were three calls altogether.
LORETTA LYNCH: After he called 911, obviously the hostage negotiators reached out to him to try and ascertain who was he, why was he doing this, and obviously the status of the victims.
PEGUES: A week later, the FBI still has not determined the motive for last Sunday's mass shooting.
LYNCH: We know that he apparently had some concerns or issues with the LGBT community. It was also Latin night at the club. So again, we're very concerned about the motivations that led him to that particular club at that particular place.
PEGUES: The transcript will include redactions, including his pledge to ISIS.
LYNCH: What we're not going to do is further proclaim this individual's pledges of allegiance to terrorist groups and further his propaganda.
PEGUES: The killer's wife remains under suspicion and investigators have not ruled out charging her. Law enforcement sources say she was with him when he purchased ammunition and during surveillance trips to Disney world and Pulse in the days and weeks before the shooting.
On June 12th, after the killer's opening round of gunfire, he'd taken hostages. There were people hiding in other areas of the club. About two hours in, law enforcement sources say he texted his wife. "Where are you?" she asked him. "Do you see what's happening?" he replied. "No," she said. Finally he wrote, "I love you, babe."
Early on, his academic records show that teachers and administrators found that he lacked remorse. Investigators have not found direct links to ISIS overseas, but they continue to examine evidence which includes surveillance tape from inside the club described as “chilling.” Josh?
JOSH ELLIOTT: Jeff, Thanks.