ABC World News Reports Threat at its Tucson Town Hall, Omits it Was Made to a Tea Partier

January 15th, 2011 8:37 PM

As NewsBusters previously reported, a survivor of last week's Tucson shootings issued a death threat to a Tea Party member Saturday in the middle of a taping for a town hall meeting to be aired on ABC's "This Week."

For some reason, ABC World News Saturday in its report about the gathering chose to omit the seriousness of the threat and that it was made to a Tea Partier (video follows courtesy Mark Finkelstein with transcript and commentary):

DAVID MUIR, ABC NEWS: And Christiane Amanpour joins us now. Pleasure to do the town hall with you today, and wasn't it something to see this community come together? No matter what side they're from, they want consensus.

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, HOST “THIS WEEK”: It's absolutely remarkable, and that's what has impressed so many people, how the community has reacted, how they’ve bonded, how they want to go forward, and how even though there are still differences of political opinion, today we saw them wanting to carry on an honest dialogue as they said, but a reasonable and rational one.

MUIR: And we'll get into that dialogue about mental health and guns tomorrow morning, but one of the things that struck me today was all of this talk about ordinary Americans doing extraordinary things.

AMANPOUR: Exactly, and so much is being said and so much is being made of these ordinary people who put themselves in the position of being real heroes. Now, they don't want to take that label, but each and every one of us wonders how would we react in a similar situation, and I think they have really shown fortitude and courage and whatever we want to call it, they should be honored.

MUIR: Christiane, thank you. And again, I'll join Christiane for a special edition of “This week,” “After the Tragedy: An American Conversation Continued.” That’s tomorrow morning right here on ABC.

Another note tonight on today's town hall meeting, one of the victims of the shooting who was in the audience became agitated and was detained by security. It happened toward the end of the conversation. James Fuller who was shot twice last week, took offense at what another audience member was saying and mumbled what seemed to be a threat. Security did escort him out of the building, and he's been charged now with a misdemeanor.

As NewsBusters reported earlier, this was apparently far more serious than what Muir conveyed. Here's Fox News's take on the matter:

GREGG JARRETT, FOX NEWS: We are getting word now from Pima County Sheriff's office confirming to Fox News that one of the Tucson shooting victims a week ago today has allegedly today uttered a death threat during a taping of a town hall meeting for ABC’s "This Week" that will air tomorrow. Now, toward the end of the town hall meeting today, it was this morning, one of the shooting victims, his name is J. Eric Fuller, apparently took exception to comments by two of the speakers, Arizona state Representative Terri Proud, a Republican, and Tucson Tea Party spokesman Trent Humphries. And according to sheriff's deputies at the scene, Fuller took a photo of Humphries, again, the Tea Party spokesman, and said, “You are dead.” Fuller will and has apparently already been charged with a couple of things, threats and intimidation and disorderly conduct.

Again, one of the survivors of the shooting a week ago is being charged now with uttering death threats and apparently it was either caught on tape or certainly seen by a crowd that included dignitaries at this town hall meeting being conducted. This is -- all right, this is J. Eric Fuller who was one of the many people who were shot a week ago recovering from his injuries attending this town hall meeting with dignitaries there, as well as just citizens, witnesses to the shooting, as well as those who were affected by it, as well as first responders. A town hall meeting. Picks up a picture of Terry Humphries, a spokesperson for the local Tea Party group in Tucson, and says, "You're dead." Now, under the law, according to law enforcement there, that constitutes a crime, a crimes of threat and intimidation, disorderly conduct for which he has now been charged.

Why did ABC choose to omit these vital details?

Such seems especially curious as even the New York Times offered readers a better picture of what transpired in an article published at The Caucus blog moments ago (h/t Finkelstein):

The shooting victim, Eric Fuller, 63, became agitated as another man spoke in support of gun ownership, The Arizona Republic reported. He took a photograph of the speaker and said, “You’re dead.”

The speaker was identified in other reports as Trent Humphries, a founder of the Tucson Tea Party.

Fascinating that a Times blog provided greater detail about this matter than the news organization that was actually present for the entire thing.

Even more surprising was that in the article published concerning today's events at the meeting, greater details were given than on World News:

Towards the end of an otherwise thoughtful town hall, there was a single incident: James Eric Fuller, who was shot at the Safeway last week, allegedly made a threatening comment to another audience member, Tucson Tea Party co-founder Trent Humphries. It is unclear whether Humphries heard Fuller and the two never engaged. According to the Pima County Sheriff's Department, Fuller used a cell phone to take a picture of Humphries and allegedly said, "You're dead."

Fifteen seconds after the conclusion of the town hall, law enforcement officials approached Fuller and led him to a side entrance. A moment later, Fuller could heard yelling, "What's the matter--with you--whores!" Fuller was charged with disorderly conduct and threatening and intimidation and taken to a local mental health facility, according to the Sheriff's Department.

Again, why would World News opt to omit all this?

Might it have gone counter to Muir's contentions that this was a community that has really come together. "No matter what side they're from, they want consensus."

This also wouldn't fit with Amanpour's claim, "It's absolutely remarkable, and that's what has impressed so many people, how the community has reacted, how they’ve bonded, how they want to go forward, and how even though there are still differences of political opinion, today we saw them wanting to carry on an honest dialogue as they said, but a reasonable and rational one."

A man issuing a death threat to a Tea Partier is hardly a picture of a reasonable and rational dialogue, is it?

On the other hand, if Fuller was the Tea Party member, and Humphries was the shooting survivor, do you think ABC would have been concerned about presenting a unified community, or would this report focused extensively on a conservative making such a death threat?

Seems a metaphysical certitude the latter would have been the case.

Whatever the answer, Amanpour and Company sure seem comfortable editing out inconvenient information from their reports.

When ABC's Pierre Thomas interviewed a friend of shooter Jared Lee Loughner's during last Sunday's "This Week," her opinion about the assailant being a liberal was completely ignored.

Makes you wonder what will be presented in Sunday's program.

Stay tuned.