Media coverage of Ferguson, Mo., reflected divisions within the country: Conservative outlets expressed skepticism over the case against Officer Darren Wilson’s actions in the Aug. 9 death of unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown; left-leaning outlets, meanwhile, emphasized the complaints of African Americans that the police routinely mistreat them in their own neighborhoods. The chasm in tone and emphasis started shortly after the killing and extended all the way through the pre-Thanksgiving decision by a St. Louis County grand jury not to indict Wilson.
Today was another big-news day on the policing front, as a grand jury on Staten Island found no reasonable cause to vote an indictment against a white police officer who’d placed Eric Garner, a black man, in an apparent chokehold in July; Garner later died.
Cable news outlets, an unruly trio that almost never agrees on anything, found quite a bit of common ground:
On CNN earlier today, legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin carefully noted that the decision was “surprising” given that this was a “very minor” alleged crime. “Given the facts that were available and given the fact that Eric Garner, who did very little wrong, if anything wrong…wound up dying, it’s surprising.” In a separate conversation, legal analyst Sunny Hostin told host Brooke Baldwin, “I don’t know if I can even put my legal hat on because I’m just so stunned by this.” She later engaged in a heated debate with fellow panelist Tara Setmayer of The Blaze over the level of deference to accord the grand jury.
On MSNBC, Ari Melber on “The Cycle” interviewed Clay Risen of the New York Times, who said, “I honestly almost don’t know what to say — it seems so clear … the public is unwilling or uninterested in questioning police judgment.” Moments ago, on his show “Politics Nation,” the Rev. Al Sharpton, said, “Today’s decision raises deep and painful questions about justice in America.”
On Fox News, legal eagle-cum-anchor Greta Van Susteren expressed deep skepticism about the no-indictment in a discussion with the members of excellent roundtable show “The Five.” “This man was unarmed, he was selling cigarettes — I mean this wasn’t robbery, he was selling cigarettes — you have several cops … standing around him and when he said, ‘I can’t breathe,’ that would have been a great invitation to stop. … We don’t do the death penalty for selling cigarettes illegally on the streets,” Van Susteren said. Kimberly Guilfoyle, a member of “The Five” cast, stressed how “disproportionate” was the police force in light of Garner’s behavior.