Four hours after the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn, a designated spokesman, armed with talking points provided by law enforcement or informed by media reports, might have said all or most of the following:
- “The suspected gunman has ties to the school. One shooter is the father of a student there.”
- “Police have reportedly found two bodies at a house connected to the shooter.”
- “The gunman’s mother is a kindergarten teacher at the school and was among those killed.”
- “There are reports that the students of the gunman’s mother are among those killed.”
- “There are reports that one of the gunman’s parents was killed and that his body was found in a residence.”
- “A body was found in a home close to the school, which is reported to be another of his relatives, although it could possibly be his mother.”
- “The shooter is 20-year-old Ryan Lanza.”
- “He was able to walk into the school because officials recognized him.”
- “His brother is being held for questioning, possibly as a second shooter in the incident.”
- “Of the shooter’s three weapons — two handguns and a rifle — he fired the handguns. The rifle was found in his car.”
All of the above statements, published within hours of the shooting, are wrong.
I cite these misstatements not as a knock against the media or the law enforcement sources that fed journalists these accounts. An unimaginable tragedy exploded in our midst.
Many were slaughtered within easy reach of our global communications center, with no language, time or cultural barriers. And yet, in the early stages, people got a lot of it wrong.
Days later, the motive of the suspected gunman, Adam Lanza, remains unknown.
Now switch to Benghazi, a world away. In the fog of an armed assault, four are left dead in restricted space with local sources limited by language and reliability. Yet, when the Washington account of the attack, presented five days later and based upon official talking points, turned out to be inaccurate on certain points, charges of lying and attempts to mislead were flung around in Washington with reckless abandon.
“I don’t trust her,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) of U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice.
With all the investigative resources at our disposal, we still don’t have the full Sandy Hook story, three days later. Another headlong, and heedless, rush to judgment.