CNN Says Calling Freddie Gray Son Of An Illiterate Heroin Addict Was A Mistake, Issues No Apology

December 2, 2015  |  


Earlier this week we reported that CNN made a serious journalistic and moral error when they chose to identify the late Freddie Gray as “the son of an illiterate heroin addict.”

Not only was it completely unnecessary, it sought to demonize a deceased man and his surviving family.

After being scolded on Twitter, the outlet removed the reference with no explanation or apology.

Recently though, a source told The Wrap that CNN president Jeff Zucker said the choice to use those identifiers was a “mistake.”

According to a transcript, provided by a CNN staffer, from a town hall meeting, Zucker said,

“This was a mistake. The digital team removed it last night and inserted an editors note to be completely transparent. The editorial intent as the digital team has laid it out to me was to make clear he had a difficult upbringing. But clearly it did not come across that way when it was written and published. We recognize that. It did not work and we removed it. And were transparent about that. That it was a mistake.”

When the story was first being reported, outlets claimed that Zucker apologized for the remark, which would have been appropriate. But apparently not only did he not feel an apology was necessary, a CNN spokesperson refuted the claim that Zucker did so.

“He never used the word ‘apology,’ nor any work that evokes apology.”

Well, tell us how you really feel CNN.

I find it very interesting that in a story about the first officer standing trial for Gray’s death CNN chose to talk about his upbringing, his mother specifically. I’d venture that the officers didn’t know his upbringing when they arrested him without cause. They didn’t know his mother’s drug use when they refused to secure his handcuffed body with a seatbelt. And they were likely unaware of the fact that Gray’s mother couldn’t read when they denied him medical attention. And even if they did know all of these things, it still wouldn’t have excused or supported the actions, or lack of action, that resulted in his death.

Now that Freddie Gray’s gone, mentioning his upbringing just seems like a way to call his character into question, as if he were the one standing trial for his own murder, As if his mother’s misfortune and mistakes somehow rationalize the inhumane treatment he received at the hands of the police. What do Gray’s mother’s actions have to do with him?

If anything, an expose into the officers, their childhoods and what in their upbringings might have led them to make such fatal mistakes would have been more appropriate.

Though they clearly don’t think one is necessary, CNN should be apologizing for a number of things, like straying from the subject of the story, calling the character of a dead man and his family into question and being so grossly insensitive to not only the memory of Freddie Gray but to those of his surviving relatives as well.

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