Media subordinates headlines and click baits, ramping up partisan rhetoric, in the absence of evidence
By Nate Thayer
November 29, 2015
The media coverage of the shootings near the Planned Parenthood building in Colorado has fallen far short of the journalistic mission to transmit corroborated fact, without partisan insinuation, to contribute to an informed public.
An analysis of coverage seems to indicate the media have done a full belly flop on the Colorado shooting story, clearly subordinating the available evidence to the temptation of headlines and click bait stories, giving credence to unsubstantiated partisan rhetoric, and abandoned the mandate of sifting through the normal sausage making process of interested parties and spitting out corroborated information.
Virtually all major media outlets—not to mention the partisan scrum of the internet—have abandoned available facts to insinuate a narrative that the mass shooting was the result of a politically fueled domestic terror assault carried out by opponents of abortion rights.
That may yet prove to be true, but as of Sunday at 19:15 hours EST, there remains exactly zero publicly available facts to corroborate that conclusion.
Early on the day of Friday’s siege, Colorado Springs police said the deadly confrontation with the shooter had “no connection to Planned Parenthood and shooting victims are getting treatment.” Law enforcement has, as of 48 hours later, refused to publicly assign a motive to the shooting rampage or connect it to an assault on Planned Parenthood.
Even after the armed assault was over and the shooter captured, Planned Parenthood itself made clear they had no information that the shootings were connected to their health care services. “We don’t yet know the full circumstances and motives behind this criminal action, and we don’t yet know if Planned Parenthood was in fact the target of this attack,” Vicki Cowart, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains said in a written statement Saturday.
But Cowart did add that “We share the concerns of many Americans that extremists are creating a poisonous environment that feeds domestic terrorism in this country. We will never back away from providing care in a safe, supportive environment that millions of people rely on and trust.”
And therein lies the nut of the problem. One can’t have it both ways. While Cowart linked the unknown motives of the assault to a “poisonous environment” and “domestic terrorism” connected to anti-abortion political rhetoric, and both statement are true, linking them to each other is entirely unsubstantiated supposition. And the great majority of media were far less reserved than Planned Parenthood.
Cowart later confirmed that “I believe no one of our staff was severely injured. I also believe at this time that none of our patients were injured.”
None of the released official statements—nor any independent information obtained by the media—deterred the media from going into a frenzy of assumptions connecting the shooting to a politically motived attack on abortion rights and supreme court protected provision of abortion services.
Here are the facts, after sifting through the partisan debris (which is what the credible media’s normal, work-a-day job should be), of what we know to be true:
Law enforcement received a call from Planned Parenthood of shots fired at 11:38 a.m. MST in Colorado Springs.
Colorado Springs Police Department spokeswoman Catherine Buckley said that the gunfire began outside the Planned Parenthood building in a parking lot that is used by numerous businesses in the shopping mall. She also said that “We don’t yet know the full circumstances and motives behind this criminal action, and we don’t yet know if Planned Parenthood was in fact the target of this attack.”
It was in this parking lot—outside the Planned Parenthood and many other offices—that Robert Lewis Gear opened fire on civilians and police, killing and wounding several, prior to ever entering the Planned Parenthood building.
Available evidence shows that nearly all the casualties—if not all of them—involved people who were not connected to Planned Parenthood and took place in the chaos of the first hour after the initial 911 call.
As of Sunday—48 hours after the assault began—three have been confirmed killed and 9 wounded.
Of those, one of the dead was a law enforcement officer and two civilians. At least two of those deaths occurred outside of Planned Parenthood.
Of the nine wounded, 4 were law enforcement and five were civilians. All four of the law enforcement casualties occurred outside the Planned Parenthood offices and early on in the siege. At least three of the five civilian casualties also took place outside of Planned Parenthood and prior to the shooter entering the building.
None of the Planned Parenthood staff or patients appear to have been targeted or were wounded, killed, or taken hostage during the five-hour siege, according to Planned Parenthood officials themselves.
Those truths have been lost in the shrill rhetoric and headlines since the confrontation began.
At the time the incident was reported, twenty gunshots were reportedly fired within five minutes—also all exchanged outside and neither aimed at or targeting the clinic.
At 1:34 p.m—two hours after the first 911 call– Colorado Springs police said officially and on the record that “there is no connection to Planned Parenthood and shooting victims are getting treatment.”
Six minutes prior to that, Colorado Springs Police Department tweeted that “three officers are injured and unknown civilians are injured”.
A police dispatcher, monitored over police scanner, said one person was wounded at the nearby Elite Vision, an eye care center on Centennial Blvd. The local Gazette newspaper reported–prior to police having identified the shooter as being in the Planned Parenthood building–that one victim was taken by stretcher to an ambulance.
Ozy Licano was one of the injured when the gunman fired on him in the parking lot. He detailed how the gunman had opened fire on others when he noticed and tried to flee in his car when the gunman opened fire, injuring him.
Licano said he watched from his car as the shooter pursued a crawling man through the parking lot and into the medical clinic.
Licano, who was waiting for friends in the Planned Parenthood clinic, said he later learned all were evacuated by officers.
Importantly, he added that none of his friends inside Planned Parenthood personally encountered the gunman.
The local paper, The Gazette, reported that “Police say they do not know the connection to Planned Parenthood, but that is where the 911 call came from.”
At the same time, early in the siege, MSNBC quoted a witness saying “All the shooting went down at the Chase bank,” which is next door to Planned Parenthood.
A local television station reported that the shooter “was firing at passing cars from the parking lot.”
Prior to the shooter ever entering the Planned Parenthood building, and well after the bulk of the casualties took place, police were watching the gunman who was shooting at them from the parking lot and described him as bearded, stocky, wearing a trench coat and armed with an AK-style weapon.
The first indication, to at least some in the Planned Parenthood clinic, that there was a gunman present, shots fired, or casualties came when police entered the Planned Parenthood offices and moved people to the second floor. Planned Parenthood employee Cynthia Garcia told her mother, Tina Garcia, that the officers wouldn’t say why they were gathering everybody together. Then she heard the gunshots for the first time.
The gunman had earlier entered the building and immediately fled to an office where holed up.
The clear implication was that whatever events had already transpired—including the bulk of the shootings—had already taken place.
The assailant fled to a lone office in the middle of the building and began firing outside at police and others.
There are no corroborated reports that he targeted anyone in the Planned Parenthood office, attempted to harm anyone because of their affiliation with the health clinic, or said or acted in any manner that the controversial organization was his intended target.
While Planned Parenthood said Robert Dear “broke in” to the clinic, they acknowledged that he never attempted to get past a locked door or enter the facility.
Prior to capturing the suspect, law enforcement entered Planned Parenthood and evacuated 24 people unharmed.
There are no reports of the suspect shooting at or attempting to take hostage anyone in the building.
Instead, he retreated, bypassing Planned Parenthood, and continued to fire on police in the parking lot.
Colorado Springs Police Department spokeswoman Catherine Buckley told reporters that the gunman fired the first shots outside the Planned Parenthood building. Reporters confirmed that the exchange of gunfire where casualties occurred were outside the Planned Parenthood building.
After the siege was over, Vicki Cowart, regional head of Planned Parenthood said none of the clinic’s 15 employees at the clinic Friday were hurt and she had no idea who the victims were. She later confirmed that no Planned Parenthood staff or patients were among them.
After the five-hour siege, nine people were hospitalized, including five police officers, and three people were killed, including a University of Colorado-Colorado Springs police officer.
The other two civilian deaths involved at least one who was confirmed to be outside in the parking lot making a phone call when he was shot and killed.
It very well may become known that the shooter targeted Planned Parenthood and held extremist political views that included a violent animosity towards Planned Parenthood. But nothing to indicate that has emerged to date.
But this didn’t deter the media from concluding this in the absence of any evidence.
Headlines blared the “attack on Planned Parenthood” from the very start of the siege—prior to the shooter having been identified, prior to a motive determined, and even before an exact location of where the incident was taking place was confirmed.
On Saturday, NBC news quoted a single unnamed “law enforcement” source as saying that Robert Lewis Dear had made statements which included the phrase “no more dead babies” after his arrest. But NBC was clear that the same source “stressed that Dear said many things to law enforcement and the extent to which the ‘baby parts’ remark played into any decision to target the Planned Parenthood office was not yet clear” and that “Dear’s comments were made amidst a flurry of ‘rantings’.”
This unnamed source served as jet fuel to propel the story firmly into the headlines as an anti-abortion domestic terrorism attack. Numerous other major media quoted the NBC story and ran with the headline.
It was after the NBC report that Vicki Cowart, the president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Rocky Mountains, said that witnesses to the shooting reported that Dear “was motivated by opposition to safe and legal abortion.”
No one has been able to independently confirm that such comments were made.
“Never let the facts get in the way of a good story,” is an old adage, repeated by journalists among themselves, with a mixture of disdain and guilty acknowledgment.
The Colorado shooting at Planned Parenthood appears to be a case study for that.
By Saturday night, U.S. Attorney General Lynch released a statement saying the attack was “a crime against women receiving healthcare services at Planned Parenthood”.
Many politicians, from all sides of the aisle, have cautioned against rhetoric that fuels (while simultaneously throwing petrol on) the fire of divisiveness and entrenched hostility on hot button issues such as terrorism, abortion, gun rights, and mental illness.
But few seem to be abiding by their own caution.
“Unfortunately, there’s a lot of extremism coming from all areas. It’s one of the biggest problems that I think is threatening to tear our country apart,” Carson said on ABC’s “This Week” with George Stephanopoulos. “We get into our separate corners and we hate each other, we want to destroy those with whom we disagree. If we can get rid of the rhetoric from either side and actually talk about the facts, I think that’s when we begin to make progress. And, you know, a lot of people, when they don’t have facts, when they don’t have a good backup, that’s when the rhetoric starts. That’s when the name-calling starts.”
The narrative that the Colorado shooter, arrested for killing three and wounding 9 others, was a domestic terrorist who targeted Planned Parenthood because of his opposition to abortion, should have been met with considerable skepticism in the absence of evidence pointing towards that as motive.
Instead, there is a plethora of mounting evidence that Robert Lewis Dear is simply bat shit crazy.
1.Dear was muttering and talking to himself in the parking lot outside the Planned Parenthood building, according to eyewitnesses.
- Dear had lived for many years in a cabin without electricity or running water on a mountain in North Carolina, where neighbors said he struck them as strange, non communicative, and not “cognitive.” “If you talked to him, nothing with him was very cognitive — topics all over place,” one North Carolina neighbor told the AP. They had no memories of him broaching any political or religious views.
- Dear has been arrested numerous times, including for shooting his neighbors dog, for being a Peeping Tom in the windows of another neighbor, and throwing his ex wife out their window, among other allegations.
- Robert Dear’s neighbors in South Carolina told reporters that he hid food in the woods and rarely talked to them.
- Dear offered unsolicited advice to neighbors, including recommending they put metal roofs on their home so the U.S. government couldn’t spy on them.
- Police complaints show that Dear called law enforcement numerous times complaining about neighbors harassing him.
- In addition, Robert Dear is registered to vote in Hartsel, Colorado–as a woman. Now what is that all about?
- Despite thousands of people digging into Dear’s previous political activity, zero evidence has emerged, so far, that he was politically active. His voting registration lists his political party as “unaffiliated.”
So why are all the headlines in the news tiptoeing around these facts and focused on the narrative of this being a domestic terror attack against abortion rights?