CNN correspondent John King reported authorities had identified a suspect of the Boston Marathon bombing as a “dark-skinned male” yesterday afternoon.
This controversial description of an alleged suspect is receiving backlash from the African-American community.
There have been various reports identifying a potential suspect as “a dark-skinned individual”. [sic] This terminology is not only offensive, but also offers an incomplete picture of relevant facts about the potential person of interest’s identity. When conveying information for the public good, and which can help law enforcement with the help of a vigilant public to keep the country safe, it’s important that such facts be put into proper context.
NABJ in no way encourages censorship but does encourage news organizations to be responsible when reporting about race, to report on race only when relevant and a vital part of a story. Ultimately this helps to avoid mischaracterizations which might encourage potential bias or discrimination against a person or a group of people based on race or ethnicity.
During the CNN segment, King said:
“I want to be very careful about this, because people get very sensitive when you say these things. I was told by one of these sources who is a law enforcement official that this was a dark-skinned male.”
The CNN correspondent said that he was given more information, but he did not want to share all the details.
Al Sharpton responded to the CNN report on his show Politics Nation calling the comments “shameful.”
“These comments are very offensive,” Sharpton said. “They have no place in our discourse, especially in a time when Americans inspired by the example of the people in Boston are coming together as one.”
PBS anchor Gwen Ifill responded to King’s statement via Twitter, tweeting her disapproval:
Disturbing that it's OK for TV to ID a Boston bombing suspect only as "a dark-skinned individual."
— gwen ifill (@gwenifill) April 17, 2013
A conflicting report was tweeted later on Wednesday about the suspects identity by CBS, describing a bombing suspect as a “white male.”
JUST IN: Man sought as possible suspect is WHITE MALE, wearing white baseball cap on backwards, gray hoodie and black jacket.
— CBS News (@CBSNews) April 17, 2013
John King responded to harsh criticism via Twitter, stating that he is not a “racist.”
Source of that description was a senior government official. And I asked, are you sure? But I'm responsible. What I am not is racist.
— John King (@JohnKingCNN) April 18, 2013
The FBI reports no arrests have been made, and NBC has yet to confirm or identify any suspects of the Boston bombing.
Follow Carrie Healey on Twitter @CarrieHeals.