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CNN’s Carol Costello Unfairly Attacked For ‘Forgetting’ Fort Hood Shooting

Breaking news events like Monday’s mass shooting at the Washington Navy Yard produce, as a by-product, copious amounts of media criticism, some fair, and some not. In the latter category, CNN’s Carol Costello is now the subject of a scornful headline on The Drudge Report, which accuses Costello’s network thusly: “CNN forgets Fort Hood: ‘I’ve Never Heard of Such a Thing Happening’…”

Drudge then links to a Mediaite piece with the less-definitive headline “‘I’ve Never Heard of Such a Thing Happening’: CNN Anchor Blanks on Ft. Hood Shooting?

In case you missed it, here’s how Mediaite‘s Noah Rothman described the key exchange in the clip:

“I used to work in Washington, live in Washington. This seems so unusual to me that a gunman could create this kind of havoc at a U.S. military facility,” Costello asked her producer, Brian Todd. “Have you ever heard of this happening before, Brian?”

“I was just saying that this is so unusual, because this is such a heavily-secured military facility. I’ve worked in Washington for many years, I’ve never heard of such a thing happening,” she asked.

“Well, we haven’t either in this area, Carol,” Todd replied. “This is the first time we’ve seen something like this, at least in many, many years. Now you remember the Fort Hood shooting in 2009, where that was a member of the service who was convicted eventually of doing that shooting.”


There is a marginal difference between asking if Costello momentarily “blanked” on the 2009 mass shooting at Fort Hood, and declaring that she, and her entire network, “forgot” about it, but a fair reading of what Costello said indicates that neither is true. Mediaite‘s Noah Rothman even noted, in his reporting, the possibility that “she was referring specifically to bases in the Washington D.C. area.”

That unkind take on costello’s comments could be seen as a sap to conservatives, who glory in any chance to attack the legitimacy of mainstream journalism, but it could as easily be a function of point of view. Noah is correct that Costello was referring to Washington, DC-area incidents, the main subtle clue to that being that she said so, twice.

“I used to work in Washington, live in Washington. This seems so unusual to me that a gunman could create this kind of havoc at a U.S. military facility,” Costello said.

“Yes,” Todd agreed.

When he missed the last part of her question, she asked it again, and again made it clear she was referring specifically to Washington. “I’ve worked in Washington for many years, I’ve never heard of such a thing happening,” she said.

It’s entirely possible that those criticizing Costello just doesn’t have the frame of reference to understand what she was talking about, but anyone who has lived or worked in Washington, DC for any significant period of time knows that one of the city’s defining features is the level of security around government facilities in town. It goes beyond what you would see in other cities, and into territory that can best be described as unnerving.

Depending on where you are in official Washington, there are multiple law enforcement agencies responsible for securing a given location, or responding to emergencies, as well as omnipresent security details for elected officials, diplomats, and others. For every security measure that’s apparent to the general public, there are others that they can’t see. In order to carry out an attack of this magnitude, the suspects would need to evade, not just the specific security measures in place at their target facility, but the scrutiny of an entire city that lives on high alert. It is this dynamic to which Costello was clearly referring.

There will be some on the right who take an “all’s fair” attitude toward this, citing liberal accusations that conservative figures like Dana Perino, Rudy Giuliani, and Eric Bolling “forgot” about 9/11, but this is not that. The distasteful score-settling is there, but Carol Costello did not make a definitively inaccurate statement. She made a clear point about the security environment in our nation’s capital, one which is simply being misunderstood, willfully or not.

[photo via screengrab]

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