The Worst Moment of Fox’s Baltimore Riot Coverage

Monday evening’s downward spiral of rioting in Baltimore became a cable news feeding frenzy, as you can imagine. Our own Tina Nguyen took CNN to task for registering a rather oblivious note throughout early evening coverage of the violence; and yours truly spotted this rather ugly media speculation moment on Fox News.

During the 9 p.m. ET hour, anchored by Megyn Kelly, the network transitioned from reports about an under-construction senior center allegedly burned down by Baltimore rioters to some naked speculation about a shooting roughly 200 miles away outside a church in Brooklyn, New York.

“We want to bring you an update now from Brooklyn,” Kelly said as the Fox b-roll cut from Baltimore to an aerial shot of New York’s East Flatbush neighborhood. “We are being told that three people have been shot,” she continued.

“Trying to get the details here in front of me. Three people have been shot, and yet we don’t know their condition. Hold on a second, trying to get the information now. Three people shot in Brooklyn. We have a chopper en route to try to find out what the situation is,” Kelly continued, clearly caught off-guard by what her producers had put in front of her.

The immediate question, of course, being: If there was no information readily available, why report this completely tentative story right this very second, without proper verification or details beyond a mad scramble to aerial footage?

Ah, here’s why: “But we’ve been keeping our eyes open for any related incidents, as we saw back during Ferguson, violence did break out in several other cities besides. Here you go. Here’s the Brooklyn live shot from overhead. So we will work to find out whether this is in any way connected to what we’re seeing in Baltimore. Which we don’t have confirmed.”

Right. It’s unconfirmed. So, again, why report it? Why make the completely speculative (and ultimately incorrect) connection to Baltimore, possibly inflaming a situation and scaring people where they needn’t be frightened?

This was the sort of loaded speculative moment that the network’s conservative opinion talkers like Sean Hannity or Andrea Tantaros would salivate over; but Megyn Kelly, Fox’s tough-as-nails, no-B.S. primetime star anchor? She’s supposed to be above that.

Ultimately, all this moment did was play into a certain late-night comedian’s long-standing joke about how the network works hard to terrify its elderly white audience.

And, as you might expect, the Brooklyn shooting was never mentioned again throughout the evening’s coverage. Why? As the New York Times reported on Tuesday, the violence occurred outside a funeral for a former gang member who once served jail time for murder and eventually turned his life around via the church, only to die of a heart attack at age 38. Police have suggested local gang disputes as the motive.

Watch the moment below, via Fox:

On a brighter note, however, Fox also shined last night with Leland Vittert‘s stellar on-the-ground reporting. He kept cool while tear gas canisters were thrown around him, treated his interview subjects with humane respect, and asked thoughtful questions of protesters and residents alike. He narrated the looting and violence with a forthright demeanor, untainted by the narrative-driven whims of either “side” — especially during the 10 p.m. hour, when he had Hannity in his ear with loaded questions about gang-related speculation.

Watch three highlight-worthy moments from Vittert’s coverage below, via Fox:

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