Since the advent of blogging, hardly a nanosecond passes these days without one reporter or another being savagely attacked by someone. Another day, another beat-down on the Web. Yawn.
Actual physical assaults on reporters stationed here in the States, however, occur far less frequently. And to judge by last week’s assault of a reporter with a Fox News affiliate in San Diego, such physical attacks still attract a heavy dose of cable news coverage. Witness MSNBC’s go-for-broke reporting on the incident.
The saga began last week, when John Mattes, a reporter for a Fox News affiliate in San Diego, was attacked on camera by one of his subjects — Assad Suleiman, a local businessman, who, according to Mattes, was running a crooked real estate scam in the area.
In the video, which quickly circulated around the Internet, the screeching of brakes is heard. Suleiman jumps out of his car, walks towards the reporter, smacks the newsman in his face, and the two soon tumble to the ground, where they proceed to scrap and grapple for several minutes until cops intervene and arrest the combative Suleiman. End of story. Right?
Not according to the newshounds at MSNBC.
On Friday, MSNBC threw all of its news network weight behind the story and managed to land an “exclusive interview” with Suleiman, who was fresh out of jail. In the subsequent interview, MSNBC’s Rita Cosby scored a major scoop — namely, that the man seen hitting the reporter on the video was (for the first time!) admitting to hitting the reporter.
“We have new developments to report regarding that shocking beating of the TV reporter, it was all caught on tape,” announced MSNBC anchor Contessa Brewer. “In an exclusive interview with MSNBC’s Rita Cosby, Suleiman admits to throwing the punches that left the reporter John Mattes with cracked ribs and other injuries.”
And there was more!
Not only did Suleiman admit to doing what we all saw him do, but also (in a freakish turn of events) he actually proclaimed his own innocence and blamed the media. Sure enough, flanked by his lawyers on one side, and a news network desperate for ratings on the other, the unrepentant Suleiman launched into a long-winded explanation of why he was justified in socking the reporter.
“What started out as an identity theft has now turned into a personal agenda of Mr. Mattes by interviewing my neighbors, he’s been contacting my business partners, my associates, my friends,” said Suleiman.
“This is a reporter who was out of control,” said his lawyer.
In other words, here was a reporter who had the gall to do some enterprise reporting (interviewing friends and associates, no less) and capped it off by pummeling Mr. Suleiman’s fist with his bare head! Totally out of control!
So how did MSNBC react?
Rather than vetting Suleiman’s claims or taking another look at his alleged real estate misdeeds, MSNBC did the next best thing: they aired a clip of the interview along with a clip of the beat-down again and again throughout the weekend.
“Look at this,” said MSNBC anchor Brewer at one point, while introducing the video. “This is crazy.”
Um, yeah. Not to mention, lazy.