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Brian Stelter, Washington Post face backlash for comparing arrest of CNN crew to George Floyd’s death

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CNN media correspondent Brian Stelter and the Washington Post are facing intense backlash for attempting to compare the arrest of a CNN crew while covering the Minneapolis riots to the tragic death of George Floyd.

On Friday, CNN reporter Omar Jimenez and his team were taken into custody around 5:10 a.m. local time as they were reporting live outside a liquor store that had been set ablaze in the demonstrations. An hour and a half later, the network reported their release.

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“A CNN reporter & his production team were arrested this morning in Minneapolis for doing their jobs, despite identifying themselves — a clear violation of their First Amendment rights,” the network said in a statement earlier. “The authorities in Minnesota, including the Governor, must release the 3 CNN employees immediately.”

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Police reportedly claimed Jimenez and the crew were taken into custody because they were told to move and didn’t listen. CNN said Democratic Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz “deeply apologizes” for the incident and had been working to have the three employees freed.

However, The Washington Post raised eyebrows later in the day with a piece headlined, “When a CNN camera hit the ground, America saw the world through George Floyd’s eyes.”

“The confrontation had started a few minutes earlier, but it was at 5:13 when one member of the team who was being taken into custody asked if he could put the camera down. Suddenly the all-seeing eye was on the ground, recording legs, shoes and concrete,” the Post’s art and architecture critic Philip Kennicott wrote. “Now the world was askew, utility wires cut across the frame at a sharp and unnerving angle, and every eye on the planet could see the scene unfold from the same position that George Floyd, the African American man pinned under the knee of a white Minnesota police officer on Monday, witnessed in the last moments of his 46-year life.”

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Kennicott acknowledged that “volumes could be written about how CNN has turned news into theater, how the narcissism of celebrity degrades its coverage and how it has substituted the argument of self-aggrandizing ideologues for genuine discourse” before adding that Jimenez and his crew “were doing their jobs, and nothing caught on camera in those six or seven shocking minutes suggested that he was acting in any way counter to journalistic norms, public safety or police requests.”

He then linked the treatment of Jimenez and his crew to the hostility CNN has faced from President Trump — despite the arrest took place in a Democratic-controlled city and state.

“He was, as one of his crew said off-camera, just doing his job. That he, a journalist of color, was arrested by cops whose pale arms suggest that many of them are white, and that CNN, which has been a consistent object of President Trump’s puerile and corrosive abuse, was the target raises deeply disturbing questions,” Kennicott explained. “Among them: How many police in America are loyal not to the public but to a racist brand of populism that has found in the president its vigorous avatar?”

While the Post critic conceded that “the arrest of the CNN crew cannot compare, by any moral calculus, to what the camera caught on Monday”, he called it “another epochal moment in the disintegration of American public life, and its consequences could be profound.”

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“If the police target journalists, and single out journalistic organizations they disapprove of for particular sanction, then we can be certain of one thing: There will be more George Floyds, more abuses of power, more corruption of public life,” Kennicott said. “The boots we saw in Minnesota early Friday will be there and everywhere, trampling faces, forever.”

That article was shared on Twitter by Stelter, who has become known in recent years as the media’s “hall monitor” and chief defender of CNN from critics.

While Jimenez, his crew and CNN received overwhelming support from other journalists following the arrest, critics blasted Stelter as well as the Post for comparing CNN’s victimhood to Floyd’s death, as well as the media for making “the story” about itself instead of police brutality.

“NO NO NO NO NO,” journalist Yashar Ali exclaimed in response to Stelter’s tweet.

“Not even close,” CBS Atlanta reporter Astrid Martinez told Stelter.

“JFC delete this bulls—,” musician Richard Marx reacted.

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“The media just can’t stand it when they’re not the center of the story, huh? Despicable take,” Spectator USA editor Amber Athey tweeted.

“The CNN team should not have been arrested,” Washington Examiner reporter Jerry Dunleavy wrote. “That said, what the hell is this absolute dumpster fire of a take,”

“Comparing the arrests of a CNN camera crew to the death of George Floyd is a really bad look,” The Daily Caller’s Logan Hall said.

“See, this is how the media so often throw goodwill, which was absolutely there this morning b/c it was awful. Perhaps the biggest lie about the news media is that their insistence that they don’t like being a part of the story. They love it and relish it, especially CNN,” NewsBusters managing editor Curtis Houck scolded the network.

The protests in the Twin Cities were sparked by the death of 46-year-old George Floyd, a black man who died Monday after a white police officer, Derek Chauvin, kneeled on his neck for several minutes as he was being arrested on suspicion of forgery.

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Video footage that went viral from the arrest showed Floyd telling the police officer “I can’t breathe” as passersby begged the officers to get off him. Moments later, Floyd became nonresponsive and was pronounced dead a short time later at a local hospital.

Chauvin was arrested Friday and charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter. The other three officers involved with the arrest have been fired amid calls for their arrest.

Fox News Greg Norman and Brian Flood contributed to this report. 

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