Did Obama Just Convict the Suspected Fort Hood Shooter?
2009-11-09 0:00

By Scott Butterworth | TheWashingtonPost.com


President Obama began his weekly Internet and radio address on Saturday with these words: "This past Thursday, on a clear Texas afternoon, an Army psychiatrist walked into the Soldier Readiness Processing Center, and began shooting his fellow soldiers."

Did the president, speaking directly about the man suspected in the killings, prejudice any jury that might be called to hear the case? At the least, he appeared to fall afoul of a lesson that every journalism student -- and law student -- learns early: The safest way to avoid yourself some trouble is to couch such a flat assertion of guilt.

That is why news organizations scrambled to rewrite their stories Thursday night after an Army general changed his story about the suspected gunman. You can't libel the dead, goes the legal doctrine, and the general had said the gunman was dead. So the media felt pretty comfortable with stories asserting that Maj. Nidal M. Hasan was the man who had killed so many at the Army post.

But once Lt. Gen. Robert Cone, the commander at Fort Hood, said that Hasan had not been killed but rather was hospitalized and in no imminent threat of dying, news anchors, reporters and editors hurried to add the words "suspected" and "allegedly" and "believed to have" to their scripts and stories.

Obama said the "act of violence" by the psychiatrist was "heartbreaking" and "despicable" and "horrified us." It was even "the worst of human nature on full display." The speech included not a single "reportedly."

Then again, Obama is not the first president to stray from the well-trod path of "not prejudging an investigation." For instance, President George W. Bush did so in December 2005, saying in an interview with the Fox News Channel that he believed former House majority leader Tom DeLay was innocent of money laundering and conspiracy charges.

Asked about whether Bush had just prejudged -- and prejudiced -- a criminal case, White House press secretary Scott McClellan replied, "Call it a presidential prerogative."

The Obama White House had no comment.

Article from: WashingtonPost.com



Related Articles
Restraint urged in Fort Hood speculation
Obama mourns the shootings at Fort Hood
Obamas to attend Fort Hood memorial Tuesday
Muslim groups fear backlash after Fort Hood shooting
Barack Obama 'insensitive' over his handling of Fort Hood shooting


Latest News from our Front Page

Boris Nemtsov, Putin Foe, Is Shot Dead in Shadow of Kremlin - A Staged Shooting?
2015-02-28 22:37
NY Times: Boris Nemtsov, Putin Foe, Is Shot Dead in Shadow of Kremlin Mr. Nemtsov, a former first deputy prime minister of Russia, was killed in central Moscow in the highest-profile assassination in Russia during the tenure of President Vladimir V. Putin. A Staged Shooting? ... Why does the dead body of fitness enthusiast Boris Nemtsov have a pot belly? The Anti-New York Times doesn't ...
Holocaust, Hate Speech and Were the Germans so Stupid?
2015-02-28 20:31
Description form YouTube: This is an updated version of the video which was taken down by YouTube following a spurious copyright-infringement claim. It addresses issues regarding claims that Zyklon B in liquid form gives off fumes at temperatures below 0º C. As the world approaches the brink of a new Middle East crisis this time involving Syria, clearly at the behind-the-scenes ...
The Jewish Roots of Leonard Nimoy and What the ‘Live Long and Prosper’ Hand Symbol Really Means
2015-02-28 0:20
Leonard Nimoy first saw what became the famous Vulcan salute, “live long and prosper,” as a child, long before “Star Trek” even existed. The placement of the hands comes from a childhood memory, of an Orthodox Jewish synagogue service in Boston. The man who would play Spock saw the gesture as part of a blessing, and it never left him. “Something ...
Baby born still INSIDE his amniotic sac is hailed a ‘medical miracle’ by doctors [Video]
2015-02-27 22:46
What an incredible miracle… Not only was the little boy three months early – he was born inside his amniotic sac. I’ve never heard of this happening before. If you look at the picture, you can see him clearly with his little arms and legs curled up. He was still being given oxygen by his mom until the sac was ...
California Infant Dies after 8 Vaccines, Family Gets Him Back from Hospital Cremated
2015-02-27 21:55
Parents in California are distraught after losing their infant son after being vaccinated. He died in his sleep and was taken to the hospital already deceased. Hospital staff ruled his death as sudden infant death syndrome. The couple was told an autopsy was required to be performed on their son. After returning home, waiting to get an update, they never received ...
More News »