NBC News faced criticism over its coverage of the unrest in Minneapolis this week following the death of a man who died in police custody after one of its anchors indicated the network was intentionally avoiding using the word “riots.”
Craig Melvin, an MSNBC host and co-anchor of "Today," tweeted Thursday that the situation in the Minnesota city was “fluid” but most accurately described as “protests.”
“This will guide our reporting in MN,” he wrote. “‘While the situation on the ground in Minneapolis is fluid, and there has been violence, it is most accurate at this time to describe what is happening there as ‘protests’ -- not riots.’”
Minneapolis has experienced four straight days of riots, including looting, and the burning of a police precinct and other buildings. Police have used rubber bullets and tear gas to control crowds and the Minnesota National Guard was deployed Thursday night to assist.
The riots followed the death of George Floyd, who died in police custody Monday after he was arrested for suspected use of a counterfeit $20 bill.
Floyd crumpled to the ground as officers attempted to put him in a squad car, and video circulated widely showed an officer restraining him by keeping his knee on Floyd’s neck.
An autopsy did not attribute strangulation as the cause of death but concluded that the combination of being restrained, potential intoxicants in Floyd’s system and his underlying health issues, including heart disease, likely contributed to his death.
Regardless, Melvin’s tweet was mocked by other reporters and conservative pundits.
"What kind of alternate reality is this where the mass looting and burning of businesses is not considered a riot by a news network? A protest is what we had here in LA last night. What’s happening in Minneapolis is the textbook definition of a riot. Protesters don’t loot. Period," tweeted Bill Melugin, a reporter with Fox network’s Los Angeles affiliate KTTV.
Dan Gainor, president of the conservative Media Research Center watchdog group, was similarly dismissive.
“Tell that to the store owners whose businesses burned down,” he tweeted.
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