If networks don't know, they should tell us that

By John Kass

Chicago Tribune

Published: Friday, April 19 2013 12:00 a.m. MDT

"I want to be very careful about this because people get very sensitive when you say these things," said CNN's John King during a report. "I was told by one of these sources, who is a law enforcement official, that this was a dark-skinned male. The official used some other words, I'm not going to repeat them until we get more information because of the sensitivities. There are some people that will take offense even at saying that."

But there was no arrest. And what does skin have to do with it?

CNN wasn't the only violator. Fox said there was an arrest and also had to back off.

We pundits aren't exempt either. Those representing the political left and the right have been circling this story, too, with some on the left clearly hoping the suspects turn out to be anti-tax libertarians, and some on the right hoping the suspects turn out to be foreign extremists. Each side is ready to pounce. David Axelrod, the president's political brain, offers us an example of the technique.

"I'm sure what was going through the president's mind is — we really don't know who did this. It was Tax Day. Is it someone who was pro–," said Axelrod on MSNBC, stopping at the edge. "You just don't know. And so, I think, his attitude is: Let's not put any inference into this. Let's just make clear that we're going to get the people responsible."

That was expertly and deliciously done — Axelrod dropping the inference about those opposed to tax increases, then admonishing those who'd infer anything until we know the facts. And such is the craft of a master.

But back to CNN. After doing the dark-skinned man report, they truly should reform themselves and offer a new series of crawls:

... WHEN FACTS COME IN, WE'LL SAY SOMETHING ... DON'T WORRY ... FACTS WILL COME. ... REALLY THEY WILL ... BUT FOR NOW, WE JUST DON'T KNOW.

John Kass is a columnist for the Chicago Tribune. Readers may send him email at jskass@tribune.com.

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