NBC News’ response to one of its freelancers being pulled over and apprehended for running a red light while seemingly following the jury bus in the Kyle Rittenhouse trial late Wednesday isn’t sitting well with the public, including with Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Glenn Greenwald.
While it’s true the freelancer, James J. Morrison, was eventually let go with nothing more than some traffic tickets, even the Kenosha Police Department remains suspicious.
“Police suspect this person was trying to photograph jurors. This incident is being investigated much further,” the department announced on Twitter early Thursday morning.
The suspect, who reportedly identified himself as an NBC News producer working under the supervision of an MSNBC employee named Irene Byon, was caught driving in the same direction as the jury bus. More tellingly, he ran a red light, seemingly to not lose track of the bus.
NBC News statement says Morrison is a freelancer with the organization but denies he was attempting to contact or photograph the jury, with the network adding they regret the incident. Big question now is: Why run a red light while behind the jury bus? What was the urgency? https://t.co/bRdqDXMJzW
— Joe Concha (@JoeConchaTV) November 18, 2021
Uhhhh so what exactly would the point of following the jury van be if you didn’t intend to make any sort of contact with the jurors? https://t.co/Oj038G4A9V
— Greg Price (@greg_price11) November 18, 2021
Judge Bruce Schroeder is, for his part, taking no risks. He announced Thursday afternoon that MSNBC employees will no longer be allowed in the Kenosha County Courthouse during the remaining duration of the Rittenhouse trial.
But according to NBC News, it’s all a big misunderstanding.
“Last night, a freelancer received a traffic citation. While the traffic violation took place near the jury van, the freelancer never contacted or intended to contact the jurors during deliberations, and never photographed or intended to photograph them. We regret the incident and will fully cooperate with the authorities on any investigation,” the network said in a statement Thursday afternoon.
Many have since cast doubt on the network’s claim, including Greenwald, an award-winning journalist with a record of seeing right through some of the greatest lies of the modern age.
“MSNBC obstructing justice by trying to make the Rittenhouse jurors know that the media is watching them and trying to discover their identity, as a little warning that they had better deliver the right verdict,” he tweeted Thursday.
To be clear, this stunning tweet is pure speculation. No concrete evidence has yet emerged showing that the network had purposefully sought to intimidate the jurors.
Still, for someone of Greenwald’s credibility to offer such speculation does merit attention.
MSNBC obstructing justice by trying to make the Rittenhouse jurors know that the media is watching them and trying to discover their identity, as a little warning that they had better deliver the right verdict: https://t.co/1ObEatecFL
— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) November 18, 2021
Another theory is that NBC News is being disingenuous in its claim that there was never any intent “to contact the jurors during deliberations.”
The theory is that the network intended all along to contact the jurors after deliberations.
Full intent on seeing the jurors and contacting them after deliberations. Given the media’s generally grotesque coverage of this trial, at what point does such behavior amount to intimidation? https://t.co/WcmEhppaPE
— Erielle Davidson (@politicalelle) November 18, 2021
This theory allegedly fits with commonplace practice.
“The language in this statement from NBC News is consistent with Court TV reporter Ted Rowland’s claim that news networks following a jury bus is common practice in big trials, with the goal of obtaining jurors’ contact info so networks can quickly reach out to them after verdict,” Steve Lookner, the founder of an outlet called Agenda-Free TV, claimed.
Court TV’s website contains a biography of Ted Rowlands who says he previously “worked for over 20 years as a correspondent for CNN and ABC News where he covered some of the most infamous trials in history. Ted’s work includes reporting on trials involving O.J. Simpson, Michael Jackson, Jodi Arias, Scott Peterson, Robert Blake and Phil Spector among others.”
It’s not clear though whether he ever said what Lookner has claimed he said.
The language in this statement from NBC News is consistent with Court TV reporter Ted Rowland’s claim that news networks following a jury bus is common practice in big trials, with the goal of obtaining jurors’ contact info so networks can quickly reach out to them after verdict. https://t.co/lfc758odo6
— Steve Lookner (@lookner) November 18, 2021
What’s also unknown is why the woman whom Morrison mentioned, Irene Byon, has reportedly nuked all her social media accounts, including on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.
It’s possible she’s afraid of being targeted with harassment from Rittenhouse’s supporters. Another possibility is that she’s afraid analysis of her social media accounts might uncover a motive.
An archived copy of her Twitter profile saved at the Wayback Machine shows that at the top of her feed was a tweet about deceased Minneapolis criminal suspect George Floyd.
Some have argued this suggests that she is a so-called “racial justice activist” — i.e.,the very type who’ve falsely accused Rittenhouse of being a white supremacist and inexplicably claimed that him being acquitted would be an affront to black people.
Potential motive can also be found in the virulently anti-Rittenhouse rants of MSNBC’s top voices, including Tiffany Cross and Joy Reid.
Though, again, this is all speculation.
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