Reporter who leaked Uvalde video defends his action amid parental outcry: Authorities consistently failed them

(Video Credit: CNN)

Investigative reporter Tony Plohetski, who is with the Austin American Statesman, appeared on CNN Wednesday to defend the outlet for releasing surveillance footage that showed the Uvalde elementary school shooting.

The 77-minute video has drawn harsh criticism from some parents and the authorities. Plohetski said it was their “journalistic responsibility” to release the video for public consumption in the name of transparency.

The footage shows police waiting for over an hour to breach the classroom where the gunman was making his stand after slaughtering 19 children and two teachers. The police have constantly changed their story concerning the timeline of events but the video pretty much lays it out and it isn’t pretty.

Kimberly Rubio, who is the mother of one of the victims, stated during a press conference that releasing the entire video was “unnecessary” and forced some parents to relive the trauma and horror of the shooting.

Plohetski told CNN’s Kate Bolduan during the interview that the Stateman stands by its actions and reporting. He claims they tried to contact all family members before releasing the video.

“Once we have the video in our position, frankly we felt a journalistic responsibility and a responsibility to the public to bring the information to the public as quickly, but carefully, as we could,” he asserted.

While some parents heavily criticized the media outlet over the release of the footage, Plohetski says others were grateful the video was released to the public.

“I think it is extraordinarily challenging. I think that obviously, the grief that is in Uvalde was at the forefront of our minds and in our hearts as we went about the reporting process to release this information. I also want to say, in the past few hours, overnight, there are similarly people in that community who have been touched by what happened there who have wanted this information. Now they feel as though they have it, that this will actually help them metabolize the horror of that day and to better comprehend the horror of that day,” he commented.

Police say they had planned on showing the surveillance footage to parents prior to the release of the footage. When asked why the Statesman did not wait to release the footage, Plohetski slammed Uvalde authorities, claiming they had lost the trust of the public.

“The problem with that is that authorities consistently from day one, have failed the people of Uvalde,” he remarked. “In our minds as we were going through our very deliberate editorial process, why should they have to wait one more day for the government to release this information to them? What is so special about Sunday?”

The mayor of Uvalde called the newspaper’s decision to release this footage, “one of the most chicken things I’ve ever seen.”

Journalist Katie Couric also interviewed Plohetski over the decision to release the footage.

(Video Credit: Katie Couric)

Couric asked him about the ethics of releasing the video after noting that one of the officers pumped hand sanitizer into his hands while two other officers fist bumped as they waited to take out the shooter.

“I want to be clear with people that this was a very, very difficult decision. But as journalists, from day one, we have been calling for transparency about what happened on that day. We’ve been consistently trying to seek information. And so far, officials have simply not released information,” Plohetski said justifying the release of the video.

“There have just been so many contradictory statements that have been made from day one. So we found ourselves in this situation where we had the video, and we had to really consider what the public interest was, and what the impact of releasing the tape might be,” he added.

“Yes, and ultimately, we all reached the same consensus. Our obligation to the public is to report, and our duty is to err on the side of reporting. That’s what we do as journalists. We don’t wait for the government to do the right thing. At the end of the day, our obligation is to share information as prudently as we can, as soon as we have it,” Plohetski concluded.

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