CNN`s Lemon Recycles Rodney King Myth For A New Generation

On Saturday evening, just as the
family and I were finishing dinner, CNN`s 1-hour
“Special Report”
on the March 3 twentieth anniversary of the

Rodney King
incident,
Race and Rage,
began to

re-air at full volume
on our television screen.

The opening scenes included brief,
dark footage of the baton-swinging LAPD officers,
close-up visuals of King`s swollen and bloody face, and
the violent aftermath of the acquittal of four officers,
which touched off deadly riots.

The stunned reaction of our
daughters (ages 12 and 16), and their jaw-dropped facial
expressions to the now famous—and edited—video footage of LAPD officers striking King with blow
after blow with their

batons
, brought home a stark reality. The younger
generation of gullible TV viewers—kids who were too
young to remember the actual incident —uncritically soak
up this highly sensational footage, packaged and
presented as an unbiased special broadcast by a major
news organization.

But there`s no
context. It is
as if details are irrelevant—all that matters is the
visual image of white cops beating a black motorist.

Much of
Race and Rage
consists of a celebrity-style interview of King by CNN
anchor

Don Lemon
, a young, black male host of CNN`s weekend
news segment. At key moments in the show, King is
sitting across from Lemon, a casually dressed,
sympathetic interviewer, the male counterpart of CNN`s

Soledad O`Brien.

Lemon asks King to recall what took
place on the early morning hours of March 3, 1991, when
King was

pulled over
after an 8-mile freeway

chase at speeds in excess of 117mph.

 King and Lemon
drive to the spot where King was pulled over by LAPD
officers. King gets face down on the pavement,
discussing the conversation that took place, claiming an
officer used the
“N”
word while striking him with a baton, as if he
was
innocently picked on
because he was a vulnerable
black
motorist.

Critical details of what took place
are glossed over or omitted:

  • two passengers in King`s
    vehicle cooperated with the officers at the scene and
    were taken into custody without incident;

  • King remained in the car
    but eventually emerged and behaved peculiarly (he was

    intoxicated
    at the time) and repeatedly resisted
    arrest, at one point throwing the officers off his back
    and striking one officer in the chest;

  • King, in a t-shirt, was
    sweating suspiciously on a chilly evening;

  • two tasers that normally
    would immobilize large assailants struck King,
    temporarily halting his attacks;

  • he continued to resist
    arrest;

  • officers at the scene
    then struck him repeatedly with their batons (56 blows
    and six kicks) to subdue King enough to handcuff him.

Instead, this CNN production
presents King as a victim of

police brutality
, and reinforces the image of the
LAPD under

Chief Daryl Gates
as racially oppressive.

Hardly any mention is made of
King`s violent, criminal past. Lemon indirectly touches
on King`s problems, but omits the details of his lengthy
record.

But in fact King`s record [See

The Arrest Record
Of Rodney King,

University Of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC) School Of Law
Famous Trials Page
] included:

  • convicted and sentenced to 2
    years imprisonment for robbery in 1989

  • arrested in May 1991
    “after police alleged that he had tried to

    run down an
    undercover vice officer

    who surprised him with a transvestite prostitute”

  • arrested for drunk driving in
    August 1993 (fourth arrest since March 1991
    incident, according to
    Los Angeles Times)

  • arrest on assault and domestic
    violence charges in 1995 (using his car to injure
    his estranged wife and leaving the scene)

  • charged with domestic violence,
    child abuse, and vandalism and sentenced to 60 days
    in jail in 1999.

  • arrested for suspicion of
    driving a vehicle under the influence of PCP in
    October 2001, (King`s third arrest in six weeks,
    according to CNN)

  • arrested in October 2003 for
    domestic abuse, allegedly beating his girlfriend

  • four months in rehab after
    pleading guilty in April 2004 to
    driving-under-the-influence from an April 2003 crash

  • arrested in September 2005 for
    fighting with his girlfriend, 23-year-old daughter,
    and ex-wife


  • cited for driving without a license and released at the scene”

    in March 2011—two days prior to 20th
    anniversary of his resisting arrest[Rodney
    King Cited For Driving Without License

    , San Marino
    Tribune,
    March 4, 2011]

[Video
Of King Explaining Why He Was Driving Without A License
, 
CNN.com. King states that he hasn`t been able to
get a license in California since an incident where he
was charged

with drunk driving in Newcastle, PA
in 1995. He was
acquitted, but required to surrender his license,
probably because he refused to take a blood-alcohol
test. ]

But none of the details of King`s
lengthy record of reckless and dangerous behavior seemed
worth mentioning from the vantage point of CNN`s
producers. As
Variety
`s Brian Lowry has noted:
“Just because you
have a camera in the right place doesn`t mean you`re
telling the whole story”
. [CNN
Doesn`t Connect With Rodney King Special
,
Variety
, By Brian Lowry, March 3, 2011]

Lou Cannon, author of Official Negligence : How Rodney King and the Riots Changed Los Angeles and the LAPD

[See

video
of him discussing his book]and LA bureau chief
of the Washington Post (1990-1993), places

considerable blame on the media,
especially
broadcast news, for what he describes as the
“mythology of the
Rodney King incident”
. He points out that what most
Americans saw on that video footage is a
“partial record
of a partial record”
:


“The mythology
of the
Rodney King incident derives almost entirely from the
edited version of the



Holliday
videotape.


“That version begins more than
halfway through an incident in which Stacey
Koon

[lead LAPD
officer] tried to
take King into custody without hurting him. This fact in
itself sets the incident apart from numerous proven
cases of police brutality in which victims were hit,
choked, or shot without provocation. It also sets the
incident apart from classic police pursuits in which
excited or angry officers, adrenaline pumping,
reflexively beat a suspect once they catch him.


 


“Several minutes elapsed between
the end of the King pursuit and the first baton blows,
an interim in which officers tried to take King into
custody—first with verbal commands, then by
gang-tackling him and trying to handcuff him, then with
Koon`s two
bursts from his powerful electric stun gun. King was not
struck with a baton until he climbed to his feet after
being hit by the second burst from the Taser, then
charged toward

[LAPD officer] Laurence Powell.


“That these
facts

are not known or remembered by the public

even after three trials is
primarily the fault of television.



KTLA won the
prestigious Peabody Award
for showing the Holliday
videotape, but when editors at that Los Angeles station
deleted the frames of King`s charge in their effort to
remove subsequent blurry footage, they removed the
explanation for Powell`s first and most damaging baton
blow.


“Newspapers are not blameless in
their coverage. Most reporters, including me, relied
initially on the edited footage and were not aware of
the deleted footage until much later…. Had television
not stacked the deck against the officers with its
shameless editing of the videotape (done, it seems, in
the interests of improving picture quality, rather than
out of editorial bias), the

Simi Valley trial


might have ended
differently.


 


“What the editing did for the
defense in that trial was establish that the media had
not told the whole truth
.”


[TV
to Blame for King Myth
,
Ventura County
Star
, January 28, 1998, A1. (Not online)]

On March 5, CNN

chose to perpetuate
the King mythology.

In many respects, the real victims
in the Rodney King incident were LAPD officers Stacey
Koon, Laurence Powell, Theodore Briseno, and Timothy
Wind They were shamelessly subjected to
“double jeopardy” by the unspeakable Bush I Administration by being
placed on trial a second time, after the acquittals in
the first trial,  for
violating King`s federal
“civil rights”.

Koon and Powell were convicted in
the second trial, sentenced to 30 months, and served
nearly two years. Both lost their careers.
 Briseno and Wind,
though found not guilty, were fired by the LAPD anyway.
[Key
Figures in the LAPD Officers` (Rodney King Beating)
Trial,
UMKC Famous Trials Page]

These
officers put their lives on the line for the public.
They tried to carry out their responsibilities to arrest
a

belligerent suspect with a criminal record,
who, as
a menace to public safety, has placed
motorists
at risk
on multiple occasions.
 Fragmentary

news reports
suggest they have

had extreme difficulty rebuilding their lives.

In contrast, King received $3.8
million as a result of a civil action.

Some 53 people died, thousands were
injured and

property damage exceeded $1 billion
in the
riots
that followed the officers` original acquittal. No
doubt CNN will be

memorializing
them on the twentieth anniversary,
next April.

MSM Journalists and news executives
have recently been moaning the demise of print media and
the
declining interest
in network news broadcasts. The
major news weeklies continue to lose readers as interest
in
alternative news sites
soars.

For the sake of the younger
generations—teens
who are naïve and impressionable
—those plummeting
MSM audiences are a thoroughly good thing.


Kevin Lamb (
email
him), managing editor of

The Social
Contract
,
is a former library assistant for

Newsweek
and


managing editor

of
Human Events.
He was also
assistant editor of the Evans-Novak Political Report.