On Saturday, I bounced back and forth between CNN and Fox News’ coverage of the case. On CNN in the early afternoon, the on-air personalities were concerned as to how Nichols could have “snapped.” They emphasized that he came from a “good” (read: middle-class) family, had a good job at UPS, was intelligent (he had supposedly taught himself a high level of computer savvy and how to play a musical instrument), and polite. CNN’s personalities also spoke only of Nichols’ having been guarded by “one deputy,” taking pains to avoid the issue of the deputy’s sex.
At Fox News Channel, a very different profile emerged, of a man who had been involved in crime his entire adult life. Nichols was a linebacker at Kutztown State University, but was caught stealing, arrested, and expelled. He had been arrested several times over the years. Rather than saying Nichols had a “good job,” the Fox hosts mentioned that he had bounced from job to job. And Fox News’ personalities did repeatedly ask how a woman could have been charged with guarding a tall, powerfully built man charged with violent crimes.
Eventually, the Fox News personalities also got around to the “how did he snap?” nonsense.
Fox reporter Geraldo Rivera saw a strong parallel to the DC Sniper case in how a shooter terrorized an area, but that was frivolous. In the DC Sniper case, no one knew the identities of the shooters, and when Montgomery County Police Chief Dr. Charles Moose was able to determine through a telephone conversation with the killers that they were black, he withheld that information from law enforcement and the public alike, misleading everyone into thinking that the killers were white. And so, while everyone looked for the wrong people, more victims were murdered. In the Nichols case, law enforcement did the opposite: They broadcast the best information they had. The problem was that Nichols was so smart that he misled law enforcement into thinking that he was driving Don O’Briant’s green Honda Accord. (Nichols carjacked the Accord, then parked it on another level of the same parking garage, walked across the street and boarded a MARDA subway train to a shopping center.
But if CNN was guilty of politically correct coverage of the Nichols case, they were pikers, compared to alleged reporter Beth Warren of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, who embodies what I call the banality of bias.
In an article in which Warren listed one example after another of Nichols’ racism, she concluded that his crimes were not racially motivated. Right. Just like with Colin Ferguson, the Long Island Railroad mass murderer.
“Brian G. Nichols considered himself a ‘soldier on a mission’ the day he terrorized a courthouse and a city with a gun, according to a law enforcement official who witnessed Nichols’ first statement to authorities.
“The official said Nichols, who was being tried in a rape case when Friday’s deadly shooting spree occurred, considered himself a wrongly accused man in a legal system unfair to African-Americans….
“In an interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the official said Nichols described how he had been stewing in jail while awaiting retrial on charges that he held his ex-girlfriend hostage and sexually assaulted her. The first jury couldn’t agree and the judge declared a mistrial.
“Nichols said he was angry that many of the inmates around him were also black and he wondered how many were innocent.
“‘He called it systematic slavery,’ the law enforcement official said.