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Surge Desk

NPR Says It Caused 'Excruciating Pain' by Reporting Gabrielle Giffords' Death

Jan 19, 2011 – 12:37 PM
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Torie Bosch Contributor

In the immediate aftermath of the Tucson, Ariz., shootings, some media outlets flubbed and incorrectly reported that Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, the target of the assassination attempt, had died as a result of her injuries.

The reports even reached Giffords' husband, Mark Kelly and his family, who were on a plane bound for Arizona when they heard that the congresswoman was dead.

During a Tuesday interview, Kelly said that "[i]t was a terrible mistake" to have turned on the television while the facts of the shooting were still being sorted out.

NPR was one of the first news outlets that announced that Giffords had died after the information was -- incorrectly -- confirmed by a congressional source and someone from the Pima County Sheriff's Department. This week, NPR's ombudsman, Alicia Shepherd, described how much the erroneous report hurt the family, acknowledging that "real, excruciating pain" was caused by the network's reporting.

After the news went out on the airwaves and on NPR's Twitter feed, other outlets also began to report that Giffords had died. CNN and Fox News also said they had confirmed the report, while other media said they were using NPR as a source. Giffords family members and friends, some of whom were at the hospital, began calling NPR to ask them to correct the report.

"The mistake NPR made was reprehensible," Scott Simon, host of NPR's "Weekend Edition" and a friend of Kelly and Giffords, said in Shepherd's post today.

NPR is now attempting to clarify its policies for such reports. Simon hopes that NPR will issue more stringent policies.

"There should be no room for doubt when a news organization declares someone dead," Simon wrote. "They should wait until the medical authorities directly involved declare death, or close family members announce it."

Watch Kelly discuss hearing the devastating, and false, news with ABC News' Diane Sawyer.

More Surge Desk coverage on the Tucson shootings:
Jared Loughner Mugshot Released [PHOTO]
Judy Clarke, 'Unabomber' Lawyer, Will Represent Jared Lee Loughner
Jared Lee Loughner's World View; A Conspiracy-Theorist Primer [VIDEO]
Poll: Was Sarah Palin Crosshairs Imagery Inappropriate?

Do Palin and the Tea Party Bear Any Responsibility for the Giffords Shooting?

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Filed under: Nation, Politics, Surge Desk