Journalism

Boston Bombing Survivor Walks Off Set at NBC

The story of the Boston Bombing survivor who left the set of NBC’s Meet the Press in tears immediately had people throwing their support her way and the usual media-hating suspects taking the opportunity to blast NBC. But let’s take a second look at what supposedly happened.

First, let me say upfront that I have the utmost respect for the survivors — the person in question says she does not wish to be referred to as a “victim” — of the Boston Marathon Bombing. And for anyone who doesn’t, I hope that they never find themselves in such a situation, although that may well be what it’d take for them to find that kind of respect.

As reports came in about her scheduled appearance on NBC’s Meet the Press, what was and was not agreed upon in advance and what did and didn’t happen either before or during a taping of a segment for the program, viewers started hurling insults at NBC.

As the story goes, the guest, a dancer who lost part of her left leg during the bombing, agreed to appear on Meet the Press under the condition that the Boston bombing suspects, the brothers Tsarnaev, were not mentioned by name during the program. Some reports suggest that her request was that for the entire program, the name could not be mentioned.

There is some confusion as to whether the staff only agreed to not mention the name of the suspects during her interview, depending on various versions of the story I’ve heard.

In any case, when the survivor was informed, shortly before taping was scheduled to begin, that the staffers couldn’t guarantee that the names wouldn’t be mentioned at some point during the broadcast, she became angry and left the set in tears.

She has since posted an open letter to “the press” at her website, in which she says, in part:

Your decision to back out on that promise you made and the horrific way you brought that decision to my attention just minutes prior to taping was not only a cowardice move but a dishonorable one as well. To say that I am hurt is an understatement, for you not only disrespected me, you disrespected the survivors of the bombing and the victims memories by blatantly disregarding this request and putting the value of a terrorist’s name, who put a city in turmoil and caused irrevocable damage physically and emotionally to people of this city, over Boston’s integrity, fortitude, and my personal well being.

I am sorry for her loss. I applaud her fortitude and dedication to not be a “victim.”

She possesses an inner strength that many of us would have a hard time grasping.

However, on the name issue, I must respectfully disagree that her request was reasonable.

Meet the Press is a public affairs program. For NBC to do a show on the Boston Marathon bombers and not cover the bombing itself and the suspected reasons for it — and to not mention the names of the suspect at any time during the broadcast — would be like doing a show about 9/11 and not mentioning al Qaeda.

Or doing a show about World War II-era Germany and not mentioning Hitler, the Nazis or the Third Reich.

I have a very difficult time believing that NBC would have agreed in advance not to mention the bombing suspect’s name at some point during the entire show, even if it was willing to agree that during her actual interview, they would focus only on her.

The latter is reasonable. The former is not.

I think it’s actually for the best that she left the program. I suspect that she’s not really as ready as she may think to make such an appearance.

Given what she’s been through, who could blame her?

I think what happened here is a gross misunderstanding.

If NBC actually did promise they wouldn’t mention the name of the suspects for the entire broadcast, they were in the wrong for making that promise to begin with. If they made the promise without any intention of keeping it just to get the interview, they deserve the criticism they’re getting.

I also have to question how mentioning that name is an insult to the survivors or to Boston itself, any more than the mention of the name Satan is an insult to Christians.

We need reminders that there is evil in the world. When we allow ourselves to believe that not mentioning it means it will somehow go away is when we begin to make ourselves victims of it by building a false sense of security for ourselves. And evil will be waiting to violate it.

Every time.

As much as she has endured already, as much as she has persevered through injuries and loss that would practically paralyze many other people, the mere mention of the accused bombers’ names shouldn’t defeat her.

I can understand it replusing her, but not defeating her.

I think her leaving the set was the right decision for her to make: no matter how important her story is, her wellbeing has to be more important.

I think she’s a lot stronger than most of us could imagine. But maybe the healing isn’t complete enough for a network television interview.

I only hope she’s able to find more peace going forward.

I hope all of the survivors can.

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Patrick is a Christian with more than 28 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.