Media critics are slamming national and international news outlets for reporting that gun rights advocates "heckled" the father of a six-year-old who was killed at last month's elementary school shooting in Newtown, Conn., during his emotional testimony at a state legislative hearing on Monday.
Numerous major media outlets carried versions of the story first reported in the Connecticut Post and some even featured edited video from the hearing that made it appear the father was interrupted by second amendment activists. But later in the day, conservative web sites including Twitchy and Breitbart, took issue with that description and posted unedited video of the testimony. The moment in question shows Neil Heslin, who is mourning the death of his son, asking the packed hearing room why anyone would need an assault-style weapon, which seemingly invites a response from the audience.
The relevant part of the video starts at 14:40:
Here's how the exchange went:
Heslin: I ask if there's anybody in this room that can give me one reason or challenge this question: Why anybody in this room needs to have an, one of these assault-style weapons or military weapons or high-capacity clips.....Not one person can answer that question
Shouts from Crowd: Second Amendment shall not be infringed
Public official: Please no comments while Mr. Heslin is speaking. Or we'll clear the room. Mr. Heslin please continue.
A column in Slate said it's worth pointing out that audience members aren't supposed to interrupt a witness and it's possible that Heslin's question was a rhetorical one. But the footage suggests that the initial characterization of the incident was "more than a little misleading," Slate concluded. The Washington Post's media critic, Erik Wemple, wrote: "Since Heslin invited feedback, the audience response cannot qualify as an interruption. On that front alone, there is simply no heckling here."