On Monday evening, with protests still raging across the country over the police killings of Eric Garner, Michael Brown and other black men, CNN hosted a live news special titled “Cops Under Fire.” The ‘town hall’ consisted of a panel of police officers and was moderated by Don Lemon. Prior to the airing of the special, CNN decided to crowdsource questions from Twitter using the hashtag #AskACop. As one might expect, CNN did not get the type of responses that they hoped for, as activists, journalists, protesters and pretty much anyone else that has been upset over the recent killings used the hashtag to send biting and pointed questions.
— Don Lemon (@donlemon) December 16, 2014
Of course, CNN and Lemon basically ignored the hard-hitting and critical questions sent via the hashtag, rendering the point of the exercise moot. Instead, Lemon just used the show as a way to let the panel give a very pro-cop spin on things and generally shielded the panel from tough criticism. Time was also spent showing the difficult, real-time decisions cops are forced to deal with on a daily basis. This also seemed to be a way to provide cover to law enforcement in regards to criticism from outside groups.
Meanwhile, #AskACop took on a life of its own on Twitter. Prior to the special airing, the hashtag accumulated quite a few questions that activists and protesters would have LOVED to be asked during the broadcast. Below are some noteworthy tweets that appeared before the show aired:
— sfpelosi (@sfpelosi) December 17, 2014
#AskACop Why they mentioned that the pellet gun Tamir had was missing it’s orange cap, when they never saw him point it in the first place?
— Shaun King (@ShaunKing) December 17, 2014
— TheObamaDiary.com (@TheObamaDiary) December 17, 2014
#AskACop Do you agree there is conflict of interest for police to investigate themselves & DA’s to prosecute police they partner with daily?
— No Justice, No Peace (@AmyStephen) December 17, 2014
How do you enforce laws when you don’t even know the laws yourself? #AskACop
— Taurean (@TheBlackVoice) December 17, 2014
A well-known Ferguson activist and an independent journalist who has been covering Ferguson both called out Lemon for not asking any of the questions that were sent using the hashtag.
— ShordeeDooWhop (@Nettaaaaaaaa) December 17, 2014
Wow. My mentions are definitely full of cops. Yet none of my #AskACop questions have been answered. Shocker.
— Cassandra (@CassandraRules) December 17, 2014
Even after the broadcast, people continued to keep the hashtag trending by throwing out uncomfortable and difficult questions for law enforcement.
What if we traded paid leave for unpaid leave when a cop murders someone? Would you think twice before pulling the trigger? #AskACop
— Anon Cop Watch (@AnonCopWatch) December 17, 2014
— Heather (@MissJupiter1957) December 17, 2014
— Mistress Pie (@MistressPie) December 17, 2014
#AskACop Did you play with toy guns when you were a child? Did a cop shoot you to death for it? Why not?
— Jeff Tiedrich (@jefftiedrich) December 17, 2014
In the end, the hashtag went over as well for CNN as #CosbyMemes did for Bill Cosby. Which is, not at all. You’d have to think that someone at CNN should have known that this was going to backfire on them and that this is exactly the result that was going to happen. Therefore, they’d put a stop to it, or recommend another to cull questions from the public. Yet, here we are.
Justin Baragona is the Managing Editor at Politicus Sports as well as Senior Editor at PoliticusUSA. He was a political writer for 411Mania.com before joining PoliticusUSA. Politically, Justin considers himself a liberal but also a realist and pragmatist. Currently, Justin lives in St. Louis, MO and is married. Besides writing, he also runs his own business after spending a number of years in the corporate world. You can follow Justin on Twitter either with his personal handle (@justinbaragona) or the Sports site’s (@PoliticusSports).