The hours-long cable news coverage of the death of Robin Williams last night included some reporting, and much eulogizing. And as often happens during unscripted live TV news coverage, the words used are interpreted in different ways.
Case in point: Shepard Smith. At the end of his hour-long special, the Fox News anchor read a quote from the late actor/comedian about his children. Smith then surmised: “They’re inspiring you and exciting you and they fill you up with the kind of joy you could never have known. But something inside you is so horrible, or you’re such a coward, or whatever the reason, that you decide you have to end it. Robin Williams, at 63, did that today.”
Smith was immediately criticized for using the word “coward.”
“The last thing I would ever suggest about a man I know nothing about personally, is that he’s a coward,” Smith tells TVNewser. “That goes against everything I am. If those words, I used so innocently, offended his family, from the bottom of my heart, I could not be more sorry.”
Over on CNN, entertainment reporter Nischelle Turner got some pushback for using the word “demons” when describing Robin Williams’ mental state. She apologized on air.
“I’ve been getting a lot of feedback from the mental health community in using that word,” Turner said. “A lot of times when we’re doing live coverage we say things and we’re talking and we don’t realize what we’re saying. They’re absolutely correct. That it is a disease, so I apologize for using the word demons.”
ABC News also got some social media pushback for promoting a live feed of aerials of Williams’ home on ABCNews.com.
We do not need to watch live aerial footage of Robin Williams’ home and ABC News should not be doing/promoting it. pic.twitter.com/JJ90Yoevsj
— Andy Castro (@21royalstreet) August 12, 2014
In a statement, ABC News says: “When we realized there was no news value to the live stream, we took it down immediately. Our intention was not to be insensitive to his family, friends and fans, and for that we apologize.”
The news of Williams’ death broke during the taping of Conan O’Brien’s TBS show. O’Brien apologized to his audience for having to deliver the shocking news to them. “We’re so very sorry to have to report this,” said O’Brien.