CBS News bans word 'transgender' in reports on Nashville transgender school shooter

"The shooter’s gender identity has not been confirmed by CBS News."

Mia Ashton Montreal QC

CBS top executives banned staff from using the word transgender in reporting on the Nashville shooter in spite of the fact that police stated Audrey Hale was transgender and that this was considered to be an important point in the case, reports the New York Post.

“The shooter’s gender identity has not been confirmed by CBS News,” said a staff memo from the network’s top executives obtained by The New York Post. “As such, we should avoid any mention of it as it has no known relevance to the crime. Should that change, we can and will revisit.”

“Right now we advise saying: POLICE IDENTIFIED THE SUSPECT AS A 28-YEAR-OLD AUDREY HALE, WHO THEY SHOT AND KILLED AT THE SCENE,” reads the memo. “And move on to focus on other important points of the investigation, community and solutions.

The directive was given on Tuesday morning during an editorial call by Ingrid Cirprian-Matthews, vice president of news gathering; and Claudia Milne, the senior vice president of standards and practices, according to the New York Post’s sources.

The call reportedly took 15 minutes and left many journalists bewildered due to the fact that Metropolitan Nashville Police Chief John Drake said Hale was transgender and that this identity could be relevant to the motive.

“This is absurd because the police identified Hale as transgender,” a CBS insider told the New York Post. “If the cops didn’t address it, maybe you could avoid it but withholding information is not journalism.”

The directive is evident in CBS coverage of the story. On Monday, just hours after the shooting, Janet Shaman reported that Hale “identifies as transgender” on CBS Evening News with Norah O’Donnell.

On Tuesday, mention of Hale’s gender identity had disappeared from the network’s coverage.

“We are waiting to see the Manifesto and any details about motive. As we say in our guidance, we will then review and revise our reporting,” a CBS spokeswoman told The Post, declining to comment further.

The source claims the top executives appeared to be “twisting themselves in knots” in an effort to censor the reporting due to their own “liberal bias,” which the source called a “disservice” to the network’s viewers.

“You need to look at all the facts of the case,” said the source. “Everyone should be invested in understanding what happened. I don’t know how you do that without understanding the full scope of the situation.”

Other networks, including NBC News, ABC News, CNN and the New York Times have all reported that police said Hale was transgender, using he/him pronouns, and going by the name Aidan.

NBC’s Lester Holt interviewed Drake, Nashville’s police chief, on Tuesday and asked if there was thought to be a connection between Hale’s transgender identity and the shooting.

“We’re still in the initial investigation into all of that and if it actually played a role into this incident,” was Drake’s response.

However, CBS executives are still refusing to allow inclusion of this important fact of the investigation.

“Are we communicating to our readers and viewers that they cannot havnle the basic facts of the case?” said the source.

During the Tuesday call, one reported asked how to handle the transgender issue in the event that reporters interviewed friends and family of Hale and the subject was brought up.

Milne responded that each situation would have to be assessed individually, which a source said sounded as though such details would  be “eliminated” from the report.

“You can’t avoid who this person is. This is not an editorial decision. They made a judgment based on personal feelings,” said the source.


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