Fox host Megyn Kelly said Monday evening that the 14-year-old black girl who was thrown around and sat on by a police officer in McKinney, Texas, was “no saint.” Kelly’s comment was one in a series aimed at justifying police conduct outside the neighborhood pool party.
Video of the incident, which spread over the weekend, shows McKinney police Cpl. Eric Casebolt manhandling the bikini-clad teenage girl, pulling her by her hair and slamming her face into the ground before sitting on her back. He is also seen yelling profanity at other black teenagers, telling them to sit on the grass or leave the area, even pulling out a gun and chasing two boys with it in hand.
1. Attack The Victim
News coverage on Fox in the days since the video surfaced has repeatedly attempted to justify Casebolt’s actions and distract from accusations of racial profiling by shifting the blame to the young teenagers involved.
Neighborhood resident and witness Sean said on the Kelly File that the officer had to match the aggression of an already chaotic situation to “calm the crowd down.” Sean declined to disclose his last name out of concern for his safety. Others on the show echoed his statement that the officer was forced to act the way he did because of the rowdy environment. “They were just doing the right thing when these kids were fleeing,” an anonymous witness said.
Radio host Richard Fowler, who was also on the show, noted that the kids were “fleeing” because the era of police brutality and racial profiling rightfully scared them into running away. Kelly interrupts and responds “The girl was no saint, either. He had told her to leave, and she continued to linger.” A panelist on Hannity said, “You can get yourself out of these situations if you just comply.”
Other accounts, however, say the crowd was already dispersing and the situation was calming down by the time the officers arrived. According to Brandon Brooks, the teenage boy who filmed the viral video, a fight between two middle-aged white women and a young black woman occurred a few minutes before the police reached the pool, leading many people to disperse. Sean admitted that the white adults were not handcuffed and that he saw Casebolt only chase after black people near the pool.
2. Glorify The Officer
Fox hosts have chosen to highlight Casebolt’s “good track record,” informing viewers of his 10-year veteran status and patrolman of the year award.
On Fox’s The Five, co-host Tom Shillue claimed the video wasn’t shocking to him all. “I’m looking at the video and thinking, ‘OK, the cops are breaking up a party, these guys are great.’” Shillue and others have been quick to defend the officer’s actions and discuss possible reasons for his conduct. Sean said on the Kelly File that Casebolt ran out of handcuffs, so he had to sit on the girl to wait for officers to bring more to him. “I think if he would have had handcuffs on him, he would’ve been able to cuff this girl, and it wouldn’t have gone this far.” None of the witnesses brought onto the Kelly File said racial profiling was a factor in the officer’s handling of the situation.
What they do not mention in their discussion of Casebolt’s track record is that he’s been sued for racial profiling before. In 2008, a black man arrested by Casebolt filed a lawsuit accusing him and other officers of harassment, sexual assault, racial profiling, and failure to render aid. The lawsuit was later dismissed because charges on the man were still pending.3. Find ‘Witnesses’ To Reinforce The Narrative
Fox hosts have emphasized the importance of context in understanding the video, but they can’t seem to agree on the reason the pool party escalated to such violence. Witnesses on and off Fox shows have given different explanations. On Fox, guests said the kids were smoking weed, fighting amongst themselves, and generally being rowdy and inappropriate. The party host, however, said in a newer YouTube video that white adults at the pool made racist comments towards them. Host Tatiana said the verbal abuse escalated to a physical altercation between the adults and teenagers at the pool. This information was not shared on Fox.
“Let me be clear,” said resident Benet Embry, “the community I live in is not a racist community.”
Embry, who is African-American, continued to talk about the incident, calling it a pool party that had simply gotten out of control. Guests on the show like former LAPD detective Mark Furman, resident and witness Sean, and an anonymous female witness defended Casebolt’s actions and the neighborhood residents in their decision to call and support the police. Witness stories told on Fox reiterate the narrative that the teenage girl’s unwillingness to obey the officer led him to use force on her.
“This is a great community,” Embry said. “Nobody’s walking around with hooded sheets and burning crosses. Just a normal, average, everyday suburb in America.”