Today, Tucson shooting victim Eric Fuller apologized for his outburst and perceived threat against Tucson Tea Party leader Trent Humphries. CBS posted it as though it was somehow expected and necessary -- the right thing to do.
Fuller apologized for his "misplaced outrage."
Fuller was one of 19 people shot when a gunman opened fire Jan. 8 at a meet-and-greet for Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. The congresswoman was critically injured and six people were killed.
Fuller was shot in the knee and back, and drove himself to the hospital, where he spent two days.
Deruyter said Fuller has no family or children, and was coping with the shooting almost entirely on his own and lost his temper.
Notice how CBS made Humphries the victim:
Trent Humphries, co-founder of the Tucson Tea Party who was the focus of Fuller's outburst at a taping of ABC's "This Week" Saturday, told the Associated Press he is worried about threats he is receiving.
Humphries told the AP he was worried about Fuller's threat, and the dozens of other angry e-mails he has received from people blaming right-wing political rhetoric for contributing to the assassination attempt on Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.
As you might expect, I have an opinion on the whole fiasco. Let's start with this: How on earth did James Goldston, producer of This Week, think it would a really GREAT idea to bring a guy on who had just witnessed a horrific scene and been injured himself to talk about gun control with a Tea Party leader? That's idiotic, ignorant and opportunistic. Fuller hasn't even started to process everything he saw and heard that day. He has been injured for the mortal sin of being at the supermarket that day. He has seen and heard things that human brains are not wired to see and hear, and there is absolutely no way he was in any shape to tackle a debate with anyone, much less someone as opinionated and rigid as Humphries.
Emotional trauma after what Fuller has been through doesn't go away in a week. Or a month. Or a year. Fuller is still wired in survival mode and will be for some time. The only good that may come from this weekend's outburst is the mental health treatment he will now receive for the assault on his psyche, which may help to relieve inevitable PTSD later.
While it's too early for Fuller to be suffering from PTSD, the physical response (whether delayed or immediate) is something that doesn't really ever go away. The best one can do is learn, over time, to manage the physical and emotional response that comes with it. My youngest child was run over by a van when she was five, right outside our front door. While she survived with no lasting or permanent injury (a miracle in itself), I still have a visceral emotional and physical reaction to anyone driving fast past my front window. Neighbors have seen me chase speeding cars on foot, yelling at them to slow the hell down on a private street with a 5 mph speed limit. If I manage to control that reaction, I just shake and cringe, waiting for the inevitable thud I fully expect to hear.
Most of the time, I don't remember what I said when it happens. It just hits you right in the gut and your mind goes to the place where you were when the first event happened and you lash out with rising dread that there will be yet another bleeding child left on the street. You relive it, one second at a time, while hoping this time is different. It's irrational, it's draining, and it's real. In those seconds, you realize you have no ability to prevent or avoid a disaster. These physical and emotional responses still happen, nearly 12 years later.
Had someone taken a moment to ask the question "Is it perhaps too soon to try to put these two together?", they might have taken a pass on the entire segment. Humphries wasn't going to change his mind about gun control. Fuller is still in the early stages of trying to sort all of this out and manage this horrible thing that had happened to him. It was irresponsible of that producer to even attempt such a thing, but not surprising, given the constant hunt for controversy and ratings.
Given that it was attempted, however, the only one who should be apologized to is Mr. Fuller, who will now suffer humiliation and scorn for a reaction he could not control.
For CBS to turn Humphries into a victim while reporting that Fuller has apologized just ignores the responsibility we all should share for this. Exploiting victims for 24/7 media cycles is as harmful to them as it is to the conversation.