Police arrested CNN journalist Omar Jimenez and his crew on air early Friday during a live broadcast in Minneapolis, as they covered riots sparked by George Floyd’s death, sparking intense outrage as well as an apology by Minnesota governor Tim Walz to top executives at the cable-news network . CNN called the arrests a “violation of First Amendment rights.” By 7:40 a.m. eastern, Jimenez had been released and was back on air. Governor Walz told CNN he “deeply apologizes” and said the arrests were “unacceptable.”
But a range of TV-news correspondents were shocked by the act, as Jimenez had done nothing to warrant being removed from the scene. Journalists from CBS News, NBC News and CNN were among those stunned by the maneuver.
“This is a professional journalist working for a network that regularly reports live from global hotspots. Wars, riots, coups. I can’t recall one of its correspondents ever being arrested live on TV for doing their job,” said Ed O’Keefe, a political correspondent with CBS News.
Several rivals issued statements of support for CNN Friday morning. MSNBC said: “We condemn the arrest and detention of a crew of @CNN journalists who were simply doing their jobs in a tough situation on the ground in Minneapolis. This is a time when the work of journalists continues to be necessary to inform and educate the public.”
CBS News said it “stands in support of all journalists – now more than ever our work is vital to the country. No journalist should be detained just for doing their job.”
In a statement, Fox News Channel said the network “has always supported the First Amendment and this instance is no different. We denounce the detainment of the CNN crew and stand with them in protecting the right to report without fear or favor.”
But individual journalists raised many issues themselves. “Serious questions this morning about why a black CNN reporter is arrested this morning (and not a white reporter nearby, according to CNN) – the network calling it a clear violation of First Amendment rights,” tweeted Chris Jansing, a correspondent and anchor for NBC News.
Christiane Amanpour, CNN’s chief international anchor, was among a number of CNN staffers who took to Twitter to protest the arrest. “CNN crew has been released. Governor has apologized. For the record: arresting journalists is the kind of thing that happens in dictatorships and authoritarian regimes. We live in a democracy.”
“As a reporter, I’ve been detained in Iran, spied on in China, and followed and harassed in Russia. I’ve never had colleagues arrested and handcuffed while doing their job here in the US,” said Jim Sciutto, CNN’s national security correspondent and one of its daytime anchors.
Jon Karl, the chief Washington correspondent at ABC News and current president of the White House Correspondents Association, praised Jimenez for maintaining a professional demeanor while being arrested. “After an intervention (and an apology) from the governor, CNN‘s @OmarJimenez has been released and is back on the job. His poise and professionalism while being intimidated and arrested on live television was truly impressive. Great work,@OmarJimenez”