Up until last night, the Baltimore police had not released any information regarding the circumstances surrounding the death of Freddie Gray. On April 12, Gray was arrested and put in the back of a police van. A short time later he was removed from that van, having sustained a serious spinal injury, and died a week later. The police have been investigating amid protests and scenes of violence in the streets of Baltimore. We still don’t know what happened, but last night the Washington Post reported on a police document it had obtained suggesting that Gray had deliberately injured himself while in police custody:
A prisoner sharing a police transport van with Freddie Gray told investigators that he could hear Gray “banging against the walls” of the vehicle and believed that he “was intentionally trying to injure himself,” according to a police document obtained by The Washington Post.
The prisoner, who is currently in jail, was separated from Gray by a metal partition and could not see him. His statement is contained in an application for a search warrant, which is sealed by the court. The Post was given the document under the condition that the prisoner not be named because the person who provided it feared for the inmate’s safety.
You should read Joan Walsh’s take on the “curious” nature of the report: it contradicts what police officials have said publicly; it contradicts reporting from other news outlets; and it’s based on the anonymous statement of a prisoner who shared the van with Gray for only a short time, but could not actually see Gray and was only guessing as to what he heard. You should also read Paul Waldman on the suspiciousness and implausibility of the report, which flies in the face of basic reasoning but conveniently exculpates the Baltimore police. Put simply, the safest reaction to this selectively leaked and dubiously sourced report is a healthy dose of skepticism.
That is, of course, unless you’re Sean Hannity. By coincidence, Hannity just happened to be anchoring Fox News’ live coverage of the Gray protests as the Washington Post report dropped. And he went absolutely nuts, using the report to attack President Obama for “rush[ing] to judgment” in the Gray case. When Geraldo Rivera tried to walk him back a bit and pointed out to him that this weird, unconfirmed leak probably won't be accepted by the protesters in Baltimore, Hannity was outraged:
GERALDO: They will not be convinced by the Washington Post report that this fellow died as a result of self-inflicted wounds.
HANNITY: So the facts be damned!
Facts! Hannity’s wrapped this one up already. He also brought on a Maryland sheriff (from outside of Baltimore) who said that the Washington Post report is “consistent with the information I heard from a number of Baltimore city police officers while in Baltimore in the last couple of days. It is certainly consistent with what I heard regarding his [Gray’s] character.” Apparently the inclination to break one’s own spine is a character trait – who knew? “Can you inflict severe injury on yourself if you're doing the type of behavior described by that prisoner?” Hannity asked the police official who wasn’t there. “Absolutely,” said the sheriff. “It happens all the time,” adding as a caveat that he obviously doesn’t know if that’s what happened in this instance.
All told, it was a pretty disgusting spectacle that Fox News put on last night. It’s clear that Hannity doesn’t actually care what happened to Freddie Gray, and he doesn’t care about how the minority populations of Baltimore are brutalized and terrorized by the police on a regular basis. The circumstances of Freddie Gray’s death matter to Hannity only insofar as they can be used to attack President Obama. And so when this thinly sourced and highly suspicious report emerged, Hannity’s immediate reaction was to do really the only thing he knows how to do: call Obama a “loser.”