On Tuesday, as he prepared to talk to protesters in the “Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone” in Seattle, MSNBC reporter Vaughn Hillyard got himself into deep trouble when he attempted to portray the zone as a peaceful, idyllic atmosphere, characterizing it as “almost like a street festival-type atmosphere.” The comment precipitated one protester to get in Hillyard’s face, yelling, “Shame on you for saying that,” while back in the studio, the MSNBC anchor, eager to show MSNBC had not “mischaracterized” the zone, pleaded for a chance to placate the angry protesters.
Hillyard started by saying to MSNBC anchor Joshua Johnson in the studio, “This is a part of the conversation, Joshua, and we heard here in these streets, is the extent to which it has been peaceful since Monday, after more than a week of clashes between the demonstrators and the police, now you’ve seen essentially almost like a street festival-type atmosphere, a street festival-type atmosphere with a very —”
“No!” An angry male protester interrupted. “It is not a street festival!”
Hillyard managed to finish, “— with a very intentional purpose.”
The angry man snapped, “It is not a street festival!” Then, pointing his finger directly at the cameraman, the protester repeated, “It is not a street festival!” Jabbing his finger into the reporter’s chest, he snapped, “DO NOT SAY THAT! SHAME ON YOU FOR SAYING THAT!” Pointing back into the camera, he shouted, “Learn right now. It is not a street festival!”
A female friend of the angry man interjected, “Do you know what our voices sound like from the tear gas police attacked us with?”
“You have to understand, some traumatizing things happened here,” she said. “All of us are suffering from PTSD in our own country. From our own country. It is NOT a street festival!”
“It is not!” the angry man repeatedly exclaimed.
Back in the studio, Johnson said, “Vaughn, it’s okay. Let her finish. Let her finish. Let her finish.”
“One thing to listen to: It is not a street festival!” said the angry man, waving his finger in the air.
Johnson then asked Hillyard, “Would you ask him if I can put a question to him since we mischaracterized —”
Pleading plaintively with the angry man, Vaughn said, “Can we put a question to you here?”
“Please,” said the protester.
Johnson then issued an apologetic statement to the angry protester: “I hear him in terms of saying it’s not a street — would you just let him know, cause we have to move on — but would you just let him know that we hear him 100% when he says ‘This is not a festival’ because we saw what happened in Seattle. We do have to keep going — and I want to — just let him know we are going to talk about this future of defunding the police, but just let him know that we hear him loud and clear: this is not a festival; this is a social movement. But Vaughan, thank you for giving him room to speak his mind. That’s NBC’s Vaughn Hillyard in Seattle; that conversation’s going to continue there and we will talk more about the future of what these zones are going to look like as the hour goes on.”
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