CNN Under Fire For Calling Freddie Gray 'Son Of An Illiterate Heroin Addict'

The news site removed the description amid backlash.

CNN is facing social media backlash after describing Freddie Gray in a news article as "the son of an illiterate heroin addict."

Those words appeared in the second paragraph of an article on Monday's trial of the first of six police officers charged in the death of the 25-year-old Baltimore man.

The story aimed to provide context to the trial, noting other black lives lost in police encounters, but described Gray's mother as "illiterate" and a "heroin addict."

A torrent of people on social media pointed out that such a description has nothing to do with the allegations against the officers, but instead demeans Gray's family.

The media company deleted the description and later acknowledged in an editor's note that it was "out of context."

CNN President Jeff Zucker said the original line was a "mistake," according to a transcript of a town hall event submitted to The Wrap.

"The digital team removed it last night and inserted an editors note to be completely transparent. The editorial intent as the digital team has laid it out to me was to make clear he had a difficult upbringing. But clearly it did not come across that way when it was written and published. We recognize that. It did not work and we removed it. And were transparent about that. That was a mistake."

The outrage on social media over CNN's description of Gray's mother underscores a larger, systemic issue -- the vilification of black people.

Many have brought attention to disparities between media coverage of black people and white people -- like the case of the confessed shooter in the Charleston, South Carolina, massacre, Dylann Roof.

Roof, who is white, was indicted on federal hate crime charges and charged with nine counts of homicide and possession of a firearm in June for the killing of nine people at a historic black church in Charleston.

But the portrayal of Roof as "soft-spoken" and "quiet," and speculation that he was mentally ill, is a glaring contrast to the coverage around black Americans like Michael Brown. The unarmed teenager, shot to death in Ferguson, Missouri, in August 2014, was labeled as "bullyish," "criminal" and a "thug."

Studies have shown that this selective portrayal of black people can lead to negative associations and stereotypes of black communities.

Gray died on April 19 as a result of a severe spinal injury he suffered in police custody. He was handcuffed in the back of a police van but not secured in a seatbelt.

Police alleged Gray fled "unprovoked" upon seeing officers and had an illegal "switch blade," but Baltimore's State Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby said the knife Gray carried was not illegal.

Protesters marched through downtown Baltimore on Monday as the trial began for Officer William Porter, one of those charged in Gray's death. Porter pleaded not guilty to charges of second-degree assault, manslaughter, misconduct in office and reckless endangerment.

Baltimore City Circuit Court Judge Barry Williams has said the trial will run no later than Dec. 17, Reuters reported.

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