A flood victim identified only as Danielle lost her patience after CNN reporter Rosa Flores asked her to describe what it was like to protect her children from the treacherous conditions created by the unprecedented rainfall.
″We walked through four feet to go get them food on the first day,” Danielle told Flores at Houston’s convention center where thousands of refugees from the flooding have congregated. ”Yeah, that’s a lot of shit.”
″But y’all ... trying to interview people during their worst times,” the distraught woman continued. “Like that’s not the smartest thing to do. Like people are really breaking down and y’all here with cameras and microphones trying to ask us what the fuck is wrong with us.”
Flores immediately apologized to the mother and CNN cut away moments later.
While it appeared as though Danielle originally agreed to be interviewed, some people vis social media accused Flores of attempting to exploit Danielle’s dire situation.
Many journalists, however, came to Flores’ defense on Twitter.
The Society of Professional Journalists outlines appropriate interactions with interviewees in its code of ethics, encouraging reporters to “give voice to the voiceless” and “tell the story of the diversity and magnitude of the human experience.”
Andrew Seaman, chair of SPJ’s ethics committee, told HuffPost that journalists need to report on the “human element” in disasters like Hurricane Harvey while at the same time showing sensitivity toward those experiencing tragedy.
“These stories are how the rest of the country and world find out about what’s happening and leads people to help,” Seaman said. “Some people don’t want to share their stories, and that’s completely their right.”
“In all of this, we shouldn’t lose sight of the value journalism brings to these situations,” he said.
Still, White House aide Kellyanne Conway used the painful interaction to attack CNN for not getting “the mike out of her face.”
Minutes after chastising CNN on Twitter, President Donald Trump’s counselor offered glowing praise over an interview with a different flood victim on Fox News Channel, a network known for its friendly coverage of the administration. “Many beautiful stories like this” is how she referred to the Fox interview.
Twitter users shot back at Conway over the obvious hypocrisy.
CNN long has been a target for Trump tirades about “fake news.” In early July, he sparked outrage when he tweeted a video showing him beating up a personified version of the cable news outlet.
This article has been updated to include comment from Andrew Seaman of the Society of Professional Journalists.