CNN slammed for listing 26 Texas shooting victims as ‘25 and unborn child’

CNN slammed for listing 26 Texas shooting victims as ‘25 and unborn child’

Texas authorities have confirmed that 26 people were killed in last week’s Sutherland Springs church massacre, but according to CNN, it’s 25 plus an unborn child.

The network has come under criticism for adjusting its victim total after learning that Texas had included in its count the unborn child of Crystal Marie Holcombe, 36, who was pregnant when she was killed Nov. 5 by a gunman who opened fire at the First Baptist Church.

CNN tweeted a story Sunday citing the death toll as “25 people and an unborn child,” prompting a rash of respondents to tweet “26.”

“You mean 26 …,” said Jon Schweppe, spokesman for the American Principles Project.

The Texas Department of Public Safety has named “26 victims, including an unborn child,” in its official count. Texas and 22 other states have fetal homicide laws that apply to the earliest stages of gestation, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

CNN spokesman Matt Dornic explained the reasons for the network’s decision.

“It was an effort to reconcile our news-gathering efforts, which identified the names of 25 victims, with the 26 number released by authorities,” said Mr. Dornic in an email. “And also to be specific as possible for our global audience.”

CNN initially described the number of victims as 26 but switched to “25 and an unborn child” after the state issued its list of 26 victims, who included “Carlin Brite ‘Billy Bob’ Holcombe (unborn).”

How to describe feticide victims has long been a source of contention, with pro-life groups holding that they should be included in homicide counts and pro-choice advocates arguing that doing so puts states on a slippery slope toward outlawing abortion.

CNN’s description puts the network at odds with most other major news outlets. ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC have continued to cite 26 victims in their reports, as has the Associated Press.

Both The New York Times and Washington Post placed the number of those killed at 26 in weekend articles.

Ms. Holcombe, the mother of five, has been described in various news dispatches as eight months pregnant, although KSAT-TV in San Antonio reported she was almost four months pregnant.

Her husband, John Holcombe, released a statement last week on Facebook saying that the couple did not yet know the sex of the baby because “it was too soon to tell.”

Read more