A now-viral video of a woman criticizing a CNN reporter for lacking empathy in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey is eliciting some strong responses about media and the trauma Houston residents are facing.
In a short interview with anchor Rosa Flores, the woman — identified as Danielle — details her harrowing story, telling CNN about the 36 hours her family was stranded before being taken to the George R. Brown Convention Center. But when Flores pushed further, asking how she survived the surging waters with children, Danielle didn’t hold back.
“Four feet of water to go get them food on the first day. Yeah, that’s a lot of shit,” Danielle said. “But y’all sitting here — y’all trying to interview people during their worst times. That’s not the smartest thing to do. Like people are really breaking down and y’all are sitting here with cameras and microphones trying to ask us what the fuck is wrong with us.”
Flores apologized, but the microphone remained in front of Danielle.
“And you really trying to understand it with the microphone still in my face, with me shivering cold, with my kids wet and you still putting the microphone in my face.”
Back in studio, Jim Acosta segued into a break to cut the tension.
“Sounds like you’ve got a very upset family there,” he said without stating the obvious; this family is traumatized and exhausted.
Nikkole Williams, a 30-year-old social worker volunteering at the center, recalled seeing Danielle when her family first arrived.
“She was visibly shaken and distraught and understandably so,” Williams told ESSENCE. “Crisis is really difficult, especially for kids. I went up and asked how she was doing. I offered her kids snacks. I honestly didn’t even want to talk to her about what happened. You’re in a state of shock, you don’t want to relive it.”
It wasn’t until the following morning that Williams saw Danielle’s reaction to CNN. Considering the chaos at the convention center — on Monday, a number of people were turned away due to over capacity — she was surprised to see the media asking distraught families about their experiences.
“I personally was shocked. They were going up to minor children and not getting consent from parents. I don’t know if journalism rules go away in tragedies, but I was shocked,” she said. “[CNN] couldn’t have gone up to Danielle more than five minutes after I had saw her. It was a bad call.”
While most of the responses to the woman have been positive, a number of Twitter users sided with the media, saying anchors were just doing their jobs.
And while that may be true, members of the media should be more aware when reporting — in this case recognizing the obvious trauma that comes with losing your home and being stranded for days — before nudging for more information.
The story might be important, but basic humanity and empathy will go further.