Diane Sawyer Lies to America

Last night’s tornado event across Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Tennessee was thoroughly warned by all the local NWS offices involved. It was contained in the preceding day’s national severe-weather outlooks from SPC, and in tornado watches too.

The news of casualties from the tornadoes is terrible; but those deaths did not happen due to an absence of warnings!

Now, via this link to James Spann’s Facebook page, watch Diane Sawyer tell a baldfaced whopper to the entire nationwide viewing audience.


“No warning”? ABSOLUTELY WRONG! I resent such misrepresentations and join James in calling them out.

Even if some lazy ignoramus behind the scenes wrote the script for her, she–of all people–should know better than to regurgitate it, facts unchecked! That violates the fundamental core tenet that every journalism student learns in high school and college.

This has to stop. And Diane Sawyer needs to perform an on-air retraction of her false claim.

James Spann, for those who don’t know, is a highly respected TV meteorologist in Birmingham (at an ABC station, no less!), whose courage I hugely admire for publicly calling attention to it. Folks, James was on the air all night last night, tirelessly and continually delivering the warnings and updates of all kinds to his viewing audience, and doing so with clarity and purpose. I saw this for myself, real-time, as part of a regimen to remain situationally aware as the outbreak was unfolding (and as I was analyzing and forecasting the event in the short term).

For the sad truth of the casualties that did happen, the other side to the truth is that the NWS and outlets like James’ saved many more lives last night. Then here comes Diane Sawyer, blurting out a gross falsehood and, in doing so, denigrating the hard work and dedication of the entire Integrated Warning System (including national and local forecasters, spotters, and conscientious, hard-working media members such as James). He has every right to be upset; and I am also.

The sort of “hit without warning” stupidity, in on-air reporting of tornado events, is nothing new. It has been going on for many, many years. When you hear such statements, challenge them. “It hit without warning” almost never is true anymore for strong and violent tornadoes. It is possible that a killer tornado can hit “without warning”? Yes. Rarely, it can and does happen. But it didn’t happen last night.

Those tornadoes were warned and warned well. If the victims didn’t get the warning, it wasn’t because there was no warning! It is up to everyone to make sure he/she can receive warnings when they are issued–whether by having a weather radio, an automated alert system via phone alarm or app, or tuning in to their own local version of James Spann who is providing the life-saving information–to make sure sturdy shelter is accessible in seconds when a watch is out, and to make sure elderly and infirm loved ones are not left vulnerable. And don’t depend on outdoor sirens; they’re for outdoor use, and often sound far away from the threat.

I’m glad that James called attention to this, and am glad to join him in doing so–because maybe, just maybe, this is the event that finally motivates on-air TV personalities and reporters who are not meteorologists to get their facts straight with regard to whether the tornadoes had warnings.

[EDIT] That wasn’t the only bogus information ABC News propagated either. According to this entry in the FEMA BLOG: “This evening, ABC mistakenly reported that individuals can sign up for weather alerts through FEMA. We’ve seen a lot of interest from the public following that report and we wanted to correct that point: FEMA does not send out alerts as this is a local responsibility. ”

Wow. As James said, don’t let facts get in the way of a good story…

[EDIT 2 Days later] Something good came of all this–largely thanks to James Spann and his multimedia followers, I suspect. I found out secondhand, through a friend who watched, that Diane Sawyer did do another story noting the goodness of the warnings. James also got some airtime in the story. While not a retraction, per se, that should suffice to set the record straight. Next time, Dianne, don’t go blurting unsubstantiated and potentially libelous (to the forecasters) rubbish to begin with!


Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.