Home Opinions The media needs to stop victim smearing

The media needs to stop victim smearing



When reporting a story, media sources have the responsibility of sharing the facts of the case. However, not all facts reported are relevant and necessary, especially when they are intentionally written to discredit and demonize the victims of these cases. The media need to be particular and sensitive about this and let victims be what they are in these instances—victims.

A recent example of is the situation involving United Airlines and Dr. David Dao. Dao was a paying passenger on United flight 3411 when he was violently removed to make room on the overbooked flight. Dao suffered a broken nose, a concussion and lost two teeth. Yet, soon after this news story broke out, a news outlet was reporting on Dao’s “troubled past.”

The Courier-journal reported on Dao’s history of drug-related offenses. This information was unnecessary and attempted to create a “he is not so innocent,” attitude toward the victim. Dao’s medical license and occupational history has no relevance to how he was violently dragged off the airplane.

“Reporting this about the man United assaulted is not relevant to what happened and suggests a misunderstanding of the U.S. legal system,” said Racheline Maltese, media analyst, in a series of tweets about the event. “It terrorizes victims of crimes. Legit, are you going to share the sexual history of rape victims next?”

Fortunately, Dao was left relatively unharmed when compared to the victims who are still treated in this manner after they are murdered.

Eric Garner died while a New York Police Department officer held him in a chokehold to arrest him. Despite Garner being the victim and dying because of the incident, it did not stop several news sources to report irrelevant facts that did not pertain to the case.

The Wall Street Journal reported Garner’s arrest history and Newsmax reported on then-current charges he was on bail for, all of which have no relevance or need to be reported. Garner was the victim because he was the one who died. There is no way to justify this situation, despite media outlets’ attempts to do by bringing in the victim’s history.

Victim smearing happens often enough to be almost normalized and expected. It is understandable to get the story from multiple angles, but once unneeded facts are brought in that demonize the victim, it seems as though they are somehow responsible for what happened to them.

Dr. Dao cannot be just the man who was dragged off the plane anymore; he has to be the doctor with drug problems that was dragged off the plane. In death, Garner cannot be the man who was choked to death by a police officer; he has to be the man with a long criminal history who was choked to death.

It is important for the media to report the facts of a story and to contextualize it. However, when sources decide to release information, they have a duty to only release what is pertinent to the case. It is more important they report relevant facts and assist in telling the story to the audience, not facts that try to smear and discredit the victim.

– John Lee is a marketing freshman


  1. Dao was not just some passenger who was singled out and (not so) beaten then dragged off a plane.
    The thing is, Dao is a victim of his own creation.
    The fact of the matter is, United airlines needed to empty four seats for workers that they needed to transport quickly.

    Whether their choice to ask passengers to give up seats on their plane would be considered the best business practice, I am not debating at the moment.

    The matter was, that they needed four seats and asked for passengers willing to exchange for a refund and plane at another time. No one offered. So they informed passengers that they would select people at random to leave the plane, receive a refund, and plane at another time. The other people left without hassle. Dao refused and became irate. (Whether rightfully so is not the question)

    He was asked to leave the plane; he refused, became irate and was informed that they would bring security to remove him from the plane. With complete understanding (he even instructed them that they would have to use force if they wanted to remove him) So when the security officers tried to remove him he refused with force. He refused to stand and threw himself down and in doing so he hit the chair and became bloodied… on his own accord. The security officers did NOT beat him like so many on social media tried to claim.. trying to make this a hit story that they could share “Ooh big company beats “helpless” Asian man trying to return home” Hey it makes an intriguing headline, brings views and shares… it also helps boost peoples esteem to feel like they are warriors for justice. But they are not, they are simply people who love victimhood stories and do not care about facts or about taking responsibility for their own actions.
    Many in the media tried to make this a race baiting story, until more footage showed that the officers were black and Hispanic. So they had to change the story line.

    As far as his background, it can help in understanding how the event took place and how they have behaved in the past. As for Dao, he has had a history of aggressiveness so it is plausible that he did become irate and aggressive when asked.

    When the even first took place only poorly done, short clips were showed (missing the bulk of what happened) only the aftermath (as is so often) the important parts are what occurred before! That is what people ignore.


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