The Jacob Blake Interview And What ABC News’ Good Morning America Left Out
ABC News’ Good Morning America (GMA) interviewed Jacob Blake this morning. It was Blake’s first television interview since the shooting. Blake was partially paralyzed after one of the bullets hit his spine and is now in a wheelchair. Overall my impression is that GMA co-host Michael Strahan did a decent job with the interview with a couple of noteworthy exceptions. We’ll get to those in a moment.
The interview opens with Blake admitting that he resisted arrest, saying he was afraid he’d wind up like George Floyd with officers on his neck. But as Blake tells his story, there are other elements of it that don’t make sense. According to Blake, he was putting his kids in the car to get them away from a neighborhood fight. But as GMA points out, the reason police were called was because the car wasn’t his. It was a rental belonging to Laquisha Booker, the mother of his kids. She had asked for the keys back and he refused to return them to her.
The GMA voice-over notes that police learned that Blake had a felony warrant for domestic violence before arriving at the scene. And here’s the first noteworthy omission. GMA does not explain to viewers that once officers encounter Blake, they have no choice but to arrest him for the warrant. There is no discretion under which they can decide to allow him to leave.
There’s another omission related to the warrant which is significant. After the shooting, Blake told investigators that he didn’t know why officers were trying to arrest him and that he didn’t know he had a felony warrant out for his arrest. But investigators found a text message on his phone in which Blake mentioned having a warrant for his arrest (he only had one so there’s no confusion about which warrant). Investigators looked at his internet search history and found that he had looked up information on his own warrant on a police website.
So when Blake claims in this interview, “I hadn’t done anything so I didn’t feel like they were there for me,” that’s just not true. He had done something and the moment he saw the police he must have known they could be there for him because of the warrant.
Blake then claimed that someone, he didn’t know who, grabbed his arm. He says he had “a reaction.” The way the video is cut up here it seem as if Blake’s response has been edited. What reaction? Maybe he’s reenacting it for the camera but the editor cuts away to Michael Strahan’s face so we can’t see him. The impression is that Blake pulled his arm away or elbowed the police but that he didn’t realize who it was until police responded by slamming him up against the car.
“They didn’t say why they were there?” Strahan asked. Blake responds in the negative. “Did they tell you that they had a warrant for your arrest?” Strahan asked. “No” Blake replied.
According to the officers, they didn’t grab Blake from behind. They claim he turned and looked directly at them after putting a child in the car and the officers told him he had a warrant before they tried to arrest him.
Again, the fact that GMA is not telling viewers that Blake texted about the warrant and searched for information on it prior to this encounter (and that he later lied to investigators about it) seems like a big omission. It calls into question his credibility about much of what happened that day. Why would GMA leave that out?
Moving on, GMA does point out that there was a physical struggle and that police believed Blake was reaching for a knife which wound up in his hand. Blake admits he had a knife which he claims dropped to the ground during the struggle. He says he reached down and grabbed it before walking away.
“I shouldn’t have picked it up,” Blake now admits, adding “I wasn’t thinking clearly.”
At this point there’s another edit and Strahan jumps in to help explain Blake’s alleged plan. “You were thinking once you get the knife into the car you were going to just say…” Strahan said.
Blake interjected, “Throw myself to the ground and put my arms behind my back.”
This doesn’t make any sense. Blake has just had a physical fight with police. He’s been tased three times and he’s walking away with a knife in his hand. We’re supposed to believe that he was just about to surrender if only he could get the knife into the car.
Why? Once he picks up the knife why does he have to put it in the car? Why can’t he just drop it on the street? Why can’t he stop walking and get on the ground?
Strahan even asks this question, though he puts it in the mouths of skeptics, not himself: “Why didn’t he just stop and do what the police are asking him to do?” At the time video shows the police were shouting “Drop the knife!”
“I couldn’t hear that,” Blake responded. “All I heard was screaming, screaming. My ears was ringing so it was all muffled.”
Even Strahan thinks this is all a bit much. “If the police were fighting me, if they were tasing me I would stop walking away from them and they would have my attention,” he said.
Blake replied, “I mean I had not left or tried to run at that point.”
One last time, the whole sequence of events here is Blake trying to leave the scene in a car that doesn’t belong to him. Police are called to stop him and they try to arrest him. He fights them off, walks away from them with a knife in hand and seems to be trying to get in the car. It sure looks like he was still trying to leave. And that’s exactly what police thought was happening. The idea that Blake was a second from surrendering if only he could put the knife in the car a) doesn’t make any sense and b) is inconsistent with ever action he’d take up to that point.
GMA does note that Blake has previously been arrested for attempting to resist arrest and flee police. GMA does not point out that the previous instance from 2010 also involved Blake waving a knife at a group of officers as they tried to arrest him. Why not mention that there seems to be a pattern here?
Strahan closes this segment by saying more of the interview will be available tonight. Here’s the portion that aired this morning.
Update: Okay, that’s odd. I transcribed this whole thing from the video at the link above. As I published this the video was pulled down. GMA has now put up a new copy of the video which, as I write this, has less than 100 views. I’m not sure if anything has been changed or why they did this.
Update: Here’s how the Washington Post is headlining this. Of course…
HEADLINE: "Jacob Blake says he was ready to surrender before being shot"
Article: Jacob Blake says he was ready to surrender before being shot, but after he was tased, pulled out the taser darts & put his OPEN KNIFE back in his car. Then he'd surrender…https://t.co/N8F3HkYBu0 https://t.co/357cZ2OUZf pic.twitter.com/fsoEQFNrYN
— Jeryl Bier (@JerylBier) January 14, 2021
Update: Relying on my friend Jeryl Bier again. He points out that Blake’s attorney Benjamin Crump had previously claimed Blake was not holding a knife. Obviously that has changed as of this interview.
January 5th: @NYTimes:
"Ben Crump, a lawyer for Mr. Blake’s family, denied that Mr. Blake had been carrying a knife…"
Jacob Blake admitted on @GMA today that he was carrying an *open knife*.
— Jeryl Bier (@JerylBier) January 14, 2021
Also, Bier notes the Washington Post has an earlier story (published Jan 5) which as of now still refers to Blake as “unarmed.”
With prosecutors in Kenosha, Wis., expected to decide as early as this week whether to charge the White police officer who shot Jacob Blake, an unarmed Black man, seven times in the back in August, the city is once again bracing for the national spotlight.
It’s 6:30 pm on the east coast. The GMA interview ran about 10 hours ago. How long does it take to make a correction?
Author: John Sexton