How the arrest of CNN’s Omar Jimenez during George Floyd protests united press rivals

CNN's Omar Jimenez is handcuffed on live TV during Minneapolis protests.
CNN correspondent Omar Jimenez arrested by Minnesota state police on live TV.

The arrest of CNN correspondent Omar Jimenez by Minnesota state police early Friday sparked a rare moment of solidarity among cable news competitors and condemnation from a major press freedom group.

Jimenez and his crew were in Minneapolis covering the violent protests over the killing of George Floyd, the 46-year-old African American man who died after a police officer knelt on his neck for several minutes, an incident captured on video. The fired officer, Derek Chauvin, was arrested Friday and charged with third degree murder and manslaughter.

Minnesota state police said the CNN crew was asked to move and refused. But video of the confrontation, which was seen live on CNN, shows Jimenez repeatedly agreeing to cooperate and being given no reason for the arrest.


Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz publicly apologized for the incident after the crew was released. He also personally apologized to CNN President Jeff Zucker.

Even with the apology, the Committee to Protect Journalists, a New York-based organization that monitors press freedom around the world, expressed anger over the arrest.

“It’s difficult to imagine what police needed as ‘confirmation that these individuals were members of the media’ beyond Omar Jimenez showing his press badge while he spoke into a CNN camera surrounded by his producer and crew,” said CPJ Program Director Carlos Martinez de la Serna in a statement. “Journalists have a responsibility to report on matters of public interest, such as protests, and should be able to freely cover these events without fear of retaliation from authorities. These arrests ring of intimidation and are simply outrageous.”

What happened to George Floyd, Christian Cooper and Ahmaud Arbery shouldn’t be characterized as sad anomalies, columnist L.Z. Granderson writes.

May 28, 2020

CNN typically gets lambasted by the conservative commentators on Fox News, who often echo President Trump’s condemnation of the outfit as fake news. But Fox News weighed in with a statement of support and covered the incident throughout the day.

“Fox News Channel has always supported the First Amendment and this instance is no different,” a representative for the channel said. “We denounce the detainment of the CNN crew and stand with them in protecting the right to report without fear or favor.”

Fox News also corrected its own early report on the incident, which failed to mention that Jimenez is seen on camera telling police he would move before his arrest.


During its coverage, Lawrence Jones, an African American contributor to Fox News, compared the arrest of the CNN crew to the actions of a totalitarian regime.

“A reporter that was reporting on the looting was arrested today on live television doing his job as a reporter,” Jones said. “I’ve been there ... reporting on these types of cases. You ask the cops, you say, ‘Where do I stand?’ He did that and he was still arrested on live television with his camera crew. That should not happen. This is not China. This is America.”

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a top contender to be Joe Biden’s running mate, has faced skepticism from black activists over her criminal justice record. The recent killing of an African American man in her home state by a Minneapolis police officer has sharpened concerns.

May 29, 2020

CNN rival MSNBC also criticized the police action.

“We condemn the arrest and detention of a crew of CNN journalists who were simply doing their jobs in a tough situation on the ground in Minneapolis,” the NBCUniversal-owned channel said in a statement. “This is a time when the work of journalists continues to be necessary to inform and educate the public.”

Arrests of TV journalists covering domestic stories are rare, and seeing it happen on live TV, according to CPJ, may be unprecedented.

The incident on Friday morning reminded historians of the civil unrest that seared the country in 1968, such as when Chicago police clashed with protesters and security guards roughed up journalists on the floor of the Democratic National Convention. CBS News correspondent Mike Wallace was struck by an officer and then arrested after he questioned why anti-war protestors were being apprehended.

President Trump also evoked the bloodiest days of the 1960s social uprising when he issued a tweet early Friday calling for order on the streets of Minneapolis and used the term “when the looting starts, the shooting starts.”


The phrase was famously used by then Miami police chief Walter Headley during a 1967 press conference where he declared a “war” on criminals in his city.

Twitter flagged Trump’s tweet for violating its policy on “glorifying violence,” adding to social media platform’s current confrontation with the president, who has seen some of his recent tweets supplemented with fact-checking links because they were deemed “misleading.”

Police were also aggressive toward members of the media during the demonstrations that occurred in Ferguson, Missouri after the 2014 death of Michael Brown, an 18-year-old black man who was gunned down by an officer. Another officer was heard on camera threatening to use mace on MSNBC anchor Chris Hayes when he was on the street covering the story.

Mike Tobin, a Fox News correspondent, was among several journalists briefly detained by St. Louis Police on the third night of violence during the protests over Brown. Trey Yingst, currently a Fox News reporter who worked for an online news service at the time, was arrested.