Mohammad Anwar, a Virginia father and Uber Eats driver working to give his family a better life, was killed when two girls allegedly attempting to carjack him shocked him with a Taser, forcing a car crash on Tuesday, according to early details NBC Washington released. Anwar was a Pakistani immigrant, the sole provider for his family, and a grandfather with relatives in the United States and Pakistan. His death was a tragedy but hardly the kind right-wing media readily picks up. For one: The victim isn’t white, and neither are the accused assailants. Were it not for Anwar’s alleged killers being two Black girls, a 13-year-old and a 15-year-old, I highly doubt Fox News commentators would be covering Anwar’s death at all.
But they are Black, so conservatives have been quick to pick apart CNN coverage of Anwar’s death, particularly with the news network’s decision to use the word accident as a synonym for crash. CNN reported from a police news release: “The girls, 13 and 15, assaulted Anwar with a Taser while carjacking him, which led to an accident in which he was fatally injured, police said.” Conservatives had a field day criticizing the news network over the weekend.
"CNN is run by apologists for brutality," Fox News’ Greg Gutfeld tweeted. Stephen L. Miller, a blogger who's appeared on Fox News, tweeted: "Just an oopsie. Great work CNN." Gina Bontempo, who manages conservative pundit Candace Owen, actually used the phrase "Black privilege" in her criticism. "Black privilege = violently murdering an innocent man in the streets and the MSM calling it an 'accident,' with no mention of race in sight," she tweeted. What the commentators, however, failed to do in their initial reactions to CNN’s coverage is so much as mention the people actually affected by Anwar’s death.
“Words can not describe how our family is feeling currently,” one post read on a GoFundMe page organized by Lehra Bogino, Anwar's niece. “Devastation, confusion, shock, anger, heartache, and anguish are just a few that come to mind. We will carry him with us always, but it doesn’t take the pain away of losing him so tragically and so unexpectedly soon.”
Police officers were dispatched to an area of D.C. near Nationals Park around 4:30 p.m., the Metropolitan Police Department said in a news release. "Upon arrival, members located an adult male suffering from life-threatening injuries,” police said. “DC Fire and Emergency Medical Services responded to the scene and transported the victim to an area hospital for treatment. After all lifesaving efforts failed, the victim was pronounced dead." The suspects in Anwar's death were arrested on Tuesday and charged with murder and armed carjacking.
Disgusting witness video of the encounter has been circulating on social media, but I am refraining from sharing the footage in light of multiple social media requests not to. In one such request on Twitter from @itsayaaani, the mental health advocate tweeted: "His last moment on earth was dehumanizing enough. No one deserves to die while providing for their family. Protect his legacy and the hearts of his family by not exposing them to further trauma. May Allah grant him Jannah and give his loved ones strength, Aameen."
Reporter Andrew Feinberg tweeted: “I saw the video of this incident. It's horrible. But if you're getting performatively mad at @CNN for using the word ‘accident’ you should probably give to the victim's gofundme, turn off your phone & hug your spouse/kids/dog instead of being angry online.”
Tareq Tamr, a youth director on the marketing team of the Yaqeen Institute for Islamic Research, tweeted that he is “heartbroken.” “I really don’t recommend searching for the video,” he said. “I came across the video without being warned and it was extremely upsetting. Please don’t like or share it without a warning. Please keep our brother Mohammad and his family in your duaa.”
Outspoken public defenders offered another point of view on social media on Sunday. Attorney Scott Hechinger tweeted: "When I hear of a 13 & 15 year old charged w/ murder: I dont think ‘killer.’ I think ‘child.’ I dont think ‘punishment.’ I think ‘help.’ I dont think ‘murder.’ I think ‘tragedy’ for all. We can call for justice for Mohammad Anwar w/o calling for the heads of young black girls."
Rebecca Kavanagh, a criminal defense attorney, tweeted: “There are certainly issues of race and racism here - just not the ones the right wing media and commentators are trying to exploit.”
“And please don't tell me not to call the children involved in the death of the Uber driver, children. It's accurate. They are 13 and 15. That makes one barely a teenager. The man who killed 8 people in Atlanta was referred to as a ‘White kid from the suburbs’ by @thedailybeast,” Kavanagh added.
She said in another tweet: “So many people are telling on themselves by oh so casually mentioning the children's race in their criticism of CNN's choice of words here.” The attorney called video of Anwar’s death “horrific.” “Would people so readily share similar video of a White person,” Kavanagh asked. “No of course not. White bodies are always blurred if they are shown at all - we saw that in the coverage of the Boulder shooting.”
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