Justifying Homicide?

, Sarah Carlsruh, Leave a comment

James Pouillon, an avid pro-life protestor, was killed last Friday, September 11th, while protesting outside Michigan’s Owosso High School. The media, when it covered the topic at all, tended to downplay the significance of the fact that a man was murdered for exercising his First Amendment rights and instead focused on Mr. Pouillon’s thirst for attention.

CBS failed to mention the killing. NBC did not acknowledge a link between Mr. Pouillon’s murder and his anti-abortion beliefs; NBC journalist John Yang said that, of the killer’s grudges against his victims, “none of them were specifically related to anti- or pro-abortion beliefs.” ABC reported the views of the murderer, saying that Mr. Pouillon’s alleged killer, Harlan Drake, did not agree with Pouillon’s use of graphic signs in places where kids could see them.

The New York Times entitled its article on the homicide, “Slain Abortion Opponent ‘Loved the Controversy’ His Protests Generated.” Rather than focusing on the tragedy of Jim Pouillon’s death, it harped on his “waving graphic signs and breaking the idyllic quiet with loud anti-abortion rants.”

According to the article, Jim’s nephew attributed the intensity of Jim’s protesting to Jim’s divorce, which triggered an increase in his protest activities. Acquaintance Tony Young, president of the car dealership outside of which Pouillon often protested, said that “he loved the attention, he loved the controversy.” Another acquaintance, Jimmy Carmody, was quoted by the New York Times as calling Pouillon “too in-your-face,” increasingly erratic, and cussing out grocery shoppers in the parking lot. The article also reported that most people found Mr. Pouillon to be not very religious, a surprising statement about a man who devoted much of his time to a cause linked strongly with religious values. In contrast to the New York Times report, his own daughter, Mary Jo Pouillon, described him as a man whose “main goal in life was to get people to love Jesus and to help save the unborn.”

The Flint Journal’s article, entitled “Homicide victim James Pouillon had extensive background of civil violation, many related to anti-abortion protests,” painted an even blacker picture of the late Mr. Pouillon. After briefly mentioning the shooting, it detailed Mr. Pouillon’s infractions with the law, including completely irrelevant traffic violations.

The two killings on September 11 were tragic occurrences, but not isolated incidences. “Drake also is accused of killing a local business owner earlier that day,” reported the Associated Press on September 13.
Joe Scheidler, national director of the Pro-Life Action League, claimed that violence and threats of violence are not uncommon. In a response to Pouillon’s death, he told reporters that “on a number of occasions, our ‘Face the Truth Tour’ was threatened with deadly weapons.”

Randall Terry, a pro-life activist acquainted with Jim Pouillon through their common interest, spoke fondly of him at a press conference held on September 11 in response to the killing. He and Reverend Rusty Thomas both defended Jim’s method of using graphic images to battle abortion, with Mr. Thomas calling “the truth of these images” a formidable weapon. Shiawassee County prosecutors reported that Drake did not like the graphic nature of Pouillon’s signs.

Many reports related this killing to that of the murder of George Tiller, a late-term abortionist. Pro-lifers are disparaging pro-choice groups for not responding to Jim Pouillon’s murder with the same outspoken condemnation as pro-lifers did with Mr. Tiller’s.

“Whichever side of a public debate you are on, violence is never the right answer,” President Obama said in his brief public statement on Sunday, September 13, calling the murder “deplorable.”

Sarah Carlsruh is an intern at the American Journalism Center, a training program run by Accuracy in Media and Accuracy in Academia.


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