Dec 9 1998

ABC’s Abu-Jamal Segment Airs Tonight

Sam Donaldson calls for inmate's execution, calls supporters ignorant

On August 14, FAIR asked media activists to write to ABC News producer Harry Phillips concerning a special segment Phillips was preparing about death row inmate Mumia Abu-Jamal.

Noting FAIR’s criticism of biased coverage of Abu-Jamal’s case over the years, media activists wrote to Phillips to express their hopes for a fair, balanced account of his controversial case.

On Wednesday, December 9, ABC is scheduled to air the segment about Abu-Jamal on 20/20. Philadelphia Inquirer reporter Jennifer Weiner interviewed ABC‘s Sam Donaldson about the matter. Her article, appearing in the December 9 issue of the paper, includes the following quote from Donaldson:

“Everything that we looked at compellingly points to the fact that Mumia shot [Philadelphia police officer Daniel ] Faulkner in cold blood . . . and was convicted properly, and was sentenced according to the laws of the state of Pennsylvania,” Donaldson said in a telephone interview yesterday. “And as far as I’m concerned, as long as it’s on the books, the death sentence has to be carried out.”

Donaldson also says: “The people who support his release don’t do so from a position of knowledge.” He continued: “They either oppose the death penalty, or they’re campus rebels, or they’re African-American activists who believe that a black man was railroaded, and will continue to believe it, no matter what’s presented to them.”

To declare that “everything” in the record supports the belief that Abu-Jamal is guilty of 1st degree murder suggests that ABC looked only at evidence that fit in with their preconceived conclusion to the story–despite efforts by numerous activists to ensure the network was aware of contrary facts. Donaldson’s assertion that “African-American activists” will refuse to believe the evidence smacks of racism. And the statement that Abu-Jamal was “properly convicted” by a court that demonstrated obvious prejudice indicates a dismayingly low standard for capital justice.

FAIR encourages people to tune in tonight to the program and contact ABC directly with your response. (If you miss it, try checking ABC‘s website at for transcripts or other information.)


77 W. 66th Street

New York, NY 10023


212-456-2020 (20/20)

202-222-7090 (Sam Donaldson)

212-456-4000 (Roone Arledge, ABC News chair)

212-456-7777 (ABC News general number)

Fax: 212-456-6533 (ABC News) (20/20)

Please send copies of email correspondence (including any responses from ABC) to .