The arrest of Michael Christopher Estes, the man accused of planting a homemade bomb at the Asheville Regional Airport this month, was quick. The news media, however, weren’t as quick to report on it.
Authorities found what appeared to be an improvised explosive device on Oct. 6 at a terminal in the Asheville Regional Airport, according to a criminal complaint filed by FBI agent James Anderson. Bomb technicians examined the device and rendered it “safe,” according to the complaint.
Estes is accused of attempted malicious use of explosive materials and unlawful possession of explosive materials in an airport, according to the complaint. He waived his Miranda rights, admitting he had placed the bomb at the Asheville airport and that he was “getting ready to ‘fight a war on U.S. soil,’” the complaint said.
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The Asheville Police Department arrested Estes on Oct. 7 with help of a caller who had recognized his face from media reports, WLOS reported.
But other than a few reports by local media and some national outlets, the news media were quiet about the story, Shaun King wrote in a column on The Intercept.
Some local media outlets in the state posted Associated Press wire stories about the search and arrest without further reporting, including The News & Observer and The Charlotte Observer.
“As of 12 October 2017, there have been a handful of stories about Estes, mostly syndicated from an Associated Press report; it is true that it has gone largely without coverage or comment,” said Snopes, a fact-checking website.
Others on social media commented on the media’s apparently low appetite for the story.
If the Estes story was underreported, why? And why didn’t President Trump tweet about it?
“The story didn’t go viral and Trump didn’t tweet about it because the bomb was not placed by an immigrant, or a Muslim, or a Mexican,” King speculated on The Intercept. “It was placed there by a good ol’ white man, Michael Christopher Estes. Unlike the Las Vegas shooter, Stephen Paddock, whose motive is still hard to discern, Estes wanted to be very clear that his ultimate goal was to accelerate a war on American soil.”
“His actions aren’t an indictment of his whole faith, political outlook, and race,” King continued. “White people aren’t, thanks to Estes, suddenly labeled terrorists or seen as a threat to American safety in the way that would almost certainly happen had it been anybody other than a white man.”
It’s unclear whether Estes’s perceived ethnic identity played a role in reporting his actions, Snopes reported, saying he identified as American Indian/Alaskan Native in the records of the Buncombe County Detention Center.
Others speculated about newsroom logistics in coverage.
“It is possible that the attempted bombing received little coverage because his perceived ethnic identity did not fit a pre-existing narrative,” Snopes reported. “However, there are other factors that may have gone into the relative lack of coverage: the fact that the bombing was thwarted, making the story relatively low-priority; the fact that still-shrinking newsrooms have to pick and choose their stories; and the fact that newsrooms are so inundated with national and international stories in 2017 that this particular item might not have even registered.”