MSNBC’s Chris Hayes ‘Shocked and Upset’ by ‘Racist, Disgusting, Lack of Empathy Online’ to Ferguson

Forced off air Monday night due to gunshots happening near his news crew, Hayes speaks to TheWrap about covering the unrest in Missouri

Chris Hayes and his MSNBC news crew were on the ground both this summer during the initial protests after Michael Brown’s death and Monday night when unrest ensued following the grand jury decision not to indict officer Darren Wilson for Brown’s death.

The main difference: over the summer, rocks were thrown at him. Monday night, gunshots were fired near Hayes and his crew.

Hayes spoke to TheWrap Tuesday while still on the ground in Ferguson, talking about the risks he takes as both a journalist and a father covering scenes like Ferguson, where gunshots were close enough that he could see “the fire coming out of the muzzle.”

“I don’t think much about that, frankly,” Hayes told us. “We’re not going to take dumb risks, we’re not in the middle of a war zone; you don’t want to put yourself in unnecessarily risky situations, but there are people out, we have a smart team here.”

Firefighters try to extinguish a burning restaurant set on fire after protestors rioted following the grand jury announcement in the Michael Brown case on November 24, 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri. Ferguson has been struggling to return to normal after Brown, an 18-year-old black man, was killed by Darren Wilson, a white Ferguson police officer, on August 9. His death has sparked months of sometimes violent protests in Ferguson. A grand jury today declined to indict officer Wilson. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Firefighters try to extinguish a burning restaurant in Ferguson, Missouri on Nov. 24, 2014 (Getty Images)

And obviously, he was a little too busy on MSNBC’s air ducking nearby gunfire to watch his competitors, but Hayes gave a very stern answer to a question about conservative media coverage of the non-indictment.

“The second part of my answer has to do less with the way it’s been covered than in the reaction that I’ve seen to that coverage among a lot of folks online, which is, I am genuinely shocked and upset by the unbelievable outbreak of just racist, disgusting, lack of empathy that I’ve been seeing online around this,” Hayes said. “You can’t load up Twitter without seeing how Mike Brown was a thug, and deserved what he got, and there’s just a lot of really ugly, disgusting stuff out there.”

For Hayes, his most pressing concern is balancing his coverage.

“The bigger thing that I torture myself over is the kind of balance between spectacle and context; those two forces are kind of at war with each other during this kind of live event. And trying to get that balance right is the thing I spend most of my time thinking about.”

Being that Hayes was on the ground in Ferguson for both the initial summer protests and Monday night, he pointed out a distinct difference.

“Let’s say you’re a 55-year-old postal worker who’s extremely upset about the death of Michael Brown … and you’re one of the folks that I saw and interviewed with a handmade sign outside the QuikTrip [Ferguson convenience store] in August. Are you going to go out into a night, onto the streets, on the night when you’ve been told for two or three weeks that there’s going to be violence, and riots, and national guards out, and it’s 30 degrees out … probably not.”

This created an effect where the people angry and willing enough to come out were younger people, Hayes explained.

The MSNBC host will anchor his program “All In” Tuesday night once again from Ferguson, Missouri  at 8pm ET.

Watch the video.