ABC News chief national correspondent Tom Llamas suffered a massive Twitter backlash on Tuesday after he notified Houston police about “looting” during the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.
“We informed police of the looting and Coast Guard is flying overhead. Multiple officers now on the scene,” Llamas said in a tweet he sent and later deleted.
Many on social media accused Llamas of snitching on people in need, arguing that there is a difference between “looting” and grabbing food and supplies to survive a devastating emergency.
One user simply replied, “F— off, snitch.”
Llamas later clarified: “Let me clear this up- we were w/ police who had discovered a dead body & mentioned we saw ppl w/ faces covered going into a supermarket nearby.”
It appears that Llamas didn’t call police, he simply notified authorities with whom he was already interacting. That detail didn’t stop the backlash. The second tweet — also deleted — received a thousand replies within 40 minutes, most of them negative.
ABC News declined to comment.
Llamas has been on the ground in the Houston area since Sunday covering the devastation for a variety of ABC News platforms, including “Good Morning America” and “World News Tonight.”
The hurricane has shown repeatedly that sometimes reporters’ basic human instincts can trump their notions of journalistic objectivity. Reporters traditionally try to avoid influencing the stories they tell, but during the hurricane, some have helped stage rescues. A New York Times reporter found himself among Harvey’s victims.
Since Hurricane Katrina in 2005, many have debated whether taking supplies in the midst of a weather-related emergency is the same as “looting.”
Many reporters refuse to help law enforcement investigations on the grounds that their duty is to report, not assist police. Some reporters have even gone to prison to avoid testifying.
Llamas went in another direction.