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.
What did you imagine the hungry people were taking from the grocery store? Big-screen TVs?
— Mark Harris (@MarkHarrisNYC) August 29, 2017
Maybe sit the next couple plays out, champ.
— coreyspring (@coreyspring) August 29, 2017
— DougExeter (@DougExeter) August 29, 2017
— coreyspring (@coreyspring) August 29, 2017
— Robin Armand (@SlashMars) August 29, 2017
Hey Tom Llamas how about calling on price gouges and not stores that can't even sell the food anymore due to being flooded out?
— K voss (@Kvoss1313) August 29, 2017
Why that's Tom Llamas, the reporter who snitched on looters trying to get food and supplies from a supermarket during a natural disaster. pic.twitter.com/WaRrl5rqLa
— Bot Lynch 9000 (@BethLynch2020) August 29, 2017
Tyler, I'm at a Barnes & Nobel and someone is using a store outlet to charge a personal device. Can you contact the FBI?
— Matt H (@Mopkins15) August 29, 2017
So you saved a corporation's rapidly spoiling tax write-offs from starving human beings? I'm sure your Pulitzer is in the mail.
— FrankyP (@FrankyPelvis) August 29, 2017
Your NYC reporter whose family is safe thought cops should protect property instead of rescuing human beings.
— TheShepherdAbides???? (@NeolithicSheep) August 29, 2017
Tom Llamas calling cops on folks trying to eat during a catastrophic flood event is one of the more hateful things I've seen during Harvey.
— LatLongLiz (@LatLongLiz) August 29, 2017
Tom, don't listen to these people. It was very brave and right of you to put property ahead of flood victims. You are a hero. Thank you.
— Jon Tayler (@JATayler) August 29, 2017
Hi Tom, the city has asked us to only call 911 for life-threatening emergencies. I'm sure you were very scared but this wasn't one.
— Robert Anderson (@thatdarnedbob) August 29, 2017
In a disaster, an inability to draw the moral distinction btwn food and a tv really says something. @TomLlamasABC
— G O L D I E. (@goldietaylor) August 29, 2017
Every item of retail merchandise, ESPECIALLY FOOD FROM A GROCERY STORE is an insurance claim. Houston's starving people should take anything
— web_rant (@web_rant) August 29, 2017
I hope these people without the means to evacuate get shot on sight for taking things left by people with means and coverd by insurance
— Spencer Lenox Hicks (@SpencerLenox) August 29, 2017
@TomLlamasABC In a disaster scenario the first response should be HELPING those in need, not criminalizing them.
— Terence (@TPMoney121) August 29, 2017
People are hungry and desperate to feed themselves and their families. What kind of human being are you to call the cops on them? Heartless.
— Sulay Hernandez (@Sulayish) August 29, 2017
Stores are closed and people are trying to survive and you choose on trying to get them arrested?
— dunnypop (@dunnypop) August 29, 2017
In what conceivable sense is it a journalist's role to narc to police on people in a disaster taking food? And so gross to call it "looting" pic.twitter.com/DDSBxc8Zb1
— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) August 29, 2017
"Saw some looters land on the Monreville Mall with a Helicopter so I let the zombies in to stop them from stealing the food" – @TomLlamasABC
— Ken Reid (@KennethWReid) August 29, 2017
in my 'hood we call that "dry snitching."
— Zaquelle LaBelle (@indelible_inc) August 29, 2017
Why don't you wait until confirmed, before you use words like "looting"… All the food these ppl bought before flood has been destroyed
— Sarah (@RealSarah103) August 29, 2017
— Mona Godinez (@GodinezMona) August 29, 2017
Everyone is owning a reporter named “Tom Llamas”. It’s a good day online.
— Todd Hitler (@dongoehubaire) August 29, 2017
— darold cuba (@DaroldCuba) August 29, 2017
I bet you're not hungry are you Tom.
— Peggy Sue (@PeggySue1_1958) August 29, 2017
That isn't your home underwater @TomLlamasABC, it isn't your family whose lives are in danger, you have the luxury of being dry and fed.
— Everett DSA (@DSAEverett) August 29, 2017
Wait… grabbing food for survival is now looting? Now… if they steal TV's that's another story.
— KimKinnie (@kkinmi) August 29, 2017
I would get out of Houston right now.
— ????????-FAT BEARD-???????? (@QrisThaButcher) August 29, 2017
Torrential rain (faces covered) and dead bodies (drowning) and you go right to condemning. You're part of the problem.
— Hondo Ohnaka (@HondoOhnaka1) August 29, 2017
Going for the tabloid lede? You just muddied the waters even more. Not your job to be "citizen cop." You're on the clock.
— Julie Gammello (@pawz12_oh) August 29, 2017
It's called foraging, you inhuman monster.
— Chip Malfunction (@robevesphotos) August 29, 2017
Delete your career.
— Steve Halasz (@KoolMoeSteve) August 29, 2017
Well you win the Dwight K Schrute Junior Volunteer Officer of the week award, I'll drive your certificate over to you now
— Evan ONeil (@eoneil83) August 29, 2017
Yes, it's called surviving. Why must everything be painted in the most negative light possible? And is the body related to others surviving?
— Xboxershorts (@Xboxershorts) August 29, 2017
Totally out of bounds. Police should be there distributing the food. People are hungry. Food spoils. Capitalism is null in these events!
— Kenneth R Milstead (@krmilstead) August 29, 2017
Stores are closed, there is a major disaster and they need to feed themselves and their family, what are they to do? Fish for their food?
— Martin Fallon (@IamMartinFallon) August 29, 2017
— Kaatryn MacMorgan (@labgrrl) August 29, 2017
I'm glad we've put this to rest. Next up: let's start asking rescuers for their boat permits and proof of citizenship
— Tim McCollum (@T_McCollum) August 29, 2017
Oh, that clears it up – you took the police away from dealing with AN ACTUAL DEAD BODY to deal with some nonsense. Well done skippy!
— Kblocki (@kblocki) August 29, 2017
No one likes a tattletale. I'd like to see what you would do if that was YOUR only option for food.
— Breanne Lawrence (@missblawrence) August 29, 2017
THAT really cleared this all up. And by that I mean "put the shovel down and stop digging". Your insensitivity was called out. Deal with it.
— mikey_shriver (@mikey_shriver) August 29, 2017