By Chris Hoenig
New Jersey TV reporter Sean Bergin is out of a job after blaming a cop killer's race for the outrage he received after interviewing the man's wife.
Bergin, a freelance reporter with cable news outlet News12, filed a report on Sunday about the shooting death of a 23-year-old rookie police officer outside of a Jersey City pharmacy. At the end of the piece, Bergin included a commentary in which he blames "the anti-cop mentality that has so contaminated America's inner cities" on "young Black men growing up without fathers."
The 49-year-old, who is white, said he decided to add the commentary right before going on the air after hearing the outrage about the use of his interview with the cop killer's widow. In the report, Bergin included clips of Angelique Campbell wishing that her husband, 27-year-old ex-convict Lawrence Campbell, had killed more cops.
"He should've took more with him," Campbell said in one excerpt. "If they were gonna stand over my husband and shoot him like a f---ing dog, he should've took them all the f--- out. That's how I feel."
Campbell allegedly walked into the pharmacy around 4 a.m. on Sunday, armed with a knife, and assaulted an armed security guard so he could steal his gun. After telling pharmacy employees that he was "going to be famous" as he waited for cops to arrive, Campbell walked out and shot Officer Melvin Santiago in the head as he sat in his patrol car. Fellow police officers returned fire, killing Campbell on the spot.
"Sorry for the officer's family. That's, you know, whatever," Campbell's widow told Bergin. "But at the end of the day, I've got a family, too. All they care about is the officer."
Outrage had already been growing after a large memorial was set up in Campbell's neighborhood, honoring the cop killer. Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop ordered the memorial taken down.
"We were besieged, flooded with calls from police officers furious that we would give media coverage to the life of a cop killer. It's understandable," Bergin said as he moved from factual reporting into editorial commentary. "We decided to air it because it's important to shine a light on the anti-cop mentality that has so contaminated America's inner cities. This same, sick, perverse line of thinking is evident from Jersey City to Newark and Patterson to Trenton.
"It has made the police officer's job impossible and it has got to stop. The underlying cause of all of this, of course: Young Black men growing up without fathers. Unfortunately, no one in the news media has the courage to touch that subject."
News12 executives reportedly suspended Bergin for two days—one with pay—and told him they would bring him back only one day a week, during which he was only to do feature stories—no hard news—and would be moved from the network's New Jersey bureau to its office on Long Island.
Bergin, who had been working six or seven days a week for the company, said he declined the offer and left his position.
"If I had it to do over again, I would do the exact same thing," Bergin said. "I broke the rules. I knew I was breaking the rules. But sometimes you have to break the rules to do the right thing."
In a FOX News interview on Wednesday, Bergin not only defended his commentary once more, but also used a phrase seen by many American Indians as derogatory in explaining why he went on air with it. "There's no doubt that I went off the reservation," he told Megyn Kelly. "I made a couple of rogue remarks at the end. I knew what I was doing.
"This has got to stop. Somebody has to have the guts to stand up and point at this and say, 'Hey man, we gotta start talking about this.'"
Bergin's commentary only spread misinformation, according to media executives.
"Are there problems in the inner city with kids without fathers? Yes. But does that make kids violent? No," said Bob Butler, a reporter with KCBS Radio in San Francisco and president of the National Association of Black Journalists. "There are a lot of kids without fathers who go to college, graduate and become upstanding citizens. He's talking about a social phenomenon where there's lack of opportunity in communities."
A CDC study has shown that Black fathers are actually more involved with their children than white or Latino dads, whether they live with their kids or not. Black fathers are more likely to feed their young children, bathe and diaper them, help them with their homework, take them to and from activities, even just talk with them about their day, according to the study.
According to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, the number of police officers killed in the line of duty is up about 30 percent over last year. Firearms-related deaths, which account for about 40 percent of officer deaths, are up 65 percent.
Last year, there were more traffic-related officer deaths than firearm-related. This year, the numbers are about equal.