What Not To Do: Exploit A Student’s Suicide For Political Gain

They say all is fair in love and war. Many consider politics to be a battleground, so it’s “anything goes” in that arena. Nevertheless, some things are simply off limits. Unfortunately not everybody understands that. Fox News published a story on their website Wednesday that clearly crossed the line.

The article was called “GWU Suicide Tragically Coincides with Obama Speech,” and described how President Obama gave a speech Wednesday on the George Washington University campus. According to the article, in “a tragic coincidence of timing” university officials learned a male student had committed suicide in his dorm room across campus earlier that day. The writer made sure to point out that “… as of this writing, Fox has not been able to obtain reaction from the White House.” The president of the university, Steven Knapp, made a statement to the students and faculty:

“I am deeply saddened to report that the university has been notified of the death of one of our students. The student was found in his room this afternoon at the City Hall residence hall. On behalf of the entire university community, I would like to express our sorrow and extend my condolences to the student’s family and friends.”

Naturally, our hearts go out to the student’s family and friends. However, Fox News is a national news outlet, and this is not national news. There is no reason for Fox to have reported this story. The only reason being that this was a chance for them to make the President look bad at the beginning of a new election cycle. To accomplish this, they used the association principle of psychology to link President Obama to a negative event. By mentioning these two things together, they want the reader to correlate them both in their minds. This technique works more often than you think. The article contained comments from readers like “There will be a lot of this if Bama gets reelected,” and “Obama lied and people died.” To say that these comments are unbelievably insensitive is an understatement.




This suicide was a tragic event, and thus should be treated with discretion out of respect for the family and friends of the student. That should not be changed by whatever political affiliation one holds. None of us would want to see any of our children used in this way; but instead, Fox News exploited the heartbreaking suicide of a young college student just to try and get a dig at the President. Stay classy, Fox News.

Update: The GW Hatchet reports that Fox News has since taken the story down from their website. Candace Smith, spokesperson for the University, stated that they had reached out to Fox News about the story.

“We contacted Fox News to express our concern that the story drew conclusions that were not accurate. It was their decision to take the story down, and we believe it was a wise one.”

Source: Fox News, The GW Hatchet

Note: Though the original story was taken down by Fox News, a screenshot can still be found here.

3 thoughts on “What Not To Do: Exploit A Student’s Suicide For Political Gain

Add yours

  1. Unfortunately, it only takes a story like this being online for minute for it to get inside the heads of Fox’s target audience. Damage done. Fox may be a lot of things, but they’re not stupid.


  2. And what the heck were they thinking posting a story about a suicide? Journalism 101: suicides aren’t typically covered unless they’re a)murder-suicide, b)high profile individual, or c)the president is on campus at the time of the…oh wait…yeah, I guess it’s justified. Idiots.


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