We seem to be at the height of kids-in-cars hysteria, with emergency personnel breaking car windows to save dolls and vigilantes filming mothers they have deemed monsters for letting kids wait out short errands in cars. Recently, another such video aired on KHOU in Houston. The network's storyline: A mom by the name of Araceli Cisneros left her kids in the car to wither and perhaps die while she gallivanted off to get a haircut. An eyewitness filmed the negligence on a cell phone camera.
A few hours later, the station changed its report. In actuality, the mom had accidentally locked her kids in the car with her keys and had been frantically trying to get them out, not getting her hair done.
The mommy wasn't evil. In fact, she was "frantically calling for help," the entire time, according to the Houston Chronicle.
Now Cisneros is suing the TV station for $200,000 for not checking its facts. She fears for her family after the story went viral: nationally syndicated TV personality Nancy Grace even picked it up, calling Cisneros an unfit mother. As reports the Houston Chronicle:
"As a result of KHOU's objectively false news report, Cisneros feared that she would be subject to prosecution for leaving her children in a locked car," the suit alleges. "Based on the public's response to the article … Cisneros also feared for the safety of herself and her family."
An editor's note since added to the story on the KHOU website says, "The witness who shot the cell phone video was mistaken when he thought the mother left the children in the car while she got a haircut. We have removed that part of the story."
The note goes on to confirm Cisneros' story. "The mother accidentally locked her keys in the car and recruited other witnesses to help smash the window," the editor's note says.
In a world where everyone—bystanders, the media, and the people watching the media—are all eager to leap to the worst-case scenario, it's not surprising that the story aired as another tale of a mother who put her own needs first and ignored her kids.
There's nothing America loves more at this moment than mama-shaming, which I declare my new word of the month. I'm glad this mama is shaming the haters back.
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