Open Letter To AP’s CEO: Take Offensive Photo of Dying Marine Off AP Newswire
Washington, DC – Merrilee Carlson, President of Families United For Our Troops and Their Mission, the nation’s largest military family organization, sent the following letter to Associated Press’ CEO Thomas Curley regarding AP’s decision to publish a photo of Lance Cpl. Joshua M. Bernard of New Portland, Maine, in his final moments of life. Lance Cpl Bernard was struck by a rocket-propelled grenade in a Taliban ambush August 14 in Helmand province of southern Afghanistan. Lance Cpl Bernard’s father had asked the Associated Press to not publish the image of his dying son.
Text of the letter is below:
Dear Mr. Curley,
As a Gold Mother, I am painfully aware of the indescribable anguish that a family endures when they learn of their child’s death. I am also aware of the media’s responsibility to tell a story and convey the sometimes bleak images of that story. However, your decision to print the photo of Lance Cpl. Joshua M. Bernard in his final moments of life against the wishes of his family was anything but a tribute to his sacrifice or legitimate reporting of the news. That photo has no news value and is not worth the pain that it is causing the Bernard Family.
When my son Michael was killed in Iraq in 2005, I held on to every memory I had of him. From scrapping cars with his father in our yard as a young boy to watching him receive his high school diploma, those memories are sacred to me now that he is gone. With your decision to publish a photo of that young man in his painful last moments, you may have ripped away the family’s happy memories of their son’s life and replaced them with an image of death that will undoubtedly be seared in their minds for years to come.
When my Michael died, a local news media was intent upon releasing information before I was even able to comfort my older son who had to tell me the news of Michael’s death – let alone comforting Michael’s fiancé. Those moments are lost to us forever because the media was intent on getting “the scoop”. This isn’t about news. This isn’t about history. This is about a life. Every time that photo is republished, you are forcing the Bernard family and the families of the men who served with him as well as every military family whose hero died in this manner to suffer the same pain that they are experiencing right now.
We at Families United, the nation’s largest military family organization, implore your organization to permanently remove this photo from your newswire so no media outlet can publish it. We believe that publishing this photo was a mistake but allowing thousands of news stations and papers around the world the opportunity to republish it, is a travesty. The Associated Press can still mitigate the damage done here and honor the sacrifice of Lance Cpl. Bernard by preventing others from publishing this tragic photo.
We at Families United, and all America’s Gold Star Families await your timely response.
President of Families United For Our Troops and Their Mission
Proud Mother of Michael “Shrek” Carlson (KIA 01/24/05)
Note - Merrilee Carlson is President of Families United For Our Troops and Their Mission. Her son, Sgt. Michael Carlson, was killed in Iraq in 2005.