NBC Sued Over “Bombs for Sale” Story
Last week the “Today” show warned viewers of a possibly dangerous brand of exploding firearm targets that are sold over the counter, calling them a potential tool for terrorists. But, it turns out that likening these targets to bombs has seriously angered the product’s manufacturer, causing it to take action. Tannerite Sports filed a libel and slander suit against NBC Universal News Group, alleging that the Today Show’s “Bombs for Sale” print and video segments reported by NBC News national investigative correspondent Jeff Rossen were defamatory.
The video segment ran last Monday in conjunction with an online news story titled Bombs for Sale: Targets Containing Dangerous Explosive Being Sold Legally. The segment was part of “Rossen Reports,” an investigative unit that provides segments for the Today Show, NBC Nightly News, and Dateline NBC. The segment alleged that a brand of exploding shooting targets called Tannerite were, essentially, bombs for sale.
Tannerite is a brand of binary explosive targets that are intended to detonate when shot by a high-velocity firearm bullet. The product has become a hit with gun enthusiasts, because it explodes when you hit the target, letting you know if you’ve made the shot. The product is able to be sold without the usual restrictions that apply to explosives based on a technicality; they separate the two ingredients in its explosive that are sold together–ammonium nitrate and aluminum powder. Individuals must combine the substances in the container themselves for the product to be active. Rossen stated that ammonium nitrate is the same substance that was used in the Oklahoma City Bombing, as well as IEDs used on U.S. troops in Afghanistan.
The report reiterated the potential dangers of the product, citing a 2013 FBI intelligence bulletin, which issued a warning that exploding targets have “potential use as explosives in IEDs by criminals and extremists.”
When NBC contacted Tannerite Sports LLC, for comment makers of Tannerite said:
No additional regulations are needed beyond current laws because the product is safe when used correctly. The only injuries that have ever happened were results from the shooter misusing the product. Only girly-men want to regulate Tannerite Rifle Targets.
That highly offensive “girly-men” comment may have been directed towards the concerned folks over in Maryland, since the state is currently the only one to ban the purchase of the exploding targets without an explosives license.
What the issue really boils down to is whether or not Rossen’s reporting was defamatory or accurate?
From what I can tell from the lawsuit, Tannerite is taking offense mostly to its product being referred to as a bomb, which the company says it is not. A bomb can be defined as “an explosive device fused to detonate under specified conditions.” Tannerite is a container that is designed to explode on impact with a high-velocity firearm bullet. It can be destructive–in one woman’s case caused her to nearly lose a hand. Keeping that in mind, Rossen’s reporting doesn’t seem inappropriate.
Rossen’s report may have resulted in the company’s reputation being altered, as well as caused Tannerite some economic loss, but that’s what happens when consumers react to information. It’s tough to see his reporting as being either malicious or reckless, but we’ll have to wait and see what’s decided if this case even goes to court. Ultimately this lawsuit’s semantical debate over the word “bomb” may end up doing little to help Tannerite’s PR predicament.