MIAMI (CN) – Robert Parker, the first black county police chief in Miami-Dade County history, claims CBS TV defamed him by breaking into its regular programming to announce, falsely, that his son, Robert Parker Jr., had been arrested “for armed robbery.” Parker claims that CBS affiliate WFOR and its reporter Gary Nelson rebroadcast the report after he told them it was false, and eventually retracted the story, which was broadcast on Oct. 3, 2006. The Parkers demand punitive damages.
The police chief claims that after the defendants broadcast their false report, “Nelson was informed that the news station was publishing misinformation but disregarded the same and proceeded to air the story on WFOR again.”
Nelson sought an interview with the chief at police headquarters, and when the chief told him the story was wrong, “Nelson then proceeded to get on his cellular phone and told someone that he felt that there was some sort of cover-up,” Chief Parker says.
“Shortly thereafter, Commander Linda O’Brien of the Media Relations Division of the Miami-Dade Police Department contacted WFOR’s News Director, Shannon High. Commander O’Brien clearly told Ms. High that there was no arrest and that the story was incorrect. Ms. High informed Commander O’Brien that WFOR was going to continue their investigation.”
Chief Parker continues: “During the 5 p.m. newscast [apparently that same day, though the complaint is unclear] Nelson apologized on the air for running the false story, finally making a full retraction.
“It is a fact that there was no Robert Parker Jr. arrested anywhere in the State of Florida on the weekend in question. WFOR admitted that the validity of the report was not verified before it was aired. The recklessness of this news report was analyzed on the air, in detail, by another South Florida news station, WPLG, Channel 10. That station televised a follow up news piece regarding the importance of authenticity and professional ethics in journalism.”
The Parkers are represented in Miami-Dade County Court by Tamatha Alvarez of Weston, Fla.