NEW YORK — A Cleveland television station took down an online story about the criminal past of Charles Ramsey, the man who helped free three women held captive in a neighbor's house for nearly a decade, after being flooded with complaints.
The story was factually correct, but written “too soon” in a city where the ugly case of alleged sexual predator Ariel Castro is too raw, said Jill Manuel, director of news at WEWS-TV, the ABC affiliate in Cleveland.
“They wanted to focus on the heroism displayed by him,” said Dan Coyle, creative director at the station. “They didn't want to learn about his past.”
The story was never aired on the TV station, just posted on its website for a few hours on Wednesday night. The station posted on its Facebook page Thursday that it made a “poor judgment call” to write about Ramsey's past. That message received 1,882 “likes” on Facebook.
Ramsey has become known not only for his actions Monday night that helped free the women, but for a colorful series of television interviews. It led several organizations to look into his past.
The Smoking Gun website posted documents from Ramsey's legal history. In a story about media interest in Ramsey, The Associated Press mentioned that organizations were looking into his past, and reported that he served jail time for domestic violence.
ABC's “Nightline” mentioned during an interview Thursday with Ramsey that he had a criminal past. The man explained that he had turned his life around.
“You reach that age and it's like `Am I going to be a total schmuck for the rest of my life?’” he said.
Manuel said the station's focus on Wednesday should have been on the freed women. The decision to pull the story doesn't mean that Ramsey's past will never be addressed again, she said.
She said the station had not talked to Ramsey about the issue.