Pullyaup, Washington – The widow of an Army special forces soldier killed in Niger has expressed her disappointment with the media coverage of the death of her husband’s and his teammates, and has shared her concerns about how the intimate details of his death came to public light in an exclusive interview with USAWTFM.
Michelle Black is the wife of Staff Sgt. Bryan Black, the 3rd Special Forces group SF medic who lost his life in the infamous October 5 ambush near the Niger-Mali border. In a broad interview with USAWTFM, she remembered her husband as a wonderful man who was also a fierce competitor, whether it was at the chess board or making money playing online poker.
Black’s November 14 public Facebook status took the media to task for the way the aftermath of the event appeared to be skewed by the media for political purposes.
“I have always believed in the goodness of the American people, but have always underestimated the cruelty and self-serving nature of the American media,” she wrote. “…the American media who so enjoys twisting truths and the concept of “need to know” in order to boost ratings or push a narrative both liberal and conservative.”
The “need to know” Black referred to is the slow trickle of information that has resulted through reporting from the Washington Post, CNN, and Fox News. This information, including the condition and wounds on her husband’s body, are details she believes the American people do not need to know.
“Knowing (those details) don’t do anything to change anything in the future – it doesn’t make anything safer,” she said in a phone interview. “A lot of times when they report these things, it’s to make the public aware or exposing something that needs to be changed. (These details) don’t do anything to change the narrative of what happened and how it happened at this point.”
“I just don’t see the benefit to publishing anything that personal. I would like them (media executives) to explain that to me,” she added. “If they were in that position and that happened to them, would they feel the public needed to know about their body being stripped and bloodied, and hands tied… I don’t see who you write that and put it in print.”
Black’s reason is a deeply personal one. Simply put, she says, her children shouldn’t have to see them, particularly as young as they are.
“From the minute this happened, my one son has stated ‘my dad was murdered,’ and I’m not sure how you argue with that when he was ambushed. So then to have these reports come out and the idea that he would see it, I worry about the rage and anger than can be long last, even life long, and that can be damaging to his mental health, whether the reports are true or not.”
She cites several conflicting reports about the conditions of the bodies as one reason why she doubts the credibility of anything but the official investigation. Unfortunately, she says, those reports are printed an on the Internet, and are there for her children to see from now on regardless of their veracity.
She said she has also had a difficult time understanding why major media organizations would interview local villagers regarding this incident, or why these people would be credible on a world-wide media stage.
“I think they go and kind of overstep. It’s really irresponsible to go to a villager. They don’t know his history or his background. For all we know they could be someone that turned in the guys. It seems to me that one minute they’re reporting that there may have been local villagers that turned these guys over or gave information over to the militants. The minute (the media) is interviewing them to find out what happened. So for me, I would want to know – are these guys even credible? How do they know these villagers are credible?”
What it really comes down to, Black says, is whether or not the information is true – and if it is, why would the American people have the right to learn it before she does. That doesn’t mean she’s dissatisfied with the information she’s received from the Department of Defense. On the contrary, she is “ok” with the information DoD has provided.
“My concern is that a complete and thorough investigation is done, not a hasty one,” she said, emphasizing that any political influence would be counterproductive. “What I need is accuracy. Accuracy comes with time and thought and gathering as much information as possible before drawing a conclusion.”
Black also talked about the difficulty of talking about Bryan publicly in the early days after his death to avoid being embroiled in the political storm surrounding President Donald J. Trump’s allegedly botched phone call with Myeisha Johnson, the wife of Sgt. LaDavid Johnson, one of the other members of the team killed in the ambush. The call, and the fallout after it, dominated the news for weeks afterward.
Although she felt let down by the recent media attention and reporters’ seeming lack of concern for the feelings of her family, Black said in her Facebook post the fellow Americans helped to make up for that disappointment.
“At a time when my family and the families of those who died in Niger need support and respect for our privacy… the public’s support has been overwhelmingly kind, and the outpouring of support and love has been a true testament of the American spirit and the American way,” she wrote.