Autism Group Petitions CBS News: Take Down Dangerous Video

6 Sep

The Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism started a petition: CBS News: Take down the video Behind the Tragedy: Mother Murders Autistic Son

The petition has over 1500 signatures as of today. Please read and consider signing. If you disagree with the way CBS portrayed the murder and the murderers of Alex Spourdalakis, please consider sending an email to CBS at

REDWOOD CITY, Calif. — Autistics and caregivers want CBS to remove a news video which frames autism as an excuse for the murder of a child.

The CBS News video, Behind the Tragedy: Mother Murders Autistic Son, frames autism as an excuse for the murder of a child, Alex Spourdalakis, by his mother & caregiver. CBS should not be promoting what The Autistic Self-Advocacy Network’s Ari Ne’eman described as “a dangerous ideology that preaches that people are better off dead than disabled.”

Even though Mr. Ne’eman and his quote were included at the end of the video, the bulk of the video tries to justify the unjustifiable — Alex’s murder — and curries sympathy for his killers. Specifically, CBS reporter Sharyl Attkisson says, “His murder might be just another unexplained tragedy, if it were not for a documentary following his family in the months leading up to his death.” This is unacceptable.

The petition can be found at cbs-news-take-down-the-video-behind-the-tragedy-mother-murders-autistic-son-2

CBS News can be reached at

The Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism is a book, website, and Facebook community run by Shannon Des Roches Rosa, Jennifer Byde Myers, Emily Willingham, and Carol Greenburg. Each woman writes, educates, and advocates within the autism communities.

By Matt Carey

11 Responses to “Autism Group Petitions CBS News: Take Down Dangerous Video”

  1. Shannon September 6, 2013 at 01:31 #

    Thank you, Matt. Folks can also call CBS directly 212-975-3247, or submit a complaint via their feedback form: .

  2. Lara Lohne September 6, 2013 at 03:12 #

    I’ve signed this and shared in on Facebook earlier this week. I really do hope more and more people will sign. The media is attempting to sway any jury that may be called to sit this trial and they cannot afford to have any preconceived notions already regarding this murder. Alex was a loving, bright, happy young man. So he had autism, that doesn’t mean anything. His mother, and I use that term loosely, had no right to take Alex’s life, and I really can’t believe she and her partner in crime expected the sleeping pills they previously used on Alex, which had failed to kill him, would actually kill them. It was a poorly thought out escape attempt, in my opinion. Any parent who kills there child should be held accountable to the greatest extent the law allows. In the case of a parent killing their autistic or otherwise disabled child, it should be tried as a hate crime, because they clearly did it because of the disability. That is by no means justification, I feel those who care for disabled people and end up killing them are worse then the average person who commits infanticide, because the disabled individual is even more vulnerable to that one person for their care, and this is what they get instead. It makes my heart hurt to think about it. I grieve for Alex, and I hope his ‘mother’ and her accomplice rot in prison for the rest of their lives.

    • Saraquill September 7, 2013 at 01:46 #

      I must object to your comparison of disabled people to infants. Yes, there are some of us who have great difficulties, and there are plenty of us who can do things such as read, type, and graduate from college.

      • Lara Lohne September 7, 2013 at 02:17 #

        I’m not certain what comparison you are referring to. Nothing in my comment equates autistic people with infants. If you are speaking of my use of the term infanticide, that is the proper term for a parent killing their child and really has nothing to do with the age of the child.

  3. Douglas MacNeill September 6, 2013 at 17:47 #

    In this regard, let me refer to the criminal case of Robert Latimer,
    a Saskatchewan man who killed his daughter Tracy in 1993. Now,
    Tracy Latimer suffered from severe cerebral palsy as a result of
    complications during her delivery; one consequence of that palsy
    was a life of chronic pain.

    Here’s the crime, in a nutshell: Bob Latimer left his daughter Tracy
    in the family car on purpose, poisoning Tracy with carbon monoxide;
    Tracy died as a direct result of that poisoning. Throughout his court
    case, Bob Latimer’s main defence was that he was putting poor Tracy
    out of her misery, or putting an end to her life of suffering, or euthanizing

    After the verdict in Bob Latimer’s first trial was overturned, he was
    convicted of second-degree murder in a second trial (remember,
    Tracy died of poisoning). The judge who sentenced Bob Latimer
    at that second trial downgraded the charge from second-degree
    murder (life imprisonment, no parole for at least ten years) to
    manslaughter (maximum sentence of twelve years, no parole for
    four years) in the belief that ten years in prison was so excessive
    a sentence as to comprise cruel and unusual punishment. It took an
    appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada to confirm both the verdict
    (second-degree murder) and the sentence (maximum of life imprisonment,
    no parole for at least ten years)–a decision I support. Even if you
    believe (as I do not) that developmental disability condemns to a
    lesser life, Bob Latimer’s actions constitute homicide with criminal intent
    to kill–also known as murder.

    • Ian MacGregor September 24, 2013 at 23:55 #

      This is a freedom of the press issue. I would tread lightly before asking a news organization to take down anything. The severe autism is integral to the story. If you truly believe in the worth of the disabled, you cannot soften their stories, but need to speak of the harsh realities. If you believe in a free press, you wouldn’t ask for the video to be taken down.

      When I read the description of the murder, I don’t in anyway see a “mercy killing”. I see resentment and hatred for Alex, hatred from his own mother and his caregiver. Hatred which ended in murder.

      It is an extremely small minority of parents/caregivers who murder in this situation Love for the child, and the morality incorporated into our hearts by God, or by our societal traditions stop them/us from such inhumane acts.

      However there appear to be times when the parents/caregivers are capable of heinous acts, are guardians of a child whose care is extremely demanding, demanding beyond their ability to cope. The result is indeed sometimes murder.

      We need to do a better job of identifying these situations and separate the child from parents/caregivers before it is too late. If we cannot speak of the difficulties how can we as a society save those children

      Every parent needs respite from looking after their children. It so much
      harder to find and afford, when your child is very much disabled.

      • Sullivan (Matt Carey) September 25, 2013 at 05:24 #

        I take freedom of the press VERY seriously. This blog was attacked by a coward who used the UK libel laws to shut down discussion.

        That said, telling a one-sided account of a murder–a brutal, ugly murder–that of the perpetrator is not journalism. Attkisson was giving her friends a bit of free advertising. Swell. Don’t hide behind “freedom of the press” when you aren’t acting like a journalist.

        She and Andrew Wakefield also send the dangerous message that one can get a lighter sentence for murder by blaming the victim. And, what the heck, let’s see if we can taint the jury pool in advance with a faux documentary. Very irresponsible.

        The fact that I wish this video removed is because I respect the press, and this isn’t it.

        Ever heard the term “altruistic filicide”? Yeah, it’s a defense being used right now, as I type. The idea that “I was acting in my child’s best interest when I murdered him.”

        “If you truly believe in the worth of the disabled, you cannot soften their stories, but need to speak of the harsh realities.”


        There, I’ve spoken the harsh reality of the situation.

        Seriously, what does

        “Every parent needs respite from looking after their children. It so much harder to find and afford, when your child is very much disabled.”

        have to do with

        “I see resentment and hatred for Alex, hatred from his own mother and his caregiver. Hatred which ended in murder.”


      • Sullivan (Matt Carey) September 25, 2013 at 06:02 #

        Ian MacGreggor,

        is this journalism? Was it worthy of protection of freedom of the press?

        It’s a story of a lynching as told by apologists in 1908. The story told by a supporter of the people who did the lynching. It’s journalism, isn’t it?

  4. Ian MacGregor September 29, 2013 at 05:05 #

    I was offline for a while my sister who with the help of neural surgeons, oncologists, and, orthopedic surgeons has battled cancer several times, is faced with it again. She has chosen to try Trabectedin. Her last battle left her barely able to walk, and any chemo would be given at 3 times the dosage she had before. So she has chosen a drug which slows down the growth of the cancer. I mention this because re-awakened me to how precious life is. Especially the lives of those we love.

    One of the reasons why I don’t want videos of people afflicted with autism suppressed is that the worst thing you can do for their caregivers is to make them feel isolated; that they are alone in facing the problems.

    Also when people see how detrimental the condition is for many they are more likely to support services, and a quest for a cure. Easter Seals is going to start providing some in-home ABA therapy to help my 16-year old daughter and her life skills. I doubt we would get such help if we only saw autism as non-detrimental.

    Respite care is vital for the care givers. The lack of it does not excuse murder, but the availability of respite may prevent some.

    Unfortunately, I don’t have the time to continue to respond.

    • Sullivan (Matt Carey) October 6, 2013 at 20:21 #

      Sorry for the situation you are going through. I wish you and yours well.

      Here’s a question for you. Do you think Andrew Wakefield will be able to adequately address the question of how much impact his team and the others offering guidance (e.g. non expert medical advice) had in the story? Would the perpetrators gone to such a level of desperation without the false hope given by Wakefield et al.?

      That’s where this attempt to turn a reality TV project into a documentary fails. It isn’t a documentary. It isn’t journalism. Wakefield isn’t only whitewashing the actions of the mother and caregiver, he’s ignoring the fact that his own actions and those of his allies may have contributed. Instead of a documentary it will be an infomercial for his colleagues and his pet theories and a chance for Mr. Wakefield to lash out against the medical community he’s embittered against.

      Did you get the impression from CBS that project wasn’t completed? Or that Wakefield would soon be asking for $200,000 in funding for it?

      Yep. CBS got used. That was clear from day one, but it should be even more clear now.


  1. Dear reader, please sign this petition | autismjungle - September 8, 2013

    […] you could, please go and sign this petition on Background data here, here, here and here. Orac and Matt explain it much better than I ever […]

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