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Steve Contorno
By Steve Contorno August 18, 2014

Missouri governor says he's been in Ferguson 'almost every day' since shooting

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon made the rounds on the Sunday political talk shows on Aug. 17 to discuss the ongoing turmoil in his state stemming from the death of Michael Brown, an 18-year-old black man shot and killed by a white St. Louis suburban police officer.

In addition to discussing the reaction from the community and law enforcement agencies, Nixon was also grilled on his own response to the outcry.

On This Week, Martha Raddatz told Nixon, "People are angry with you, personally. Your press briefings have been town halls, people venting their anger, wondering where you were early on. I know you issued statements after about 72 hours, but you didn't come to the scene for five days. What responsibility do you bear?

Nixon replied: "Well, I mean, I've been here almost every day."

We decided to review Nixon’s timeline for the last 9 days.

Michael Brown was shot by police officer Darren Wilson around noon on Aug. 9 in Ferguson, Mo., and was pronounced dead at the scene. Tension in the community built and reached a crescendo the evening of Aug. 10, when a vigil for Brown was overtaken by an angry protest and looting.

We asked Nixon’s office to provide his schedule for the following days. Spokesman Scott Holste told us in an email, "The governor has made public appearances over there on Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, or five of the seven days since the initial unrest a week ago Sunday night." While some details from those days were provided, his full schedule for the week was not.

We pieced together Nixon’s schedule ourselves based on Holste's email, news reports, press releases from his office and his Twitter account, which often documents his travels.

There were no tweets or releases about Ferguson on Aug. 10. There was one release from his office that day — an op-ed about mental health.

On the morning of Aug. 11, after a night of chaotic protests and a standoff between the community and Ferguson police, Nixon formally requested for the Justice Department to independently investigate Brown’s death.

One hour after tweeting out that release, Nixon’s account posted a picture of the governor addressing Missouri "conservationists and sportsmen."

On Aug. 12, Nixon appeared at events for El Dorado Springs and Chadwick public school to announce funds to expand early childhood education.

Later that day, he announced on Twitter that he was, "joining faith & civic leaders @ Christ the King United Church tonight in north St. Louis county #Ferguson."

Nixon, along with the Ferguson police chief and mayor, spoke at a packed Christ the King United Church of Christ. He gave brief remarks to the standing-room crowd, about 465 words, according to a transcript posted on his official website.

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Here’s where things get technical. When questioning Nixon, Raddatz quizzed him on why he "didn't come to the scene for five days."

The church event wasn’t held at the scene. Nor was it in the same locality. Instead, the church was about 4 miles from where Brown was shot in the bordering city of Florissant.

At this point, Nixon had not visited the location where Brown was shot, and vigils and protests were being held all day and night. And he wouldn’t visit the scene or Ferguson until two days later, on Aug. 14.  

On Aug. 13, he toured a Joplin, Mo., high school re-opening three years after it was destroyed by a tornado and he later met with children from 4-H and Future Farmers of America.

That night, Nixon announced that he was canceling plans to attend the Missouri State Fair on Aug. 14 and would instead go to Ferguson.

"Closely monitoring situation & will be in North STL Co tomorrow. Ask for calm & urge law enforcement to respect rights of residents & press," his account tweeted.

Every tweet sent from Aug. 14 through his appearances on the Sunday morning shows are related to Michael Brown and the Ferguson shooting.

Beginning Aug. 14, Nixon also spent time each day in Ferguson. The morning he arrived he visited a local church and later a makeshift memorial, according to his Twitter feed.

The next day Nixon had security briefings and held a press conference in Ferguson with Capt. Ron Johnson of the State Highway Patrol, whom Nixon tasked with keeping the peace there.

On Aug. 16, he held a press conference to announce a curfew in front of a contentious crowd of demonstrators.

As for why he delayed, Nixon told Bob Schieffer on Face the Nation that "these problems have to be solved at the local level," but he chose to take greater action "when I saw the military vehicles rolling up, when I saw guns pointed at kids."

Nixon spoke with Schieffer and Raddatz from St. Louis on Aug. 17.

Our ruling

When Raddatz said Nixon hadn’t visited the scene of Brown’s death for five days, Nixon replied, "I've been here almost every day." Brown was shot Aug. 9 and violence broke out Aug. 10. Nixon first visited a nearby city on Aug. 12, but he didn’t visit Ferguson until Aug. 14.

While Nixon was active early — calling for a federal investigation the morning after a standoff between protesters and police and attending the nearby community meeting — there is a distinct and noticeable shift in Nixon’s activities starting Aug. 14.

Prior to that date, Nixon kept up his schedule and continued to make appearances unrelated to the Ferguson shooting. After that date, he held daily press conferences and meetings near the scene of the crime, visited the location of the shooting, and made no other official public appearances.

In all, he was in Ferguson for three days from Aug. 10 through Aug. 16, all toward the end of the week. Given the evidence and the parameters of Raddatz’s question, Nixon’s statement is Mostly False.

Our Sources

ABC This Week, Transcript for Aug. 17, 2014

CBS Face the Nation, Transcript for Aug. 17, 2014

Email interview with Scott Holste, spokesman for Jay Nixon, Aug. 18, 2014

St. Louis Post-Dispatch, "Governor declares curfew in hopes of bringing order to Ferguson streets," Aug. 17, 2014

St. Louis Post-Dispatch, "Special Reports: Michael Brown," accessed Aug. 18, 2014

St. Louis Post-Dispatch, "Al Sharpton brings his brand of activism back to St. Louis," Aug. 13, 2014

St. Louis Post-Dispatch, "Protesters, police again facing off in Ferguson," Aug. 13, 2014

Office of Gov. Jay Nixon, "Gov. Nixon asks U.S. Department of Justice for an independent investigation of fatal shooting in Ferguson," Aug. 11, 2014

Office of Gov. Jay Nixon, "Remarks by Gov. Nixon to community meeting of civic and faith leaders in North St. Louis County," Aug. 12, 2014

Office of Gov. Jay Nixon, "Statement from Gov. Nixon on events in Ferguson," Aug. 14, 2014

Office of Gov. Jay Nixon, "Gov. Nixon announces Missouri State Highway Patrol will take the lead on security responsibilities in Ferguson," Aug. 14, 2014

Office of Gov. Jay Nixon, "Gov. Nixon declares state of emergency, puts curfew in place to protect public safety and security in Ferguson," Aug. 16, 2014

Twitter account of Gov. Jay Nixon, accessed Aug. 18, 2014

St. Louis Public Radio, Map of Events Relating to Michael Brown Shooting, Aug. 11, 2014

USA Today, "Timeline: Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson, Mo.,"Aug. 18, 2014

USA Today, "Mo. police capt.: 'Don't burn down our house,’" Aug. 15, 2014

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Missouri governor says he's been in Ferguson 'almost every day' since shooting

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