KCEN-TV sports director Steve Snyder knew he was in for a rough time when his parents called to ask if he had joined the Branch Davidian religious cult at Mount Carmel.
Then came the call from “Good Morning America.” Those quickly were followed by calls from the hordes of other media types who descended on Waco after the failed federal raid Feb. 28 at Mount Carmel.
They all wanted to know if he was the same Steve Schneider who had been playing a major role in negotiations with federal agents during the 28-day siege at the fortified religious compound.
He assured them he is not, as most anyone who has been watching Channel 6 at 10:20 p.m. could verify.
They don’t even spell their names the same way, and Snyder said he is not and never has been a cult member. He is just a good-natured guy who likes sports.
But then came the not-so-funny calls from his so-called friends who jokingly wanted to know how things are inside the compound or how long he has been doing public relations work for the Branch Davidians.
After about 35 to 40 of those calls, it ceased to be funny, Snyder said.
Not a common name
“The first people to call were my parents, who live in Denver,” Snyder said. “They heard this guy Schneider’s name on the air, and they didn’t really think it was me, but they just wanted to call and make sure. You know how parents are. Snyder is not a real common name, but Waco is such a small town, and they just wanted to be sure.”
Snyder, 26, who has bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Baylor University, said his worst fear is that cult leader Vernon Howell, also known as David Koresh, will die inside the compound, and Schneider will ascend to cult leader and chief negotiator.
“. . . and my name might have the same effect on people as the names Charles Manson or Jeffrey Dahmer,” Snyder said.
Unlike other television personalities, Snyder did not change his name for professional reasons. In fact, he’s always kind of been fond of it. However, he says he may have to consider changing it to “Joe Blow” or “Jim Shorts” if it gets to the point where his name ranks up there in infamy with cult leader Jim Jones.
“It’s never been a problem up until this point,” he said. “I have heard other people with my name, but I never actually met them. But there has never been somebody quite this famous or . . . that infamous.”
Making matters worse, Snyder says, is the fact that one of the FBI spokesmen at news briefings pronounces Schneider’s name Snyder.
“I want to get up and scream, ‘It’s Schneider. Schneider.’ I am tempted to go down there myself and pull him aside and say, ‘Look, this is not working. It is Schneider. Please pronounce it that way. You are making my life difficult.’” Snyder said.