I really didn't understand it until reddit had a thread on it. And this was a wonderful answer: To get a full understanding you actually need to go back to the incident at Ruby Ridge, in which there was another standoff between US Marshals/FBI and the Weaver family, a family of religious white separatists at Ruby Ridge, ID. In the 80s the FBI began to take an increasing interest in militia and white separatist movements in the US. They began infiltrating organizations like the Aryan Nations, the National Alliance, and white supremacist personalities like Kevin Strom and David Duke. The Weaver family started in Iowa, and around the early-80s Randy and Vicki (husband and wife) began moving closer and closer to Christian fundamentalism. Soon after, Vicki had a vision of looming apocalypse, and they decided to sell off their assets and move the family to an isolated mountain plot in northern Idaho at Ruby Ridge. Once there, they built a cabin and began living a subsistence lifestyle. Their closest neighbors happened to be an Aryan Nations compound, and the Weavers would frequently attend their meetings to engage in trade and socialize with the white supremacists. Weaver himself never claimed to be a white supremacist, but sometime around the early-90s an undercover ATF agent approached Weaver at a Nations meeting asking to buy sawed-off shotguns from him, as an attempt at catching the AN in illegal arms trafficking. Weaver rejected him initially, but eventually agreed to get the shotguns for him. After failing to appear in court for the firearms charge, US Marshals went to serve an arrest warrant at the Weaver house, starting the standoff with the Weaver family. In the end one US Marshal was killed, Vicki Weaver and their son Sammy were killed, and Randy Weaver and his friend Kevin Harris were severely wounded. Initially there was a lot of support for the ATF, FBI, and the Marshals, but many reports later questioned the agencies actions as excessive and unnecessary. There were also questions as to whether or not Randy Weaver was a victim of entrapment by the ATF agent that talked him into selling those shotguns. It was a public relations disaster, and as a result there was a lot of distrust for government agencies and their methods of law enforcement. This spawned a Congressional investigation, and some rethinking of agency tactics. The case of Waco started off much the same. The ATF and FBI were receiving reports of the Branch Davidians collecting and trading illegally modified rifles, converting them from semi-automatic to full-automatic. There was little information about the sexual and physical abuse of girls and women at the time, the initial warrant was all about firearms law violations. The agents on site, wanting to avoid another incident and PR disaster like Ruby Ridge, planned a surprise raid that they thought would avoid a standoff like what happened in Idaho. It backfired horribly, and four agents were killed in the raid, and it turned into a siege anyway. It wasn't until it became obvious that David Koresh and his immediate family (his various wives and children) would not come out, and that the fire had started, that the agencies decided to assault the compound again. They were able to save some of the Davidians, but the fire was already too widespread to save all of them. Initial reports reflected a lot of the same sentiment left over from Ruby Ridge, questioning the methods and tactics of the agencies as excessive and unnecessary. It wasn't until much later that the truth of the mental, emotional, and physical abuse of women and children came out. However, public sentiments still sided with many reports and editorials that said the loss of life could have been avoided if only the law enforcement agencies employed different tactics. So, to give the simplest answer to your question, it was a combination of general public distrust of methods and tactics of hostage negotiation by the various law enforcement agencies involved in the siege. It was also the lingering skepticism that the Branch Davidians may have actually been criminals left from the incident at Ruby Ridge just a couple years earlier. Sources: Ruby Ridge: American Standoff, video documentary Could Waco Have Been Avoided?, article, LA Times: Could Waco Have Been Avoided? : A terrible end to the standoff calls for reassessment of tactics--and of gun laws Death In Waco, editorial, New York Times: DEATH IN WACO: A Cultist's Mind; Experts Say Hostage Approach Led to Bloodshed With the recent rise in interest of white separatist and militia movements, there have been numerous documentaries being released through PBS and streaming services on these incidents. I would highly recommend checking them out to get a more complete picture.