WaPo Reader's Advocate Wants More Investigation of Alleged Tea-Party Racial Slurs

Washington Post ombudsman Andrew Alexander called for more investigation of Democrats' allegations of racial slurs from Tea Party protesters on Capitol Hill, even noting Andrew Breitbart's $100,000 challenge for evidence. He  concluded his Sunday column:

Breitbart's $100,000 challenge may be publicity-seeking theater. But it's part of widespread conservative claims that mainstream media, including The Post, swallowed a huge fabrication. The incidents are weeks old, but it's worth assigning Post reporters to find the truth. After all, a civil rights legend is being called a liar. That aside, there's serious money at stake.

Alexander explored three different claims. The claim that Rep. Emanuel Cleaver was purposely spat upon looked shaky to him, and he said the Post overplayed it:

The Post and other news organizations left the impression of a despicable, premeditated assault. With videos of the incident so prevalent on liberal and conservative Web sites, and with the question being so widely raised in the blogosphere and on cable channels, The Post was remiss in not providing clarity by quickly dissecting what happened. (Cleaver's office did not return repeated calls seeking comment for this column.)

Strangely, Alexander left out Cleaver's comments to Post columnist Courtland Milloy -- it's strange unless he doesn't want to call attention to Milloy's splenetic knock-their-teeth-out rage.Alexander declared ABC video proves conclusively that Barney Frank was called the gay F-word. He acknowledged no recorded proof of the racial slurs, but is skeptical they were fabricated:

If there is video or audio evidence of the racial slurs against Lewis and Carson, it has yet to emerge. Breitbart insists they "made it up." If so, they're good actors. Roxana Tiron, a reporter for the Hill newspaper, said she was talking with a congressional staffer inside a House entrance to the Capitol when a "trembling" and "agitated" Carson said he and Lewis had just been called the N-word by protesters outside. "He literally grabbed me by the arm and . . . said 'You need to come out with me,' " imploring her to step back outside to listen to the taunts. Post reporter Paul Kane was nearby and witnessed Carson's reaction. "It was real. It was raw. It was angry. It was emotional. And he wanted it documented," recalled Kane, who said U.S. Capitol Police prevented them from going outside. Carson later told the Associated Press the protesters had chanted the N-word "15 times." Breitbart told me the "phantom 15 words" is "beyond absurd." Through spokesman Justin Ohlemiller, Carson stands by his assertion. The spokeswoman for Lewis, Brenda Jones, insists he and his chief of staff heard repeated uses of the N-word. They are declining interviews, she said, because they don't want to "fan the flames of destructive language."

That's as curious as Cleaver's failure to speak. If you're certain about something this outrageous, why would you now resort to "no comment"?The quote is especially silly, since Lewis and others (like Rep. James Clyburn) were quite outspoken in "fanning the flames" by suggesting that there were grand historical comparisons between Sixties segregationists and ObamaCare protesters. Being a so-called "icon" shouldn't mean you get to smear your opponents with a broad brush as racists.

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis