I've talked to many, many readers this week about continuing fallout from claims that members of "tea party" protests shouted racial slurs at members of the Congressional Black Caucus and one spat on Rep. Emanuel Cleaver on March 20.
The Web and the talk shows are awash with reports that the word "nigger" wasn't recorded by people with video cameras. Some have also disputed that Cleaver was spat on, though a video shows pretty clearly to me that he reacted that way contemporaneously. Was it simply spittle from the man yelling in his face, rather than a single intentional spit? You can't tell from the video -- but if someone was yelling at me so forcefully that he also spit on me, I'm not sure I'd make much differentiation there.
As I wrote earlier in the week, the initial report in The Star March 21 should have attributed the claims to the people who made them, instead of simply reporting them as fact.
Yes, a story by William Douglas which was speed written in record time. Of course, the Kansas City Star is now taking its sweet time about actually verifying the "facts" behind the story. One place they might want to start is by Googling "Emanuel Cleaver" and discovering his latest reaction to the spitting incident:
In an interview on Tuesday with FOX 4 News, Rep. Cleaver would not directly answer the question of whether or not he was intentionally spit upon.
"I haven't talked about this incident on TV or anywhere, and I've been approached to talk about it on every national TV show," said Rep. Cleaver in an interview with FOX 4 News. "I never, I never reported anything, never a single thing in Washington, not one thing. People assume I went somewhere, never done press conference, never done an interview on it and I'm not going to do it."
Cleaver claims he never talked about that incident anywhere yet Douglas reported it as absolute fact in his speed story composed in just 90 minutes which appeared in the Star. As to the N-word which was supposedly yelled, here is Donovan's observation:
On the other hand, I'm not terribly swayed by videos whose soundtrack doesn't pick up the slurs that Cleaver and others report hearing. One microphone at one location in a large crowd can't hear everything -- and you can't prove a negative in the first place. Not hearing something doesn't mean it didn't happen somewhere out of microphone range. Again, attribution of the allegations would have made a lot of these questions go away.
ONE microphone, Derek? Just one? And what of the dozens of cell phone cameras simultaneously recording this event? Remember there is a $100,000 Breitbart Award for anybody able to come up with a recording of the N-word being used at that Tea Party.
Finally Donovan's thus far unanswered recommendation for a re-examination of the supposed hate crime incident:
Readers are mostly objecting to the large amount of commentary that the incident has spurred. Most of it in The Star has accepted the reports on face value. Again, here is where I think the initial reporting was flawed by being too declamatory.
To be clear: I'm neither affirming nor denying claims by Cleaver, Rep. John Lewis or the protesters. I have recommended that the news side re-examine the issue, preferably with comment from the people involved.
Donovan made that recommendation last Wednesday. It is now Day 6 and the news side of the Kansas City Star continues to remain in the snooze mode on this issue. Does it really take this long to type into the Google Search box and make a few phone calls? And if the Star ever does decide to wake up and investigate this story, they might want to send the results to John Dart, the news editor of the Christian Century, who also misreported this story based on no real evidence:
Outside the Capitol, nearly 1,000 Tea Party activists rallied against the bill, and some protesters hurled epithets like "nigger" against members of the Black Congressional Caucus and "faggot" at Rep. Barney Frank (D., Mass). Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D., Mo.), a United Methodist clergyman, was called names and spit at as he walked to the Capitol.
Geoffrey A. Black, general minister and president of the United Church of Christ, said he was not surprised by the angry jeers. "I have long suspected that racism and homophobia are some of the underlying motives" of the angriest protesters, he said, according a UCC news release.
Your humble correspondent will now serenade the Kansas City Star "news side" with something that befits their Tea Party story re-examination mood: