After working days to deny that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said something patently racist, the media realized the story wouldn't die, and have now begun looking for fresh angles that can mitigate the damage.
On Wednesday, CNN.com fell back on a favorite strategy of claiming that even though it was a racist remark, it shouldn't be surprising because everybody does it. Writer Wayne Drash trotted out research from a race-obsessed professor to prove that most white people routinely make racist comments whenever minorities aren't around.
Drash kicked off his report with the headline "When Talk of Race Goes Behind Closed Doors." Having no time for pretense, he threw out a bomb in the first sentence and commenced with sharp accusations against white Americans:
We're just going to put it out there: Behind closed doors, whites talk differently about blacks.
At least that's what two sociologists found after conducting a study of college students across the country.
One of the researchers, Joe Feagin, said that's why it comes as no surprise to him that a powerful politician such as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid would talk about Barack Obama's skin color and use the term "Negro dialect" in what he considered a private conversation.
Speaking not of Reid but of his conclusions drawn from his research, Feagin said, "Most whites have sharply reduced the blatantly racist stuff they do in public, while they still do huge amounts in private.
"It's just social correctness in the front stage. The scale of this is gigantic on the backstage, which is why the notion of a post-racial America is laughable," said Feagin, a professor at Texas A&M University.
After making his case in such strong words, Drash waited until the sixth paragraph to finally admit a few details the reader might be interested in knowing.
For one thing, the research cited was three years old and already worn from making rounds in the mainstream media. In fact, at the time of its debut, it received gushing coverage from CNN's Paula Zahn, replete with a panel of experts to dissect it on live TV.
Drash admitted the age of the research but somehow forgot to mention his own network's earlier promotion - even though a simple Google search would have helped. Beyond CNN, Feagin's study was highlighted by a number of other news outlets, including this report from the Orlando Sentinel.
That particular study was not the only opportunity for Professor Feagin to spout his opinions in the media. In 2006, the Associated Press quoted him in an article about a racially-charged police shooting. Just after President Obama's inauguration last year, Newsweek cited him to claim race relations would still be tense.
Feagin's obsession with victimhood is so well-known that David Horowitz called him one of the most dangerous university professors in America. Feagin built an entire career on racism, sexism, and other liberal battle cries, having written countless books dating back through the 1970s.
In other words, when a mainstream media writer wants to accuse whites of being racist, Joe Feagin stands at the ready. Drash turned to old reliable and never bothered disclosing any of this to his readers.
Aside from the age and previous discussions of the study Drash referenced, the content of the study itself was questionable. Feagin took a sample of some 600 college students who agreed to participate by keeping a diary of all their private conversations. The results conveniently returned full of racist jokes and snide remarks. Feagin then held up these findings as proof of a nationwide trend among white people to insult minorities on a daily basis.
Then another interesting tidbit slipped in: even though the study was completed in 2006, only information on white participants has been released. Some records were also kept from African-American perspectives, but more than three years later, those results are "still being compiled."
Drash felt no need to ask why, or to ask for any more specifics on the study. The only thing that mattered was being able to say that most white people are secret racists.
After giving Feagin plenty of time to make his case, Drash brought on two more experts to agree with him, but just one critic, and then never asked any challenging follow up questions of anyone.
Drash then went into all-out damage control mode by insisting that President Obama, the Congressional Black Caucus, and the NAACP have all forgiven Reid, topped off with a quote from Obama that conservatives who "try to make hay" out of the scandal are wrong.
Thus in one article, CNN provided all the cover a Democrat needs: Reid didn't say anything all that bad so his critics should move on, and even if it was bad, no one can throw stones because everyone is guilty of it anyway.
And when the supposed guilt revolves around racism, one call to Joe Feagin will provide ample cover.