On the heels of a story a couple of days ago which used Congressman Heath Shuler as a source about how racial slurs were probably hurled at the Washington, D.C. Tea Party on March 20, the Associated Press has been forced to backtrack. Here is how AP writer Jesse Washington used what Heath Shuler supposedly heard to promote the idea of a Tea Party chock full of racists:
A fourth Democrat, Rep. Heath Shuler of North Carolina, who is white, backed up his colleagues, telling the Henderson (N.C.) Times-News that he heard the slurs.
Unfortunately for Mr. Washington's premise, this little fiction has now been undone by Shuler himself. Here is the AP correction:
Rep. Heath Shuler is denying a report that he heard racial slurs yelled from a crowd of angry health care protesters outside the U.S. Capitol.
On March 20, black Democratic congressmen John Lewis, Andre Carson and Emanuel Cleaver said they heard the N-word as they walked to the Capitol to vote on health care. Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., who is gay, said he was called an anti-homosexual slur.
On March 23, the Hendersonville (N.C.) News-Times published an interview with Shuler, D-N.C. The story said Shuler was walking with Cleaver and heard racial epithets. The Associated Press, after Shuler's office did not return phone calls or e-mails, quoted the News-Times report Wednesday in a story on the controversy over whether racial slurs had been shouted.
And who did the initial investigation to find out what Heath Shuler actually heard? The AP? Nope. It was James Taranto of The Wall Street Journal. The AP was merely playing catchup on its own story. Here is what Taranto reported on his investigation:
It may be the most celebrated missing recording since Watergate: the nonexistent or unaccounted-for video of the tea-party protesters at the Capitol who three black congressmen claim yelled racial slurs at them on March 20, the eve of ObamaCare's enactment. Jesse Washington, who covers the race beat for the Associated Press, tries to get to the bottom of things. Although he falls well short of establishing the truth or falsehood of the allegation, he comes up with some interesting findings along the way.
First, there turns out to have been at least one report of a corroborating witness to the alleged slurs. Washington notes that in its March 23 edition, the Hendersonville (N.C.) Times-News published this interview with Heath Shuler, the local congressman, a Democrat who voted against ObamaCare.
...But when we phoned Shuler's office this afternoon, press secretary Julie Fishman told us the local reporter misunderstood. According to Fishman, Shuler's comments to the Times-News referred to the general tenor of the protests, not to the black congressmen's specific allegations. Fishman said that Shuler was not walking with Cleaver and did not hear the "N-word."
So Taranto did the actual investigation into the story. The AP was merely playing catchup.
Meanwhile we still await the investigation by the Kansas City Star into allegations of racial slurs being invoked at that Tea Party. Their Readers Representative, Derek Donovan, recommended such an investigation a couple of weeks ago but the crickets continue to chirp over there. Even though, as Taranto proved, it isn't tough to get to the bottom of the story, the Kansas City Star remains in the snooze mode. Time to break out of the cocoon, Donovan, and get on this story.