Violence-Advocating Detroit Free Press Editor Decries the Word 'Bailout' in Describing Detroit Schools' Bailout

July 1st, 2016 12:36 AM

On June 8, Tim Graham at NewsBusters noted how Stephen Henderson at the Detroit Free Press had gone on an unhinged, murder-advocating rant against Michigan Republican legislators for agreeing to a $617 million bailout of Detroit's public schools while continuing to support charter schools there. Reacting to the legislation, Henderson, in a June 4 column, called for charter school backers to be "sewed into a burlap sack with rabid animals and thrown into a lake to drown – if they aren’t eaten first." He reiterated his call for violence later in the same column: "A sack. An animal. A lake. No lover of actual democracy could weep at that outcome."

Now this disgraceful excuse for a journalist, despite a Pulitzer Prize supposedly saying otherwise, is outraged — outraged, I say — at the very idea that people are describing the Detroit schools' bailout as, well, a "bailout."

As such, Henderson, who excused his words as mere "hyperbole" while refusing to apologize, now deserves to have his photo placed with the term "double standard" in the dictionary.

Mollie Hemingway at The Federalist, who first gave Henderson's early-June advocacy of violence national exposure, looked up the definition of "bailout," and found the following:

... bailout is a word meaning “the act of giving financial assistance to a failing business or economy to save it from collapse.” Obviously taxpayers are giving to the public schools to keep them from collapse. It they weren’t giving the money, or if it were a foregone conclusion that they would, it wouldn’t have been the subject of a fierce legislative battle.

Henderson, like the falsely caricatured McCarthyites of yore who were supposedly looking for Communists under every bed (history shows that all they really needed to do was look inside the State Department), actually looks for "disrespect" and sneering assertions of "privilege" which, unseen by mere mortals, are deeply embedded in words, like "bailout," despite the dictionary's clear definition:

Language and privilege make Detroit schools debacle worse

Words can be used to show the same disrespect as a literal slap in the face, or worse.

As a writer, I know that all too well.

But what I can’t figure out, for the life of me, is why Republicans in the Michigan Legislature and the highly financed charter school lobby feel compelled to use the most insulting language to describe the recasting of public education here in Detroit. It has become so common that even press reports now refer to the legislation as a bailout.

Though, I’m pretty sure it boils down to two things: privilege and manipulation.

Why else, for instance, is the package of bills signed by the governor last week still being referred to as a bailout — as if the money included to retire public school debts were some sort of gift to rash, harebrained Detroiters?

The truth is that the vast majority of the debt being relieved — hundreds of millions of dollars — was racked up while the state was supposed to be righting the school district’s financial ship.

... So calling this a bailout of Detroit serves only to inflate the false sense of privilege that folks in other school districts (and many of their Lansing representatives) often express when they talk about the city, its problems, and how they connect to everyone else in the state.

Dude, they're calling it a "bailout" because it's a "bailout."

If you're going to accuse lawmakers and others involved of "inflat(ing) the false sense of privilege that folks in other school districts often express when they talk about the city," you need to cite specific examples of where lawmakers and others involved have inflated this supposed false sense of privilege. Until you do, your assertion has no credibility.

Naturally, Henderson failed to name GOP lawmakers or officials who have specifically cited Detroit residents as "rash" or "harebrained" or in other derogatory terms as the people who have made the bailout necessary. That's because no one believes that it's Detroit residents' collective fault that its schools have been run so poorly for so long.

Even if Henderson is correct in laying the blame partially at the feet of the state while it ran the city's failing schools, that doesn't change the fact that Detroit's schools needed a bailout, and that this term is the most accurate one to use in describing the circumstances.

So the guy who can shrug off his calls for GOP legislators to be murdered as "hyperbole" and expects us all to be thick-skinned about it shows that he has tissue-thin skin when people dare to call the Detroit public schools' bailout bill a bailout.

Henderson is the Free Press's Editorial Page Editor. As Graham pointed out in his NewsBusters post earlier this month, Henderson's bio claims that "Equanimity is his trademark."

You misspelled "paranoia," Stephen.

Cross-posted at