APs Babington Misleads That Gates Arrested Because He's Black

July 25th, 2009 8:47 PM

In an "analysis" on how President Obama is dealing with the race issue, AP writer Charles Babington seems to have based his take on what happened to Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr. on the assumption that Gates was arrested for being black in his home, not that he was arrested for disorderly conduct and for his outrageous disrespect for a police officer -- something to which other police officers involved attest, officers that are themselves minorities.

Babington so soft-pedals Obama's gaffe against the police officers, leaving out so many details that, after reading the story, one finds it difficult to understand why Obama's words were so controversial. And it's all in a seeming effort to cover for the president and try to help him reclaim the high ground on race in America. The whole Babington piece appears to be far more of an effort to smooth the waters for Obama instead of provide any actual analysis of the incident.

Calling Obama's reaction to the Gates arrest "understated" and "perhaps obvious," Babington goes on to say that Gates was arrested in his home -- without giving any context at all -- and assumes that even with Obama in the White House race is still a major problem in America.

What's less clear, however, is whether Obama's history-making election is triggering changes in the day-to-day racial interactions of ordinary Americans. After all, if one of the country's most prominent black scholars can be arrested in his home after a heated exchange with a white police officer, doesn't that suggest Obama's racial breakthroughs apply more to the political world than to the broader society?

Notice that Babington does not flesh out the context of why Gates was arrested. Babington does not mention even in passing Gates' uncalled-for behavior, the taunting that he delivered to the officer, nor his obstreperousness. No, according to Babington, Gates was just a "prominent black scholar" arrested in his home, seemingly for no reason at all.

Babington goes on to his soft peddling of Obama's initial reaction at the press conference Thursday where he was questioned on the incident.

Even Obama was surprised by the intensity of the uproar over the arrest of professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. by Cambridge, Mass., officers who were checking a possible burglary report, which proved unfounded. At a Wednesday news conference, Obama said the officers had "acted stupidly" after they realized Gates was in his own home.

Notice how Babington adds that the burglary report "proved unfounded"? An uninformed reader can easily be misled into thinking this whole incident was the result of racist cops, arresting people for no reason. Saying that the reason the police were at Gates' home "proved unfounded" makes Obama's comment that the officers "acted stupidly" seem less controversial than it in fact is.

Babington goes on to report on the reactions of Gates' friends.

Nearly all his black associates think Gates was a victim of racial profiling, Cummings said, while 70 percent of his white friends do not. "We look at these problems of race out of our own glasses," he said, "and they are based on our experiences."

Again, notice that the context of the arrest is completely ignored?

The whole problem with this AP analysis is that not once is Gates' actions detailed so that a reader will quickly gravitate to the assumption that the cops were acting in a racist manner. The APs piece seems geared to absolve Obama for his foolish involvement in the Gates incident as well as continue the strife between blacks and whites in America.