The Democrats’ Media Hatchetmen
by Jack Cashill
Amidst the early morning cacophony at the McDonald’s on 14 th and Prospect in Kansas City’s urban core, Sonny Gibson calls the meeting to order with a gavel that commands attention--the blunt end of a hatchet.
All told, there will be about 50 people in Sonny’s audience, perhaps 45 of them black, about half of comparable vintage to Gibson, a veteran local historian.
Gibson leads with a discussion of the issues of the day from all over the world and from all points of view. Despite what the media want you to believe, there is no orthodoxy here.
Although Gibson may wield a literal hatchet, the most dangerous hatchetmen are the metaphorical ones who occupy the city’s and the nation’s newsrooms.
One of their victims has come to McDonald’s seeking help. Gibson turns the floor over to him. Jacob Turk, the Republican candidate for Missouri 5 th District congressional seat, is clearly distressed.
Backed by the local media, his opponents’ people have been spreading the word through the inner city that Turk is a “teabagger” and that Tea Party people are little more than soft-core Ku Kluxers.
In trademark blue suit and red tie, the dogged and sincere ex-Marine appeals to his friends at McDonald’s. They know him well enough to ignore the smears, and several of those in attendance vouch for Turk’s good heart.
About the Tea Party movement, they are much more leery. In that I have spoken to Tea Party groups in Missouri, Kansas, New Jersey, Florida, and California, Turk has asked me to come and can set the record straight.
If the movement has a racial “problem,” I explain, the problem is that the largely suburban and rural participants are not concerned with race. It is not on their agenda.
The media would have you believe race was their obsession. “Health care,” “cap and trade,” “card check,” “debt”---were merely code for race by another name.
The McClatchy Papers report on the Capitol Hill health care protest of March 20 th was an incendiary case in point. Roared the headline, “Tea Party protesters scream ‘nigger’ at congressman.”
Had an extraterrestrial arrived in American a week prior he would have known enough to doubt this accusation. In 2010, even the Aryan Brotherhood would not have risked screaming the n-word on the Capitol steps.
The Kansas City Star, a McClatchy paper, proved more gullible than my extraterrestrial. The Star immediately posted the Douglas article with—mercifully—a more benign headline. Still, the body of the article reinforced the original headline.
To stir his readers to outrage, McClatchy hatchetman William Douglas makes iconic civil rights veteran John Lewis the subject of the abuse. He is the “congressman” alluded to in the headline.
According to Lewis, however, what the protesters shouted was not a racial slur, but "Kill the bill, kill the bill." If Lewis heard anything more derogatory, he does not seem to have told Douglas about it.
Rep. Andre Carson of Indiana, who was walking with Lewis, claimed to have heard “maybe fifteen people” dropping the n-bomb. In the age of the ubiquitous video camera, this was a preposterously reckless charge.
Douglas likely knew enough to avoid Carson. He identifies only Turk’s opponent, Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, as having heard the slur. Note the way that Douglas runs these sentences together.
Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, D-Mo., said he was a few yards behind Lewis and distinctly heard "nigger."
"It was a chorus," Cleaver said. "In a way, I feel sorry for those people who are doing this nasty stuff.”
Douglas leaves the impression that Cleaver heard a “chorus” of people shouting racial slurs when Cleaver said no such thing.
As to the “scream,” none of the multiple video cameras, including the two held by Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. walking next to Cleaver, recorded anyone screaming any racial slur. The $100,000 award for proof of even a whispered n-word remains unclaimed.
Things get stranger. Immediately after the protest, Cleaver’s office put out a press release claiming that “the man who spat on the congressman was arrested, but the Congressman has chosen not to press charges.” The Douglas article incorporates the release.
Did Cleaver’s office not know about cell phone cameras? As is clearly seen on YouTube (see “Capitol Hill Conspiracy”), when Cleaver walks back into Cannon, he wanders into the path of a man shouting “kill the bill” through cupped hands.
"There were no elements of a crime, and the individual wasn't able to be positively identified,” said the Capitol Police. The video supports the police. It shows a clueless Cleaver, accompanied by a policeman, walking back to the scene of the crime and looking vainly for the “assailant.”
No matter. On March 21, Yael T. Abouhalkah, the Star’s normally sober editorial page columnist, took his hatchet to the Tea Party movement, claiming that “some Tea Party supporter spat on Cleaver Saturday on Capitol Hill because the U.S. congressman is black.” (Italics mine)
When the videotapes started surfacing, Cleaver turned downright Orwellian, telling a local TV news station, "I never, I never reported anything, never a single thing in Washington, not one thing.” In fact, Cleaver’s press release sparked the madness.
In a thoroughly confused column that same day, Abouhalkah claimed that unnamed “conspiracy buffs” were allegedly citing Cleaver’s denial of reporting the incident to deny that the incident ever took place. “Everyone knows Cleaver was spat upon by the protester,” continues Abouhalkah, “either intentionally or not.”
What? Two weeks earlier Abouhalkah was ready to behead the guy. He had spit on Cleaver because he was black. And now Abouhalkah was not sure whether the spit was intentional?
Not eager to undo an effective smear, Abouhalkah was still insisting that, if not arrested exactly, the spitter “was put in handcuffs” and let go “when Cleaver did not identify him.” In the release, remember, Cleaver had “chosen not to press charges.”
I emailed Abouhalkah and others at the Star whom I know and asked each of them to clarify who had been detained or arrested and what their source was, but I have yet to hear from any of them.
More bizarrely still, immediately after telling one TV station that he had no intention of talking about this incident, Cleaver appeared on a rival channel to talk about the incident.
“I thought when I first felt the moisture that maybe it was an accident,” Cleaver conceded. “What many of the Democrats wanted me to do was stand up and demonize those [Tea Party] people, and I am not going to do it.”
As the folks at Eggs and Enlightenment well understood, Cleaver doesn’t have to demonize anyone. His hatchet people in the media will do it for him.
Two years ago Cleaver and the Dems were peddling hope. Today, apparently, all they have left to sell is fear, and the people at McDonald’s are beginning to see through it.
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