Anatomy of a Racial Smear

For the last year, the media have been desperately trying to hang the "racist" tag around the Tea Party movement as a way to discredit it. This past weekend, they would seem to have finally succeeded.

The McClatchy newspaper chain, whose slogan is "truth to power," launched an opening salvo on Saturday, March 20 with the inflammatory headline -- its exact words -- "Tea party protesters scream 'nigger' at black congressman." That is "protesters" in the plural who "scream" a racial epithet, "nigger," at a particular "congressman."

This one headline contains one perilously uncorroborated accusation and three conscious fabrications, beginning with the identity of the "congressman" in question. So much for "truth to power."

To give the story poignancy, reporter William Douglas makes iconic civil rights veteran John Lewis the subject of the abuse. He is the "congressman" alluded to in the headline. The only problem is that Lewis never heard anything. This is the first of the fabrications.

According to the article, Lewis was walking from the Cannon Office Building to the Capitol when protesters started shouting. According to Lewis, however, what they shouted was not a racial slur, but "Kill the bill, kill the bill." If he heard anything more derogatory, he does not seem to have told Douglas about it.

Lewis, it should be noted, is no slouch when it comes to race-baiting. During the 2008 campaign, he compared the McCain-Palin campaign to that of "presidential candidate George Wallace," whose comparable "atmosphere of hate" led to the fatal church bombing in Birmingham. So egregious were Lewis's comments that McCain called on Obama to "condemn" them.

As Douglas reports, it was Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO), a Lewis colleague walking a few steps behind him, who actually claimed to have 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 -- they're being whipped up. I decided I wouldn't be angry with any of them."

Douglas deliberately leaves the impression that Cleaver heard a "chorus" of people shouting racial slurs.  The use of the plural in the headline is the second of the fabrications. The chorus was, in fact, shouting, "Kill the Bill."

It is unlikely that Cleaver misled Douglas. In the era of the ubiquitous camera, he would have known that such an accusation could be immediately refuted, as it certainly has been. The ample videotape evidence shows that there was no such chorus.

Cleaver does turn briefly to face the camera in one video, but regardless of what he might have heard or thought he heard, no one on the video is heard to "scream" anything racial. This is the third fabrication. 

What is uncorroborated is whether Cleaver even heard a single person utter the slur in question. William Owens, a black Tea Party activist from Nevada who had joined in the protests, confirmed to, "Never did I hear any type of racial slur."

House majority whip James CIyburn, who walked with the contingent from the Black Caucus, heard no racist remarks either. "I experienced some of [the anger]," Clyburn told Keith Olbermann on March 22. "I didn`t hear the slurs." Still, this was more than enough for the factually indifferent Olbermann to conclude, "If racism is not the whole of the Tea Party, it is in its heart."

Cleaver also claimed that the police arrested one of the Tea Party crowd for spitting on him, but he chose not to press charges. U.S. Capitol Police, however, said that no protester was arrested. One was, however, detained and quickly released.

"There were no elements of a crime, and the individual wasn't able to be positively identified," a spokeswoman for the Capitol Police told "[Cleaver] was unable to positively identify."

Despite the slightness of the evidence, the seemingly omniscient Yael T. Abouhalkah, the Editorial Page columnist in Cleaver's hometown Kansas City Star, a McClatchy paper, was able to conclude that "some Tea Party supporter spat on Cleaver Saturday on Capitol Hill because the U.S. congressman is black." 

If there were a spitting incident, it is clear that the spitter had to be someone other than the shouter of racial slurs. That Abouhalkah can impute racism to someone he does not know, not even by name, who may or may not have spit, is testament to the shabby, subversive state of contemporary journalism.

When the message moves out into the leftist blogosphere, the message gets progressively more unhinged. One fairly typical YouTube site I visited hoping to see evidence of the spitting, as implied in the video's listing, instead reviled the "teabaggers" as "homophobe, racists, bigots." There was no video verification of any of the charges.

For the last half-century, the Democrats have been able to count on the allegiance of black America to their program. They and their media allies know that the party -- in both senses -- ends when African Americans catch on to the ruin which that program has rained upon black America: unprecedented rates of homicide, homelessness, social disease, abortion, drug addiction, unemployment, poverty, and imprisonment. 

With so many promises broken, all that Democrats have left to peddle are an elusive hope and a manufactured fear. Pretty soon, it will be just the fear. Expect more of this.
If you experience technical problems, please write to