Is there a clumsier group of newspaper character assassins than the hit squads at The Washington Post? On October 2, the Post was back on the racist-Republican attack with a 3,000-word investigative treatise over a rock. Specifically, Gov. Rick Perry had leased a property where the N-word was painted on a rock, and then he had it painted over with white paint.
But investigative genius Stephanie McCrummen could see a virtual Klan hood on Perry's head. 'As recently as this summer, the slablike rock — lying flat, the name still faintly visible beneath a coat of white paint — remained by the gated entrance to the camp.'
Near the end, she underlined it again: 'In the photos, it was to the left of the gate. It was laid down flat. The exposed face was brushed clean of dirt. White paint, dried drippings visible, covered a word across the surface. An N and two G's were faintly visible.'
Three thousand words on this.
Apparently, investigative reporting at the Post means staring at old rocks under paint (with a microscope?) to discern almost invisible letters – and suggesting this should ruin a presidential campaign. It resembles the Post feverishly fumbling through foreign-language dictionaries trying to find a racially defamatory definition for 'macaca' to torpedo Sen. George Allen's re-election in 2006.
The 'fact' that these Republicans are racist is never established. Two days after the rock 'scoop,' a Post front-page article by Amy Gardner found Perry's record on race was 'complicated'...by the facts. Yes, Perry "appointed the first African American to the state Supreme Court and later made him chief justice" and oh yes, "One chief of staff and two of his general counsels have been African American.' But many "minority legislators [read: Democrats] say Perry has a long history — dating to his first race for statewide office more than 20 years ago — of engaging in what they see as racially tinged tactics and rhetoric to gain political advantage.'
What kind of offensive tactics? Guess what's listed first: 'Black lawmakers have been particularly troubled by Perry's recent embrace of the tea party movement.'
By contrast, does anyone recall the Washington Post being the first investigative journalism outfit to reveal the racist and anti-American and anti-Semitic rantings of Rev. Jeremiah Wright in 2007? Of course not. That fastest-turtle award would go to ABC's Brian Ross on March 13, 2008. By that late date, after all the investigators had finished their naps, 42 states and the District of Columbia had already voted for a nominee.
That's not to say the Post was unfamiliar with the scent of this scandalat Obama's own Trinity United Church of Christ. The news folks could have read Post columnist Richard Cohen denouncing Wright in a column on January 15, 2008 over how Trinity's church magazine fulsomely praised anti-Semitic Louis Farrakhan. But the Post 'news' hunters weren't turning over that rock.
Five days after the Wright-sermon story finally broke, Barack Obama gave his 'historic race speech' in Philadelphia. This was the front-page story the Washington Post offered on that morning: 'Congregation Defends Obama's Ex-Pastor: Criticism Seen As Attempt to Silence Black Church.'
Eli Saslow's first sympathetic sentence couldn't be more of a clash with Stephanie McCrummen's rock-scrubbing acid poured on Perry: 'The Rev. Jeremiah Wright spent 36 years teaching this congregation how to recognize injustice, and his parishioners sense it all around them now.' This was also in the first paragraph: 'They read a handout that described Wright's newfound infamy as a 'modern-day lynching.''
You know who ought to recognize injustice? Anyone who reads The Washington Post expecting Republicans and Democrats to be treated with equal fairness and accuracy.
In June, Saslow returned to Wright's church for another hanky-filling story headlined "At Obama's Former Church, Hurt Lingers: Black Congregations Feel Marginalized by Uproar." Perhaps the most ridiculous story came on July 6, when Jonathan Weisman wrote a promotional front-pager headlined "Obama Addresses His Faith: Senator Describes Spiritual Journey." Obama was allowed to declare to audiences how he "let Jesus Christ into his life" on the south side of Chicago. Reverend Wright and Trinity United Church of Christ were completely airbrushed out.
The Post should have done more investigating and less sympathizing with Wright. But the Post should have also done more investigating before they published this ridiculous fraction of a story about some painted rock on a Texas ranch. Any editor worth his salt would have laughed the reporter out of his office and back to do more record-scrubbing...and less paint-sniffing.