Washington Post joins smear campaign against Bill Otis

On Thursday, President Trump nominated Bill Otis to serve on the U.S. Sentencing Commission. Immediately, the left, marching in lock-step as usual, launched an attack on Bill. I addressed one of the salvos, NPR’s, here.

For years, Bill has written for “Crime and Consequences,” an influential blog in the field of criminal law. Thus, those opposing his nomination had the opportunity to sift through Bill’s archive looking for objectionable material or, more to the point, material they could portray, through distortion, as objectionable.

The fact that the hit pieces appeared almost simultaneously with the announcement of Bill’s nomination shows that the left knew the nomination was coming. One can’t read and analyze years of blog posts on such short notice.

It also strongly suggests concerted action. I find it unlikely that the reporters who are smearing Bill waded through his posts and decided to distort them in just the same ways. I believe someone is feeding reporters the dishonest anti-Otis line.

The most influential organ participating in the smear campaign is the Washington Post. Its main smear, presented by reporter Kristine Phillips, is one that’s common to much of the anti-Otis reporting — the claim that Bill has made “racially tinged” comments.

This is the same claim NPR made when it accused Bill of making “racially charged” comments. As I argued in connection with that hit piece, these are weasel words that attempt to make Bill look like a racist without directly calling him one.

The Post, though, didn’t stop with weasel words. Perhaps at the request of Bill’s critics on the left, it revised the headline of its story, removing the words “racially tinged” and stating: “Trump appointee wrote that whites are inherently less violent than blacks and Hispanics.” (Emphasis added).

That’s a flat-out lie. Yes, Bill has said blacks (and to a lesser degree hispanics) commit more crimes, including violent ones, than whites — a fact not in dispute. However, he has also insisted that this is the result of social issues, not race (“race and criminality have no causative relationship,” is how he put it). In other words his position is the opposite of what the Post’s Kristine Phillips purported to describe. He believes that whites are not inherently less violent than blacks and hispanics.

When the Post was called on its lie, it changed the headline once again. The new headline declares: “Trump appointed man who said he believes blacks and Hispanics are more violent than whites.”

The Post probably hopes the new headline will convey the same impression as its predecessor. To that end, it declines to point out that Bill does not think it’s “inherent” that blacks are more violent. Nor, unlike NPR, does the Post’s Kristine Phillips even provide information that would enable its readers to figure out what Bill’s actual position on this question is.

Bill’s view that blacks commit more violent crimes is consistent with uncontested facts and is shared by leftists, at least in their more candid moments. For example, left-liberals Marc Mauer and David Cole wrote in the Washington Post on June 17, 2011, that “Yes, African Americans and Latinos disproportionately commit certain crimes. But in a 1996 study of crime rates in Columbus, Ohio, criminologists from Ohio State University concluded that socioeconomic disadvantages ‘explain the overwhelming portion of the difference in crime.’”

Similarly, Charles Ogletree, the well-known African-American Harvard law professor and activist, said in a 1998 law review article:

African-Americans are grossly over-represented in the criminal justice system. In part, this is due to the fact that, per capita, black people do commit more crimes than whites. However this fact alone does not account for the disparities in the crime statistics. . . .

(Emphasis added)

Ogletree cited alleged racism in the criminal justice system, but did not deny that blacks commit a disproportionate number of crimes. Nor could he. The statistics are clear, both as to crime in general and, especially, violent crime.

It’s also important to note that Bill did not cite the high incidence of black crime gratuitously, in order to make anyone feel bad. The quote the Post cites is from a blog post defending Edith Jones, a well-known (and conservative) federal court judge. She had been accused in a formal complaint of racial bias for having said in a speech that blacks are more violent than whites. Bill’s comment was:

The complaint calls for stern discipline on the grounds that the remarks were ‘discriminatory and biased.’ So far as I have been able to discover, it makes no mention of the fact that they’re true.

Here’s what the Post did not tell its readers about the complaint against Edith Jones: a judicial inquiry into Jones’s remarks cleared her of wrongdoing in a unanimous decision.

Who headed that panel? Merrick Garland did. He’s the judge the Post so ardently backed when President Obama nominated him for the Supreme Court.

The panel’s opinion includes a footnote that includes the quotes presented above from Mauer and Cole and from professor Ogletree about black crime rates. It also included a similar quote from Eric Holder. (See footnote 11). Are they racists? Is Judge Garland?

In sum, Judge Garland and his panel agreed with Edith Jones (and, in effect, Bill Otis) that blacks commit more violent crimes and that it is not racist, discriminatory, or biased to point this out.

Yet, the Washington Post wants to brand Bill a racist for pointing it out.

The smear campaign against Bill Otis has important implications that extend way beyond this particular nominee. First, painting Republicans as “racists” is the new tactic of choice of the left and its media collaborators. They have already persuaded a majority of Americans that President Trump is a racist, according to at least one poll.

If the left gets away with making the racism charge stick on evidence as flimsy and distorted as that employed against Bill — that is, if some Republican Senators buy into it — the left will be positioned to tar many Republicans and conservatives in the same sickeningly unfair way.

Second, if conservative commentators can’t make true statements like the ones made by Bill and Edith Jones without being labeled “racist” or “racially charged/tinged,” honest discourse about race will become impossible.

Both consequences should be unacceptable to Senate Republicans. They should confirm Bill Otis and the rest of the bipartisan slate President Trump has presented for the U.S. Sentencing Commission.


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