Don’t leave it to Cleaver, part 15

Reader Todd B. continues to engage McClatchy News investigative editor James Asher on McClatchy’s March 20 “Tea party protesters scream ‘nigger’ at black congressmen” story. Todd B. wrote Asher last night:

Since you have not given me an answer, I am left to assume that you have no good answer. If this is the case, would it be so hard, at this point, for McClatchy to simply run a follow-up story delivering the other side? Or is it only the Democratic congressmen who deserve the decency of having their story told?
We are not asking that you conclude that the congressmen lied. We are only asking that you point out the fact that their testimony is the only evidence that exists. Point out that the numerous video clips of the incident do not contain any audible use of the slur, and that the police at the scene reported that they heard no n-word. Doesn’t this seem fair? Is McClatchy not interested in thoroughness?
Out of an abundance of generosity, I will give you another chance to answer the question: are you aware of ANY corroborating evidence which would explain your unquestioning faith in the account of these congressmen?
With the sheer number of people now clamoring for this information, it seems good business, not to mention good journalism, to address it in a thoughtful way. Is your company so callous to the interests of so many?
Please give us an answer,

Asher replied briefly in the unresponsive manner to which we have grown accustomed:

I am unaware of any fact that changes the story we published. We reviewed our reporting and believe it is accurate.
Were you there todd. Do you have first hand information that we should consider.

Todd B.’s response usefully highlights the problematic nature of Asher’s treatment of the issues of fact:

That still does not answer my question. It is a very simple question. No, I have no FIRSTHAND info to dispute it. However, I think numerous video clips and the testimony of the police at the scene are more than enough to question it.
You say you researched your reporting. What was involved in this research? Did you stumble upon any corroborating evidence during this research. If you did, share it. If you did not, how did you conclude that the story was accurate? It’s easy to say that you researched it and believe it was true. But is the testimony of the congressmen STILL the only evidence you have? This is not good journalism.
You say you have no reason to believe they would make it up. Do you have any concrete evidence that they didn’t? The evidence that is currently available, would suggest that the slur did not happen.
Can you answer my question, please?

We have previously offered the eyewitness testimony of Greg Farrell. Farrell has a set of photographs documenting his placement on March 20 at the foot of the Cannon Building where the incident is alleged to have occurred. Consistent with the videos to which Todd B refers (collected here), Farrell says the incident alleged by the congressmen and peddled by McClatchy didn’t happen.
Asher is a hard case. He has no good answer to the problems raised by the videos that challenge McClatchy’s account of events. Like a politician or a perpetrator, he is therefore avoiding the question or exercising his right to remain silent.


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