Don’t leave it to Cleaver: Last call

McClatchy News was responsible for the single worst story reporting the allegations of Reps. Andre Carson, John Lewis. Emanuel Cleaver and James Clyburn that Tea Party protesters abused black congressmen with racial epithets while demonstrating against Obamacare on Capitol Hill on March 20. The story is “Tea party protesters scream ‘nigger’ at black congressmen.”
We believe that the congressmen’s story was a fabrication intended to defame the Tea Party movement and distract attention from the resistance to Obamacare. Not a single video corroborates it, despite Andrew Breitbart’s offer of a $100,000 reward to anyone producing such a video. And no independent journalist or other eyewitness has stepped forward to vouch for the congressmen’s story.
Given the involvement of Rep. Clyburn in promoting the story, the fabrication extends to the Democratic congressional leadership. It is a scandal that warrants the attention of the mainstream media, yet the story has languished and died.
In the past several installments of this series, a total of 17 in number, we posted correspondence — both our own and that of our readers — with McClatchy News investigative editor James Asher. (All previous installments can easily be accessed via the search engine in the right border.)
Many readers — persistent, articulate, informed and observant — forwarded their correspondence with Asher to us. This correspondence powerfully points out the deficiencies of the messages we posted from Asher. The common theme of his response to us and to our readers is Asher’s demand that a witness be produced to contradict McClatchy’s story. Asher simply ignores the several videos that belie McClatchy’s story far more effectively than any witness ever could. Asher obviously has no interest in examining the merits of the story.
We were there, Asher says to our readers. He asks, were you?
McClatchy was certainly there to take the statements of the congressmen on March 20 and turn them into a story within a matter of an hour or two. But no McClatchy reporter heard the alleged racial abuse first-hand. None has stepped forward to testify to it. Asher’s response is nothing more than bravado and deception.
In any event, we have posted the eyewitness testimony of reader Greg Farrell contradicting the congressmen’s story retailed by McClatchy and others. Farrell contacted Asher directly and offered to speak with him, but no interview ever took place.
I want to close this series with the highlights of Asher’s messages to readers who wrote him to point out the deficiencies of his comments previously posted here. In one message Asher both pats himself on the back and disparages us:

Well, I’ve told everyone who has asked that we have evaluated our reporting and find that it accurately described the event as participants experienced it. If you were at the event and have independent information that you personally saw or heard, I’d love to know.
And just so you know, readership of newspapers is certainly declining. But that is merely an ink on paper vs internet event. More people read our work now than ever before. The most recent stats should that 168 million adults read their news either in print or online each week.
And finally, I wouldn’t gloat about the decline of newspaper readership. Without professional journalists, the citizenry will be forced to rely on partisans like yourself and Powerline for whom facts are a nettlesome inconvenience.

To an extraordinarily civil reader affiliated with one of the finest state universities in the country, Asher wrote:

You know ruth, I keep asking for names and instead I get snarky notes likes yours. We’ve investigated our reporting and find it accurate. If you personally know something different that you’ve seen or heard firsthand let me know.
In the meantime, read this story about goldman sachs and see what an investigative journalist does. (
James Asher
Investigative Editor
McClatchy Washington Bureau

Asher prides himself on McClatchy’s motto regarding the McClatchy commitment to speak truth to power. He’s big on McClatchy’s Goldman Sachs story for this reason. He thinks it takes great courage to take on an investment banking house in the current financial crisis. He seems not to have noticed how the malefactors of Wall Street have become current villains and handy political punching bags. It really doesn’t take much in the way of courage to pile on. In a subsequent response to “ruth,” however, Asher reveals a most peculiar frame of mind for someone who holds himself out as an investigative journalist (emphasis added):

I must say, you and virtually all of my other correspondents from powerline are masters of extrapolation. I say we checked it out and stand by the story and really, and I mean this, can’t believe that anyone – congressman or garbageman – would make up this fact that one of the nastiest racist terms was hurled. And further, we didn’t take their side we reported what prominent people said. And u guys turn that into aspersions about being a lapdog and being guilty of other journalistic corruptions.
I really hope you don’t treat your friends and colleagues this way.
And u shud have realized by now that a truly closed-minded person wouldn’t have continued to respond to emails as I have for the past 10 days. Others wud simply ignore u.
James Asher
Investigative Editor
McClatchy Washington Bureau

That is quite a statement for an investigative reporter plying his trade in Washington, D.C. Here it is one more time: “[I] can’t believe that anyone – congressman or garbageman – would make up this fact that one of the nastiest racist terms was hurled.” There we have it. Thank you, James Asher.
Unlike Asher, we believe that even congressmen could make up “this fact.” We believe that the congressmen’s allegations raise a serious issue that deserves the further attention of someone who practices the craft of journalism in Washington for a living.
We believe further that McClatchy’s March 20 story is demonstrably false. Congressmen both could and did falsely charge the Obamacare protesters with shouting the racist epithet. The congressmen made this false charge for base political reasons against citizens who opposed their present purposes. Asher’s statement of faith to the contrary is willfully obtuse.
We end on this inapposite note from a reader not only of Power Line, but also of Instapundit, a site which has paid close attention to this story:

One humorous aspect of this is one of the worst email addresses at McClatchy created by their unflinching adherence to first initial, last name protocol – Beryl Adcock, News Desk Chief, is [email protected]. I would have asked for a dispensation, although it is memorable!

In the subject line of his message, the reader referred to the trademark of Instapundit’s Glenn Reynolds: “As Glenn would say – Heh!”
UPDATE: A reader correctly observes: “There would still be copious…stories being written about this story if there were an ounce of credibility left in it. The fact that it has been totally absent from any media mention for weeks is proof positive that no one still believes it.” My point is that the story should be pursued up the chain to the Democratic congressional leadership to reveal the political strategy at play and to illuminate the recurring narrative served up by the Democrat/media axis.

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