The Washington Post Twists In the Wind

I wrote last night about the Washington Post’s drive-by smear of Katherine Kersten, a respected Minnesota journalist who writes for Center of the American Experiment. In an article that broadly covered pushes toward “equity” in various local government units around the country, reporter Rebecca Tan misrepresented Kathy’s work on race quotas in school discipline:

Equity efforts have also sparked explicit backlash in some places, including Minnesota, where conservative writer Katherine Kersten wrote that a push to investigate biases in student discipline records will bring “increased violence” to classrooms. The state education commissioner called Kersten’s arguments “flat-out racist.”

In last night’s post, I reproduced the email that the Center’s Communications Director wrote to the Post, pointing out that its description of Kersten’s work was false, and demanding a correction. That drew a response from the Post’s local government and politics editor, Debbi Wilgoren, who made after-the-fact changes to the Post’s story but did not issue a correction. Wilgoren wrote to Communications Director Katie Fulkerson:

We have updated the story to make clear that Ms. Kersten’s quote came from an op-ed and referred to a push to address perceived biases, rather than the original language, which was “a push to investigate biases.”

The article now says (changes in bold and highlighted):

Equity efforts have also sparked explicit backlash in some places, including Minnesota, where conservative writer Katherine Kersten wrote in an op-ed that a push to address perceived biases in student discipline records will would bring “increased violence” to classrooms. The state education commissioner wrote in response that Kersten’s arguments were “flat-out racist.”

We also attached the following editor’s note at the bottom of the story, to explain those changes:

This story has been updated since its initial publication to more clearly convey Katherine Kersten’s argument against policies that aim to address racial disparities in student discipline.

The Post’s after-the-fact tweaks are inadequate for two reasons. First, they come too late. The Post’s print edition yesterday included the original language, and the story went out to the Post’s subscribers, an unknown number of which have already printed the Rebecca Tan article.

Second, the revised language still misstates what Kersten wrote. Kathy has written on school discipline quotas several times, but the piece relied on by the Post was this Star Tribune op-ed, where she wrote that imposition of racial quotas in school discipline that “[lower] behavior expectations and [remove] meaningful penalties for student misconduct” have caused “increased violence” in the St. Paul public schools, including one incident where a teacher was attacked in his classroom by a student who should have been suspended, and suffered brain damage. Kathy has never written that an unspecified, generic “push to address perceived biases in student discipline” has led, or will lead, to increased violence.

Why won’t the Post stop misrepresenting Kersten’s work, and issue a correction to its false article? Because if it acknowledged what Kathy actually wrote, it would be obvious that its reference to her was a gratuitous smear that had no proper place in the Post’s story at all. The Post’s story was about general efforts to promote “equity” in local government, not lowered standards of conduct for students in public schools as a result of race quotas, and the disastrous results therefrom in school districts like St. Paul’s.

It would be great if the Post would actually address the question of what happens in the classroom when schools impose racial discipline quotas that result in lowered standards of conduct. Of course, the Post has no interest in taking that issue seriously, and is instead content to smear a conservative journalist by misrepresenting her work and quoting a left-wing activist to the effect that she is a “racist.”

We renew our demand for a correction.

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