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Shameful Follow-Up on Perry and Race

If you were wondering whether the Washington Post would double-down on or retreat in shame from its blockbuster story alleging that Rick Perry lives in the same state as a formerly offensive rock, the paper has answered that question in style today.

Here is the blaring headline: “Perry built complicated record on matters of race.” What would normally follow such a headline is a story backing up that vague allegation. What readers are treated to instead is a story about how yesterday the Post ran a story calling Perry a racist. This paragraph has to be read to be believed:

The governor’s record on matters of race is attracting new scrutiny after The Washington Post’s account of a secluded West Texas hunting property that Perry and his father leased that has long been known by a name containing a racial epithet.

A classic of the genre, as they say. The governor’s record on race, as the article goes on to show, happens to be stellar. We learn that Perry appointed the first African American state Supreme Court justice–one of his many such appointments. He’s hired minorities to top positions in his administration. As one would expect, Perry “enjoys warm associations with many black leaders.” But then the clouds roll in:

But many of those minority legislators 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.

The list of such “racially tinged tactics” that the Post provides us with has exactly one item on it. In 1990, Perry ran for agriculture commissioner, and his campaign ran an ad that showed his opponent with Jesse Jackson. That’s it. The Post follows up by getting some quotes from people who think showing Jesse Jackson on TV is kind of racist.

As for other examples of Perry’s “complicated” record on race, the Post has two: “Black lawmakers have been particularly troubled by Perry’s recent embrace of the Tea Party movement, elements of which they regard as racially antagonistic, and by his championing of states’ rights and his call for Texas to consider seceding if federal policies didn’t change.”

How many black lawmakers expressed this concern to the Post? One. That might be because the Tea Party isn’t racist and neither was Perry’s secession comment. But the most revealing line of the story comes during the Post’s introduction to the section on that 1990 ad with Jesse Jackson. “Perceptions linger among African Americans that, although they like Perry, he has long engaged in that practice,” the Post writes.

No examples, just lingering perceptions. Accusations of racism linger. That’s what makes the Post’s reporting so repugnant. Twice now they have investigated their own “perceptions” of Perry’s record on race, and twice come up with nothing. If Perry ends up getting damaged by two stories that essentially prove him to be a model governor when it comes to inclusion of minorities, it will at least help explain the public’s “lingering perceptions” about the media.


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