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Reporters In Tampa Working Hard to Cover Nonexistent Racism

5:00 PM, Aug 29, 2012 • By MARK HEMINGWAY
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Over at Harper's, Jack Hitt has filed a report from the RNC convention, "A Troubling Chant on the Convention Floor." According to Hitt, nativist Republican delegates started chanting "USA! USA!" in response to a heavily accented speaker from Puerto Rico. Of course, racism had nothing to do with it, as Tim Carney explains:

RNC Chairman Reince Preibus had called for a voice vote to approve the Credential Committee’s report. Ron Paul delegates objected, because the committee had refused to seat half of the Paul delegates. When the voice vote came, the “Noes” clearly were louder than the “Ayes.” (Ron Paul backers are pretty good at shouting.) Preibus ruled that the Ayes had won, and then he ignored many yells of “Point of Order.”

The Paulites began chanting “Point of Order,” trying to stop the proceedings so they could have a roll-call vote or even a debate. They also chanted “Seat Maine Now,” in this period.

Some Romney backers from delegations near Maine responded – for better or worse – by chanting “U.S.A.! U.S.A.!” over the Paulites’ chants.

Preibus, meanwhile, was just trying to steamroll ahead, and so he brought on Puerto Rican Republican Zoraida Fonalledas, who tried to speak over the parliamentary objections of the Paulites – and thus over the “U.S.A.!” chants of the Romney backers.

Hitt added a footnote to his story allegedly clarifying things, but after haphazardly accusing RNC delegates of being racist en masse, his correction is weaselly at best. Carney concludes that "[Buzzfeed reporter Zeke] Miller’s reporting so thoroughly debunks what Hitt wrote that I would have expected Hitt to retract it. But when it comes to charging Republicans with racism, the standards are different, I guess."

This is especially unfortunate because when he's not blinded by his liberalism, Hitt is a very talented writer. Yet, he's proven very obdurate when it comes to this sort of thing. This is not the first time Hitt has badly botched a story in a way that convienently suits his politics. In 2006, with the help of a pro-abortion group, Hitt wrote a story for the New York Times claiming that a woman in El Salvador had been imprisoned for having an abortion at 18 weeks. It turned out that the woman had killed her child who had been carried to a full-term and had already been born. The New York Times took a full eight months to append an editor's note to the story, and only did so after the Times's own public editor had upbraided the magazine for getting the story entirely wrong.

Then over at The Atlantic on Monday, Elspeth Reeve filed this wildly headlined report about John Boehner speaking at the RNC: "Boehner Says Out Loud He Hopes Blacks and Latinos 'Won't Show Up' This Election." Is that what Boehner said? Here's the full quote:

This election is about economics. And they may not show up and vote for our candidate but I would suggest to you they won't show up and vote for the president either.

Reeve's headline is grossly unfair. But rather than apologize, Reeve wrote the following piece yesterday, "Why We Think John Boehner Is Hoping for Low Minority Voter Turnout." Except that Reeve didn't say she thought Boehner was hoping for low minority turnout, Reeve reported that's what he said. Which he clearly didn't. Reeve defends herself rather pathetically:

Since we noticed yesterday that John Boehner said to a room full of reporters in Tampa that when it came to minority vote turnout this election, "I'd suggest to you they won't show up," lots of places have accused us of twisting the House Speaker's words. They're mainly upset with the word "hope" in our headline — "Boehner Says Out Loud He Hopes Blacks and Latinos 'Won't Show Up' This Election." Mediaite called the headline "misleading" while right-leaning Newsbusters called it "slander." But we think it's pretty clear what Boehner said: he hopes that Republicans will do well in the elections because he believes ("I suggest to you") minority voter turnout will be low ("they won't show up"). "Boehner Hopes for Republicans to Win This Election" would have been a more boring headline, but it would have been just as accurate.

Just as accurate? Huh? She goes on and on from there to the point where I actually start to feel bad for her. As for accurate and boring, the left-wing Talking Points Memo reported the same Boehner remarks and headlined their write-up, "John Boehner: The Economy Trumps All, Period, No Matter What, End Of Story." A bit slanted perhaps, but not divorced from reality.

Then again, as far as Reeve's concerned, her irrational obsession with race has blossomed into a full-blown vocational illness in recent days. Some other recent bylines include, "Romney's Birther Joke Explained in One Number: He Needs 61% of the White Vote" and "Race Takes Over the Race." Feel free to click on that last link for an unconvincing yet Zapruder-esque analysis of the racial imagery in Romney's ads critiquing the president for rolling back welfare-to-work requirements. Here's a taste of Reeve's expert commentary: "Obama would have blocked the reforms of Bill Clinton, who oh by the way is white. What's fascinating about this is even though the screen looks whiter, Obama's skin looks darker." Maybe I spoke to soon--Reeve's analysis is more Rorschach than Zapruder, as she sees racism wherever she looks.

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