The testimony of Rep. Heath Shuler, a Blue Dog Democrat of North Carolina, has been cited as corroborating evidence of Tea Partiers slinging racial slurs since the accusations were made after a March 20 health-care rally in Washington, D.C.
His corroboration came in an interview with a local reporter from Hendersonville, N.C.
Shuler was walking with Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, an African-American, toward the Capitol building when the crowd starting yelling racial epithets at Cleaver, who was a civil rights activist in the 1970s. They even spat at him.
"It was the most horrible display of protesting I have ever seen in my life," Shuler said.
Multiple members of Congress reported racial epithets being shouted at African-American members over the weekend.
"It breaks your heart that the way they display their anger is to spit on a member and use that kind of language," Shuler said.
But James Taranto of the Wall Street Journal called Shuler's office to follow up, and heard something different:
[P]ress secretary Julie Fishman told us the local reporter misunderstood. According to Fishman, Shuler's comments to the Times-News referred to the general tenor of the protests, not to the black congressmen's specific allegations. Fishman said that Shuler was not walking with Cleaver and did not hear the "N-word."
Shuler was with Barney Frank when he was called a "faggot," as was at least one reporter, so that incident has been corroborated, though several witnesses say Frank got vulgar with Tea Partiers first. But the racial slurs incident seems to remain based entirely on the word of Lewis and Rep. Andre Carson, which is relatively little evidence on which to judge an entire movement of Americans.
An AP reporter tried to hunt down evidence of the slur and came up short, but used most of his article to accuse Tea Party supporters of dishonesty because they produced and touted video from one of Lewis' encounters with the crowd. The video, which does not show any racial slurs, was taken on Lewis' way out of the Capitol instead of upon his entrance, which is when the racial slurs were alleged to have happened.
Questioned about using a video on his Web site from the wrong moment, Breitbart stood by his claim that the lawmakers were lying.
"I'm not saying the video was conclusive proof," he said.
Indeed, it's hard to find conclusive proof when asked to prove a negative, as Tea Party participants are asked to do.
The only video to emerge that was shot upon Lewis' entrance to the Capitol was taken by Lee Fang of the liberal blog Think Progress. Even though he was there at the time, with a camera, with the intent of recording things that make Tea Partiers look bad, he did not get any racial slurs on tape. But he "believes" they were uttered.
John Lewis declined to talk to the AP about the incident, but Carson says he heard the word many times during his walk to the Capitol that day. In another video of the alleged spitting incident with Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, it's looks like Cleaver was sprayed unintentionally with spittle, not intentionally spat upon as has been frequently alleged.
Like Breitbart, I don't assert that the videos prove the racial slur was not used, but when the press uses an incident to characterize an entire movement as racist, the burden of proof ought to be pretty high. In this case, it was not, and the AP's investigation into the matter came three weeks after the incident happened and uses corroboration from Shuler, who actually never heard to slur.
With liberals making a concerted, organized effort to infiltrate Tea Parties around the country today (Subtle.), Tea Partiers would be wise to keep the cameras rolling as much as possible.