In case you missed it over the weekend, two 'top tier' Democratic presidential hopefuls actively spread a vile lie, perpetuating a racially-charged hoax for cheap political gain. Considering the intense scrutiny paid to President Trump's divisive rhetoric and loose relationship with the truth, both Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris should be in serious damage control mode this week, if journalistic standards were consistent. Instead, both have been dinged by a handful of conservatives (and a few other fact-check wrist slaps -- see update), with relatively little attention paid to their actions. Days after these tweets, both remain published, and neither campaign appears to be facing much heat at all. Here are the social media posts in question:
Michael Brown’s murder forever changed Ferguson and America. His tragic death sparked a desperately needed conversation and a nationwide movement. We must fight for stronger accountability and racial equity in our justice system.
— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) August 9, 2019
Both of these tweets are extremely irresponsible and dishonest, framing Michael Brown's killing by a police officer as a "murder." It was not. As David French reminds us, the Obama-Holder Justice Department reviewed all the evidence of that officer-involved shooting in great detail, and cleared the officer of wrongdoing. Here are the facts of the case:
When [Officer] Wilson first spotted Brown and his friend, he told them to walk on the sidewalk. He then realized that they matched the description of the theft suspects and blocked their path with his vehicle. Wilson tried to open his door, but it either bounced off Brown or Brown slammed it shut. Brown then reached into the vehicle and started punching Wilson. As Wilson fended off the blows, he reached for his gun. Brown allegedly tried to take the gun from Wilson, and Wilson managed to get a shot off, injuring Brown in the hand. Eyewitnesses corroborated Wilson’s claims that Brown was reaching in the car, and these claims were further corroborated by “bruising on Wilson’s jaw and scratches on his neck, the presence of Brown’s DNA on Wilson’s collar, shirt, and pants, and Wilson’s DNA on Brown’s palm.” Brown then started to run away. After a brief pause Wilson pursued, ordering Brown to stop. Brown then turned back to Wilson and started running toward him. According to the report, “several witnesses stated that Brown appeared to pose a physical threat to Wilson as he moved toward Wilson.” Wilson fired again, striking Brown several times, yet Brown kept moving toward Wilson until the final shot hit him in the head, killing him.
And French's summary of the Justice Departments post-investigation findings:
The report’s conclusion was crystal clear: "Given that Wilson’s account is corroborated by physical evidence and that his perception of a threat posed by Brown is corroborated by other eyewitnesses, to include aspects of the testimony of [Brown’s friend], there is no credible evidence that Wilson willfully shot Brown as he was attempting to surrender or was otherwise not posing a threat." [Emphasis added.] The report flatly declared that Wilson “did not act with the requisite criminal intent.”“No credible evidence” is a powerful statement, but if you read the report, it’s a powerful statement based not just on extensive forensic evidence but also on the courageous testimony of witnesses who feared reprisal for speaking the truth.
Warren's commentary is even worse than Harris' because it compounds the "murder" libel by highlighting the race of the police officer, citing the incident as emblematic of "systemic racism" and "police violence." This is disgraceful. The "hands up, don't shoot" myth has been blasted to pieces by fact-checkers; resurrecting the lie in order to stir racial grievances is indefensible. I am not a reflexive defender of the police in every circumstance. Real abuses do occur, and some police shootings and other actions deserve serious criticism. It therefore does a grave disservice to our policy and cultural discussions around these issues to seize upon a thoroughly debunked example to make a point, as if the real facts were never illuminated -- especially given the racially-charged political climate in this country (to which Democrats are almost gleefully contributing). Will either of these powerful politicians be pressed and challenged for promulgating these damaging lies based on nakedly political calculations?
It's also worth noting that Harris followed up on this grave falsehood by accusing the Trump administration of inflicting a program of "terror" upon immigrant communities. Her evidence? The Mississippi ICE raids, which were an entirely legitimate exercise in internal immigration enforcement. Her hyperbole is once again harmful and misleading. As for Warren, we should not be surprised that she's engaging in this sort of thing, given her longstanding penchant for self-serving racial hoaxes. I'll leave you with Warren's latest "plan," which -- in addition to pressuring Walmart to stop selling guns altogether -- seeks to increase taxes as to make the exercise of a constitutional right more expensive for average Americans:
1) Warren concedes here that > taxes lead to less economic activity showing how her tax big business platform will kill the economy.— (((AG))) (@AG_Conservative) August 12, 2019
2) Increasing costs for people to exercise their rights disproportionately affects the poor and minorities. This is an attack on their rights. https://t.co/ijMosNEQQD
UPDATE - Here's a start. Four Pinocchios from the Washington Post. Could that be the peg for a feeding frenzy of pointed questions? I'm still not holding my breath.