Conservative Publication Scalps 'The Atlantic' For Peddling Fake Story About a Police Shooting

Posted: Jul 22, 2020 11:45 AM
Conservative Publication Scalps 'The Atlantic' For Peddling Fake Story About a Police Shooting

Source: AP Photo/Craig Mitchelldyer

The Federalist took a nice scalp recently after exposing The Atlantic’s piece about an officer-involved shooting as a total fraud. It was the basis for an article about an anti-police activist who said she saw a cop shoot a kid at a rec center years ago. This is what shaped her opinions about law enforcement. Yes, there was a shooting, but it wasn’t a cop. Major portions of the story were inaccurate. As the Left descends into ‘defund the police’ mode, it was very satisfying to see this story blow up. The Left will lie, cheat, and steal to sell a narrative. This was no exception. Ellie laid down the groundwork for the slap down that was to come:

 Earlier this month, The Atlantic shared a column by freelance writer, lawyer, and activist Derecka Purnell titled, "How I Became a Police Abolitionist," detailing a childhood experience that led the author to adopt her anti-law enforcement beliefs. 

The tale is a harrowing one, painting a vivid picture of a day in the life of a preteen girl in an underprivileged part of St. Louis many years ago. One day, she wrote, while teaching her sister to play basketball at a neighborhood recreation center, she witnessed a horrifying incident in which a police officer shot a child at the rec center. 


The article was widely shared, trending for days as one of the most-read pieces on magazine's website. The problem is that her story, a chilling anecdote about a violent, undisciplined police officer, does not seem to have actually taken place.

Chris Bedford of The Federalist embarked on a detailed investigative endeavor to corroborate any part of Ms. Purnell's story. She provided ample details in her article, down to the businesses, factories, highways, and smells that made her neighborhood memorable in her youth. That investigation led Bedford to contact the office of the mayor, search police union records, and scour city archives for any mention of the incident. Despite his efforts, however, he was unable to verify even one detail of the story, apart from the existence of the probable neighborhood Purnell described. 

Giving leeway to likely misremembered details after the passing of several years, Bedford narrowed down the timeframe of Purnell's story to between 2001-2003, having occurred at one of two possible rec centers in that part of St. Louis. With that information, he went on to make inquiries, search digital news archives, and launch a Sunlight Law records request for incidents at either of the possible rec centers. 

The research showed that apart from one suicide attempt in that time frame, no shooting incidents were mentioned in the records.

Uh oh. That doesn’t bode well. Well, as it turned out, Bedford’s work exposed the publication for running with a piece of fake news (via The Federalist):

… The Atlantic updated the above paragraphs (material changes bolded) to read:

The first shooting I witnessed was by a uniformed security guard. I was 13. I remember that the guard was angry that his cousin skipped a sign-in sheet at my neighborhood recreation center; the victim told police it had started as an argument over ‘something stupid.’ I was teaching my sister how to shoot free throws when the guard stormed in alongside the court, drew his weapon, and shot the boy in the arm. My sister and I hid in the locker room for hours afterward. The guard was back at work the following week.

“An earlier version of this article described the shooter as ‘a cop,'” the more-material of the two Monday corrections reads. “In fact, he was an armed, uniformed security guard working at the municipal recreation center, employed by a security company under contract with the city of St. Louis. In addition, the author was 13, not 12, at the time of the incident.”

The Atlantic still refuses to share any corroborating evidence or if they did a fact-check on the original story before publication, although a search of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s archives encompassing the now-broadened timeline reveals an early-2004 shooting at Buder Recreation Center, less than three blocks from Purnell’s old address.

That article, published March 9, 2004, is titled “Security Guard Is Charged With Assault,” and reports that, “The security guard, 23, and his cousin, 18, were quarreling at the center about 4:50 p.m. [March 8] when the shooting occurred, according to Richard Wilkes, a Police Department spokesman. The victim was shot in the arm.”

Former CNN producer Steve Krakauer gave the Federalist a hat tip for some solid reporting while noting this trip-up by The Atlantic was yet another episode of what’s problematic with the media today:

 This story - the initial column, the corrections, the author's cavalier dismissal of the major errors - is a microcosm for the problems in the media today. The story was glaringly wrong, but it was arguing a point of view that is seen in the media bubble as "acceptable." If she was arguing something like, say, Tom Cotton's op-ed in the New York Times, any slight grammatical error would mean the firing of the editor of the section. Being acceptable and wrong is often more preferable in the media than being unacceptable and right. Because the cost of being unacceptably right outweighs the cost of being acceptably wrong. Great work by The Federalist to do the journalism it takes of letting truth win out.

Yet, that’s ‘woke’ journalism. It’s not about facts, it’s about the larger narrative and a looney one at that. It’s why the media’s problems will likely continue, even after Trump has long left office because these clowns, these lefty crybabies have graduated and are now finding jobs and bringing their far-left cancer into the workplace and taking over. For now, conservative media can do a victory lap, especially The Federalist. It’s another chapter in the annals of fake news and how the liberal media’s minds continue to be broken in the Trump era.