Friday’s Washington Post reported that the NAACP has been cleared by the IRS of charges of violating its tax-exempt status with overt partisan advocacy. Reporter Darryl Fears never described the NAACP as a liberal group, instead using a very typical formulation, that they were "the nation's oldest and largest civil rights organization." Fears repeatedly watered down the fiery rhetoric of NAACP speeches, as well as the 2000 commercial where the daughter of dragging-death victim James Byrd claimed then-Gov. George Bush seemed like he was killing her father all over again.
Technically, if we’re not merely defining "civil rights" as the liberal black agenda, the nation’s oldest and largest civil rights organization is the National Rifle Association, fighting for the civil right to bear arms. It’s older and larger than the NAACP.
The lack of a liberal label isn’t much of a surprise: in a 1994 study of national newspaper coverage for MRC’s MediaWatch newsletter, we found: "In 157 of 328 stories (47.9 percent), the Christian Coalition drew a conservative label...By contrast, in 2,707 stories, reporters described the NAACP as liberal only 8 times (0.3 percent). Analysts reviewed 281 news stories on the separate NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund (or as they abbreviate it, LDF), which was labeled liberal only once (0.35 percent)."
But it was most disturbing that Fears (part of the WashPost’s internal diversity team) would water down the ferocity of the NAACP’s attacks. Here is how he described NAACP Chairman Julian Bond’s remarks in 2004, which spurred Republican complaints to the IRS:
They were unhappy because Bond criticized Bush in a speech in July 2004, saying his administration preached racial neutrality and practiced racial division.
"They write a new constitution of Iraq and they ignore the Constitution at home," Bond said.
But as Robert Bluey reported at the time for CNSNews.com, there’s a fuller quote:
"Their idea of equal rights is the American flag and the Confederate swastika flying side by side," Bond told a cheering audience. "They've written a new constitution for Iraq and ignore the Constitution here at home. They draw their most rabid supporters from the Taliban wing of American politics. Now they want to write bigotry back into the Constitution."
These were not atypical remarks for Bond. As Brent Bozell explained in the summer of 2000,
Indeed, the NAACP has been guilty of shockingly divisive racial nastiness of the NAACP in its own right. NAACP leader Julian Bond has charged that Republican congressional leaders are "become the running dogs of the wacky radical right" and are contributing to a situation where "white supremacy" is "everywhere in America."Then there was Bond’s inflammatory proclamation on CNN that he "wholeheartedly believes" Camille Cosby’s charge that "America taught our son's killer to hate African-Americans," which smears more than Republicans. There’s Bond’s declaration that the Reagan presidency marked a time when the Republicans were "a crazed swarm of right-wing locusts" waging an "assault on the rule of law" intended "to subvert, ignore, defy and destroy the laws that require an America which is bias-free." We’re "crazed locusts"?
Fears also watered down the ferocity of the NAACP’s Bush-bashing campaign ad in 2000:
When the investigation started, Bush and the NAACP were locked in a long-running feud that started shortly before the president's first election victory in 2000. During that campaign, the NAACP ran television spots featuring the daughter of James Byrd Jr., a black man who was dragged to death behind a pickup truck in Texas in 1998. She criticized Bush, then governor of Texas, for not signing hate-crime legislation.
Fears left out the actual vicious language of the commercial, erupting out of the mouth of Renee Mullins, the daughter of James Byrd:
"On June 7, 1998, my father was killed. He was beaten, chained, and then dragged three miles to his death -- all because he was black. So when Governor George W. Bush refused to support hate-crimes legislation, it was like my father was killed all over again."
Fears used the same watered-down language for the Bush-dragged-my-Dad-to-death ad when reporting on Bush's speech before the NAACP in July. We also noticed Fears got a little carried away in underlining the "legends" at Coretta Scott King's memorial service.