Post Publishes Obit for Terrorist 'Known to Some... As a Near-Mythic Freedom Fighter'

August 2nd, 2010 3:06 PM

When the defining event of your life is shooting at U.S. Congressman from a House visitors gallery, you'd think the Washington Post obituary, if any, for such a person would have enough sense to treat that event with the appropriate condemnation.

But in Emma Brown's August 2 treatment of 90-year old Lolita Lebron -- "A fervor for Puerto Rico's freedom led her to violent act at U.S. Capitol"* -- the Post obit writer went beyond the usual faux-balance that many journalists try to evince and sounded downright sympathetic to the late Lebron's political cause (emphasis mine):

Lolita Lebron, a Puerto Rican nationalist known to some as a terrorist and to others as a near-mythic freedom fighter for her violent attack on the U.S. Capitol more than a half-century ago, died Aug. 1 at a hospital in San Juan of complications from respiratory disease. She was 90.

Ms. Lebron was called both fanatical and fearless for her efforts to draw attention to the cause of independence for her home island, claimed by the United States as spoils after the Spanish-American War and made an American commonwealth in 1952.

The woman shot at unarmed U.S. congressmen! That act was without a question an incident of terrorism. Yet Brown couldn't help but comment on a famous photograph of Lebron in police custody following the attack (emphasis mine):

Arrested and handcuffed, the four nationalists were photographed outside the Capitol in an image splashed across newspaper front pages.

In the photograph, a striking Ms. Lebron wears a set jaw and a stylish skirt and jacket. She had expected to die that day, and police found a note in her purse along with a tube of lipstick and Bromo-Seltzer pills.

"My life I give for the freedom of my country," the note read. "The United States of America are betraying the sacred principles of mankind in their continuous subjugation of my country." 

Brown went on to note that Lebron proudly tagged herself a "revolutionary" and was "received in Havana as a guest of President Fidel Castro" following her pardon in 1979 by President Jimmy Carter. 

This could have proven an interesting springboard to detail how Communism or left-wing politics fueled Lebron's terrorism, but Brown failed to explore that territory.

Interestingly enough, in her Post Mortem blog entry about Lebron, Brown included a YouTube video [shown below] of a March 1954 movie news reel item about House gallery shooting.

"Terrorists Shoot Five in Congress!" reads a headline in that Global News Media reel:

The 1954 Associated Press photo shown above is via Washington Post Web site.

*That was the headline on the print edition of the story. The online version went with a more straightforward, "Lolita Lebron, jailed for gun attack at U.S. Capitol in 1954, dies at 90."