WaPo Ombud Scolds Paper for Ignoring Black Panther Voter Intimidation Story

In a piece set to appear in the Washington Post Sunday, the paper's ombudsman harshly criticized his employer for ignoring the New Black Panther Party voter intimidation story.

"For months, readers have contacted the ombudsman wondering why The Post hasn't been covering the case," wrote Andrew Alexander.

"The calls increased recently after competitors such as the New York Times and the Associated Press wrote stories...But The Post has been virtually silent."

After giving readers some details about what happened at a Philadelphia polling station on Election Day 2008 (video upper-right), as well as how the voter intimidation lawsuit originally filed by the Bush administration was scaled down after Obama was elected, Alexander again criticized his paper:

The controversy was elevated last month when J. Christian Adams, a former Justice Department lawyer who had helped develop the case, wrote in the Washington Times that his superiors' decision to reduce its scope was "motivated by a lawless hostility toward equal enforcement of the law." Some in the department believe "the law should not be used against black wrongdoers because of the long history of slavery and segregation," he wrote. Adams recently repeated these charges in public testimony before the commission.

The Post didn't cover it. Indeed, until Thursday's story, The Post had written no news stories about the controversy this year. In 2009, there were passing references to it in only three stories.

That's prompted many readers to accuse The Post of a double standard. [...]

The Post should never base coverage decisions on ideology, nor should it feel obligated to order stories simply because of blogosphere chatter from the right or the left.

But in this case, coverage is justified because it's a controversy that screams for clarity that The Post should provide. If Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. and his department are not colorblind in enforcing civil rights laws, they should be nailed. If the Commission on Civil Rights' investigation is purely partisan, that should be revealed. If Adams is pursuing a right-wing agenda, he should be exposed.

To be sure, as far as conservatives are concerned, Alexander is preaching to the choir, as this has been a very underreported story throughout the mainstream media. 

As Commentary's Jennifer Rubin noted Saturday, the folks at Politico are still white-washing the matter:

I’m amazed how Politico can run a story trying to debunk the New Black Panther scandal without interviewing trial team member Christian Adams or any other former or current Justice Department attorney, without relating any of Adams’s testimony, without referencing the voluminous research and evidence unearthed by other news outlets, without contacting the offices of congressmen (Reps. Lamar Smith and Frank Wolf) who have been pressing for answers from the administration, and without even mentioning the allegations that the Justice Department won’t file civil rights cases against minorities. For over a year, Politico — as well as every other mainstream outlet — ignored the story, so the name of the game, I suppose, is to explain that they didn’t miss anything.

Potentially more interesting is that the Post's Howard Kurtz is scheduled to discuss this issue on CNN's "Reliable Sources" Sunday. As TVNewser reported Saturday:

Kurtz will talk with Bob Schieffer, chief Washington correspondent and host of CBS' "Face the Nation" who was criticized this week by Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly for not asking AG Eric Holder about the case when he was a guest on "Face the Nation" last weekend.

Actually, he wasn't just criticized by Kelly. NewsBusters wasn't thrilled with what Schieffer did last Sunday either.

For the record, Kurtz's other guests scheduled to discuss this matter are Jim Geraghty of National Review and CNN's Roland Martin.  

Will he bring up what his paper's ombudsman said?

Maybe just as important, will Kurtz address how CNN was slow on reporting this story when it first happened in November 2008?

As NewsBusters reported at the time, an unknown man called into CNN asking why that cable network wasn't telling its viewers what was happening at that polling station in Philadelphia.

This came moments after NewsBusters presented a Fox News report on the matter, and concluded by asking readers, "Will other media outlets report this?"

Pretty amazing that we are approaching two years later, and most so-called journalists STILL don't think this is newsworthy.

Color me unsurprised. 

Andrew Alexander
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