Richard Cohen Recycles 20-Year-Old Willie Horton Inaccuracy

Old liberal-media errors never die. They fade away, then pop back up. Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen recycled a 20-year-old inaccuracy on Tuesday, suggesting the George H. W. Bush campaign used Willie Horton’s face in a 1988 commercial. Wrong.

He was a convicted murderer who was given a weekend furlough from a Massachusetts prison and went on to rape a woman in Maryland. Dukakis was governor of Massachusetts when Horton was furloughed. The Bush campaign seized on Horton and, in a powerful and repugnant commercial, ran his mug shot: an image of a bearded black man. There it was in one nifty package -- race, crime and liberalism. It's a wonder Dukakis didn't stay in that tank.

As we pointed out back in the George H.W. Bush years, the usual ad featured in news reports (and now in college poli-sci courses) was funded by the National Security PAC, not the Bush campaign. Their Dukakis-furlough ad featured all races and never mentioned Horton's name.

UPDATE: In the April 15 Post, Cohen's new column ended with a correction:

Last week I wrote that George H.W. Bush's 1988 campaign had run the notorious Willie Horton ad. Bush used the issue, but an independent group ran the ad.

Washington Post History Richard Cohen George H. W. Bush
Tim Graham's picture