WashPost Spreads Shaky George Allen 'Nigger' Story

The Washington Post continued their media frenzy against Sen. George Allen Tuesday by putting charges from the left-wing website Salon.com that Allen used the word "nigger" freely as a young man on the top of the front page of the Metro section (at least in Virginia editions). The headline was "Allen Denies Using Epithet to Describe Blacks: Senator Accused of Making Racial Slur During and After College." The Post included horrified denials from Allen's first wife and college friends and teammates, but it had all the damaging flavor of "Allen Denies Beating Wife."

The story by Michael Shear and Tim Craig has at least two signs of bias. First, there's absolutely no comment from, and no mention of the Jim Webb campaign, even as his blogging staffers spread the racist rumors. Second, Salon.com is mentioned without any description of its ideology or history: "Salon.com is an Internet magazine of news and opinion." In the Clinton years, Salon.com often published information the Clinton White House employed against conservatives, such as revealing an old extramarital affair by conservative Republican Henry Hyde. Salon's publisher declared that "these are ugly times and they call for ugly measures." 

In the age of Clinton, The Washington Post controversially deep-sixed Michael Isikoff's story on Paula Jones and her allegations of sexual harassment against Bill Clinton for months because it didn't have enough evidence. (It led to a shoving match and Isikoff resigning.) The accusers in this case were not equally challenged: their story went up within 48 hours, despite having no real proof. At least "Macaca" was on tape. Perhaps one reason these unproven allegations had appeal for the Post was it offered another opportunity to repeat "Macaca," the "slur in some cultures," and "reports he displayed a Confederate flag and a noose in his law office."

Perhaps the most frustrating part of the story are those paragraphs about how this Post-generated "media frenzy" threatens Allen's political career:

Stuart Rothenberg, an independent analyst who edits the Rothenberg Political Report, said the Senator is caught in a media frenzy that threatens his campaign and his consideration of a possible run for president in 2008.

"Every day, the campaign is about who George Allen is or what he said," Rothenberg said Monday. "It keeps him totally off message. He's constantly responding to charges and criticisms and his own stumbles."

Washington Post
Tim Graham's picture