Part 4—A deeply embarrassing story: Last Friday, the Washington Post’s Gene Robinson made a lofty pronouncement.
In the process, he separated himself from his colleague, Jonathan Capehart.
In his column, Robinson said he doesn’t plan to “relitigate” the shooting of Michael Brown. Because he’s discussing important topics, we’ll provide a chunk of what he said:
ROBINSON (3/13/15): Feelings are running high after the tumult in Ferguson, Mo., which still hasn't ended. Early Thursday morning, after it was announced that the Ferguson police chief had resigned, two police officers were shot and wounded outside the police station.Should Robinson “relitigate” the shooting of Michael Brown? If we might pick a nit or two, journalists shouldn’t “litigate” such matters in the first place.
I won't relitigate the Michael Brown killing in Ferguson, or the Eric Garner killing in Staten Island, or any of the other deaths that have come to be lumped together under the banner "Black Lives Matter."
But here's the thing: The protest movement that arose last summer grew out of the sense that many in this society see African American lives as disposable. Not really worth caring about. The main focus was on police departments, court systems and the ways in which their interactions with African Americans differed from their interactions with whites.
That said, feelings are still running high about the killing of Brown. For that reason, we decided to go back and review what Robinson wrote about Brown’s death.
Our view? Robinson shouldn’t relitigate anything. But given his own past accounts of the shooting, he probably should correct or amplify the record, based upon the findings of the recent Justice Department report.
The Justice Department isn’t infallible, of course. But the story it told in its recent report is massively different from the story which has routinely been told by a range of American journalists.
On a purely journalistic basis, the American public ought to be told about the contents of that report. But Robinson isn’t planning to do so, and Lawrence O’Donnell is staging classic eruptions in which he flatly misstates the contents of that report.
Meanwhile, at the new Salon, Professor Cooper is savaging Capehart for having corrected his own misstatements. “I get Capehart’s play,” the irate professor knowingly said before salonsplaining his motives.
We have no idea about Capehart’s motives, or if he even had any. Meanwhile, the professor shouldn’t worry her head about the work of the Washington Post:
Capehart’s column wasn’t published in the hard-copy Post. Meanwhile, Sari Horwitz’s news report about the Justice Department report barely mentioned the multitude of remarkable facts included in that document. Simply put, Post readers haven’t been told what the Justice Department has said.
On a purely journalistic basis, the American public should be told about the contents of that report. That said, an embarrassing fact emerges from that detailed report—an embarrassing fact which we the liberals are working quite hard to conceal.
Uh-oh! Robinson’s right on a basic point—feelings are still running high about the shooting of Brown. But Attorney General Holder’s report outlines this major embarrassment:
The original picture which fuels that outrage was built on a series of bogus claims—inaccurate claims by a trio of witnesses who have themselves been rejected as bogus by the Justice Department.
Anderson Cooper fawned and emoted toward these discredited witnesses. Lawrence O’Donnell and his lynch mob analysts swore they were telling the truth. We liberals should be deeply embarrassed by the obvious shape of what occurred. But we’ve made it clear, in recent years, that we love fake story-lines too!
We love to take our invented facts and parade them before the public! Rush and Sean always played it this way. We pseudo-liberals have now made it clear that we like to play this way too.
Yesterday, we showed you what the Justice Department has said about the trio of alleged eyewitnesses who largely created the standard “journalistic” narrative about the shooting of Brown. Today, let’s consider the testimony of certain other witnesses—witnesses whose accounts were found to be credible by the Justice Department.
Alas! The public narrative was almost totally formed by Witnessed 118, 127 and 101. According to their frequently shifting accounts, Michael Brown had his hands up, was attempting to surrender, when he was shot by Officer Wilson.
Other witnesses described the events quite differently. But in many cases, these witnesses said were afraid to come forward to challenge the bogus narrative being formed on our TV screens.
On the basis of physical evidence, the Justice Department judged the accounts of these other witnesses to be credible. But they didn’t appear on TV, in part due to fear of reprisals from the community.
For the record, we’re reporting the judgments reached by Holder’s Justice Department. Assuming their judgments aren’t totally crazy, a remarkable story is contained in their recent report.
If we accept the Justice Department’s assessments, the public narrative was largely created by three people whose accounts were judged to be bogus. According to the Justice Department, the credible witnesses were essentially never heard.
One such person was Witness 102, a 27-year-old biracial male.
In real time, he thought a false narrative was taking shape at the scene of the shooting. But he quickly left the scene. According to the Justice Department, this is why:
JUSTICE DEPARTMENT REPORT (page 27): Witness 102 did not stay on Canfield Drive long after the shooting, but rather started to leave the area after about five minutes because he felt uncomfortable. According to Witness 102, crowds of people had begun to gather, wrongly claiming the police shot Brown for no reason and that he had his hands up in surrender. Two black women approached Witness 102, mobile phones set to record, asking him to recount what he had witnessed. Witness 102 responded that they would not like what he had to say. The women responded with racial slurs, calling him names like “white motherfucker.”The Justice Department describes this person as a credible witness.
Witness 103 is a 58-year-old black male. He testified that he saw Brown punch Wilson in the face three times through the open window of his police vehicle; this contradicted the statements made by TV’s three star witnesses. He said that Brown was “moving fast” toward Wilson when the fatal shots were fired.
Witness 103 didn’t go on TV to report these observations. According to the Justice Department, he had seen menacing signs in the neighborhood:
JUSTICE DEPARTMENT REPORT (page 29): Witness 103 is a 58-year-old black male who gave two statements. First, Witness 103 was reluctant to meet with SLCPD detectives, FBI agents, and federal prosecutors because he has no particular allegiance to law enforcement…Witness 103 expressed concerns because there were signs in the neighborhood of Canfield Drive stating, “snitches get stitches.” Therefore, he agreed to be interviewed only on the condition of confidentiality...Is that true? We have no way of knowing. The Justice Department of Eric Holder included that in its report.
Witness 103 had a passenger in his truck. Although Witness 103 tried to facilitate contact between federal and state authorities and the passenger, the passenger refused to identify himself or provide any information.
Witness 108 is a 74-year-old black male. According to the Justice Department, he said Brown “charged” at Officer Wilson before the fatal shots were fired. He said he thought the shooting was justified. He may have stated a colorful judgment about what Wilson did.
You didn’t see this man on TV. He too voiced a fear of reprisals:
JUSTICE DEPARTMENT REPORT (page 32): Witness 108 is a 74-year-old black male who claimed to have witnessed the shooting, stated that it was justified, but repeatedly refused to give formal statements to law enforcement for fear of reprisal should the Canfield Drive neighborhood find out that his account corroborated Wilson. He was served with a county grand jury subpoena and refused to appear.Witness 109 is a 53-year-old black male. Like Witness 108, he said the shooting was justified. He too voiced a fear of reprisals:
During the initial canvass of the crime scene on August 9, 2014, in the hours after the shooting, SLCPD detectives approached Witness 108, who was sitting in his car on Canfield Drive. They asked if he witnessed what happened. Witness 108 refused to identify himself or give details, but told detectives that the police officer was “in the right” and “did what he had to do,” and the statements made by people in the apartment complex were inaccurate. Both state and federal investigators later attempted to locate and interview Witness 108, who repeatedly expressed fear in coming forward. During the investigators’ attempts to find Witness 108, another individual reported that two days after the shooting, Witness 108 confided in her that he “would have fucking shot that boy, too.” In saying so, Witness 108 mimicked an aggressive stance with his hands out in front of him, as though he was about to charge.
SLCPD detectives finally tracked down Witness 108 at a local repair shop, where he reluctantly explained that Wilson told Brown to “stop” or “get down” at least ten times, but instead Brown “charged” at Wilson. Witness 108 told detectives that there were other witnesses on Canfield Drive who witnessed the same thing. An SLCPD detective and federal prosecutor again tracked down Witness 108 in hopes of obtaining a more formal statement. However, Witness 108 refused to provide additional details to either county or federal authorities, citing community sentiment to support a “hands up” surrender narrative as his reason to remain silent. He explained that he would rather go to jail than testify before the county grand jury.
JUSTICE DEPARTMENT REPORT (page 32): Like Witness 108, Witness 109 claimed to have witnessed the shooting, stated that it was justified, and repeatedly refused to give formal statements to law enforcement for fear of reprisal should the Canfield Drive neighborhood find out that his account corroborated Wilson. He was served with a county grand jury subpoena and refused to appear. Likewise, Witness 109 repeatedly refused to formally meet with SLCPD detectives, FBI agents, or federal and county prosecutors.Witness 113 is a 31-year-old black female. According to the Justice Department report, she initially lied to the FBI “in an effort to avoid neighborhood backlash.” According to the Justice Department, she said “it appeared to her that Wilson’s life was in danger” at the time of the shooting:
Law enforcement identified Witness 109 through a phone call that he made to the SLCPD information line at 5:19 p.m. on the day of the shooting. During that six-minute recorded call, the operator transferred Witness 109 to an SLCPD detective, and Witness 109 provided the following information, repeatedly refusing to meet with detectives in person. Witness 109 stated that he did not want his phone number traced, and would deny everything if it was traced. Witness 109 stated that he did not know Brown or his friend, Witness 101. However, he was calling because Witness 101, whom he described as the “guy with the dreads,” lied on national television…Witness 109 said that Wilson fired in self-defense, explaining that Wilson did not shoot to kill at first, but “he unloaded on him when [Brown] wouldn’t stop.” Witness 109 said that “a lot of people saw that it was justified,” ending the call by stating, “I know police get a bad rap, but they’re here to protect us.”
Federal and county prosecutors and investigators tried to no avail to interview Witness 109. True to his word on that initial phone call, he would not discuss what he saw. He did, however, acknowledge that he placed a call to the SLCPD information line.
JUSTICE DEPARTMENT REPORT (page 33): [Witness 113] was interviewed one time by FBI agents during their canvass on August 16, 2014, and gave an account that generally corroborated Wilson, but only after she was confronted with untruthful statements she initially made in an effort to avoid neighborhood backlash. When local authorities tried to serve Witness 113 with a subpoena to testify before the county grand jury, she blockaded her door with a couch to avoid service...Witness 110 is a 51-year-old black male. His wife, Witness 111, is a 48-year-old black female:
Witness 113 stated that Wilson fired shots into Brown’s back as he lay flat on his stomach on the ground. When the FBI told Witness 113 that the autopsy results and other evidence were inconsistent with her account, she admitted that she lied. She explained to the FBI that, “You’ve gotta live the life to know it,” and stated that she feared offering an account contrary to the narrative reported by the media that Brown held his hands up in surrender.
Witness 113 then admitted that she saw Brown running toward Wilson, prompting Wilson to yell, “Freeze.” Brown failed to stop and Wilson began shooting Brown. Witness 113 told the FBI that it appeared to her that Wilson’s life was in danger. She explained there was a pause in the shots before the firing resumed, but Witness 113 had ducked down for cover and did not see anything after the first volley of shots.
Witness 113 was with her brother and boyfriend when the shooting occurred. Witness 113 refused to provide their contact information, and they both repeatedly evaded law enforcement’s attempts to meet with them.
JUSTICE DEPARTMENT REPORT (page 38): Witness 110 and Witness 111 first came into contact with SLCPD detectives because they were attending a social function the evening of August 9, 2014. The couple told a friend, an attorney, what they had witnessed, and the friend called the SLCPD on their behalf. SLCPD detectives responded to the venue of the social function to interview Witness 110 and Witness 111, but they were reluctant to speak to law enforcement, fearing retaliation from people in the community. They agreed to speak only on the condition of confidentiality...Witness 111 agreed that Brown never had his hands up.
Witness 110 stated that Wilson shot Brown only when Brown was moving toward him, and did not shoot at Brown as he ran away. Witness 110 initially told SLCPD detectives that Brown moved “quickly,” although he testified in the county grand jury that he could not describe how Brown was moving toward Wilson, though he was not “charging” or “running.” At no time were Brown’s hands up in surrender or otherwise.
What actually happened that day? We aren’t in a position to tell you. We weren’t at the scene that day. No videotape has emerged.
That said, a remarkable story emerges from the Justice Department report. In a slightly less dishonest world, that story would help us understand one of the ways we can form deeply bogus impressions of very important facts.
This is the story lodged inside the Justice Department report:
The public’s understanding of these events was largely formed through the accounts of three alleged eyewitnesses—Witness 101, Witness 118 and Witness 127. In its recent report, the Justice Department rejected the accounts of all three people as lacking credibility.
Meanwhile, an array of other eyewitnesses disputed the basic building blocks of the emerging standard narrative. According to the Justice Department, these people held back from public statements and even from testifying, fearing reprisals if they contradicted the preferred narrative.
TV stars like Cooper and O’Donnell put the three discredited witnesses on the air. (So did network news shows.) They kept forgetting to warn their viewers that eyewitness statements are often wrong.
O’Donnell and his hang-him-high panel swore that these three witnesses were plainly telling the truth. On this basis, they said Wilson should be charged with first-degree murder.
If O’Donnell and Cooper were journalists, they’d want to “relitigate” this remarkable set of events. But Cooper and Lawrence are actually TV stars. There’s no sign that they plan to tell their viewers the embarrassing story which is lodged in the Justice Department report.
As for Capehart, he actually wrote a column correcting his own misstatements. Major journalists never do that!
But over at the new Salon, one of our fiery liberal professors is very angry at Capehart for that. In such ways, the public keeps getting accounts of important events which are grotesquely wrong.
Feelings are still running high, one award-winning journalist has said. Really? Feelings are still running high?
We wonder why that is!
Tomorrow: Sadly, this isn’t the first time