TUESDAY, APRIL 20, 2021
Gene can't seem to stop: Simply put, he can't stop.
The "he" in this case is the Washington Post's Gene Robinson. In recent weeks, he hasn't been able to stop writing a certain type of column about the ongoing Chauvin trial.
We refer to columns including factual claims like the one we highlight below. In this passage from his new column, Robinson is referring to yesterday's closing argument by prosecutor Steve Schleicher:
ROBINSON (4/20/21): [Schleicher] reminded jurors that the encounter began when a different officer—who also faces criminal charges—approached Floyd’s car with his gun aimed at Floyd’s face, which was obviously terrifying. Schleicher explained that Floyd was not resisting arrest but experiencing claustrophobic anxiety about being shoved into the patrol car. And he pointed out that when Chauvin and the other officers brought Floyd back out of the car, Floyd politely told them “thank you.”
The highlighted passage is a misstatement of what Schleicher actually said. It's also a misstatement of what that "different officer" actually did.
The "different officer who also faces criminal charges" is Thomas Lane, who was literally in his first week on the job on the fateful day in question.
Lane, a rookie officer, was in his first week on the job! He'd responded to a call from Cup Foods about a counterfeit $20 bill. Later, things went badly downhill after Officer Chauvin arrived.
That said, Lane and his partner, J. Alexander Keung, were the first officers on the scene. Keung was also in his first week on the job.
(We have no idea why the MPD would assign two first-week rookies to patrol together. As far as we know, no one in the upper-end press corps has ever discussed this point.)
Lane was directed to the car where the late George Floyd had apparently fallen asleep. One of Floyd's two companions that day (Shawanda Hill) testified that they'd been unable to awaken Floyd so he could drive away before police arrived.
Now, Lane was approaching the car. But he didn't "approach Floyd’s car with his gun aimed at Floyd’s face," the exciting claim Robinson has falsely placed in Schleicher's mouth.
In fact, Lane didn't approach the car with his gun drawn at all! We find it hard to believe that Robinson, a celebrated Pulitzer winner, is unaware of that basic fact. We assume he simply preferred his exciting, prejudicial claim to an accurate statement of fact.
(The Pulitzers are a set of prestigious awards our "journalists" bestow on each other on an annual basis. Sometimes, they're richly deserved. Other times, not so much.)
In fact, Lane knocked on the window of Floyd's car with his flashlight. The sequence was first described by the Washington Post's Holly Bailer all the way back in July 2020, when bodycam footage of these events was first released to the press by Judge Cahill.
We read the report on the day it appeared on the Post's front page. Stating the obvious, Robinson read it too:
BAILEY (7/16/20): [Lane's] body camera shows he twice tapped on the vehicle’s window with a flashlight. Floyd initially didn’t respond, but the second time, he looked over his shoulder and seemed startled to see Lane.
As Floyd started to open his door, Lane ordered him to stay in the car and drew his weapon. “Put your f---ing hands up right now!” he ordered, while aiming at him.
Floyd raised his hands and started to cry. He told Lane he had been shot by police before. Floyd then followed Lane’s order to place his hands on the wheel and leaned his forehead there, too, as he sobbed. Lane placed his gun back in the holster seconds later...
Why did Lane draw his weapon at all? If memory serves, Floyd—who seemed somewhat disoriented after being startled awake—may already have been failing to obey the command to let Lane see his hands.
(You can go back and check that one out. We aren't going to bother.)
At any rate, once Floyd placed his hands on the steering wheel, Lane put his gun back in its holster Unless you read Robinson's inexcusable column, in which case you've been told that he "approached Floyd’s car with his gun aimed at Floyd’s face, which was obviously terrifying."
We're sorry, but no—that isn't what happened. On the brighter side, Robinson has treated Our Town to a much more pleasing, though blatantly false, version of those events.
Why would someone like Robinson present a claim of that type? Also, why would Robinson's unnamed editor allow the widely ballyhooed prize-winner to do that?
As Michael Corleone once asked, "Who's being naive now, Kay?" By now, aren't the answers to these questions fairly obvious?
At this site, we've been writing about this type of behavior for roughly twenty-three years. In this case, we'll speak frankly about what Robinson is doing in that inexcusable passage:
He's trying to get a first-week cop locked up—thrown in jail. Chauvin's head won't be enough, given the fury of the stampede our upper-end "press corps" is on.
Robinson's columns on the trial have been replete with conduct of this type. We plan to review at least one earlier column before this week is done.
That said, let's go ahead and be perfectly clear about what Robinson was doing when he composed that phony account. He was running with a mob in the streets—the same kind of mob which used to run in the streets, but also in the backwoods, of his native South Carolina.
Make no mistake! Here in Our Town, we want to get Chauvin locked up, but we want those rookie cops too. Please don't say this assessment is wrong. This is exactly what our "journalists" have been doing, nor is this anything new.
It's what they did when they formed a mob to go after Candidate Gore, thus sending us into Iraq. It's what they did when they couldn't stop talking about the deeply troubling emails of Donald J. Trump's opponent, Candidate Hillary Clinton.
Today's misstatement is ugly stuff, a throwback to deep prehistory. But when will Robinson stop doing such things? When will his newspaper make him?
Yesterday, we watched the closing arguments in the Chauvin trial. Then we watched the punditry.
The punditry was the standard clownish disgrace. It would be comical if life and death weren't involved, along with the nation's future.
Woody Guthrie said it long ago in his ballad, Pretty Boy Floyd. His song was about upper-class conduct in Dust Bowl days, but it describes Robinson's conduct as well:
As through this world I've wandered
I've seen lots of funny men.
Some rob you with a six-gun,
Some with a fountain pen.
In Guthrie's vision, it was Dust Bowl bankers who were willing to "rob you with a fountain pen." They'd seize the farms of the little people, who were sent on the road to Hell.
We've often thought of that formulation as we've watched Our Town's upper-end press corps pretend to discuss this trial and the events which caused it.
In the past, mobs in Robinson's South Carolina took a type of hands-on approach to the delivery of justice.
Today, it's done with a computer terminal, with Our Town's greatest people in charge.
This afternoon: Brian's comical question
What did Schleicher actually say: No, that isn't what Schleicher said. We'd say he had his thumbs on the scales a tad, but not to that extent.
What did Schleicher actually say? For the full transcript of his remarks, you can just click here.
When you get there, search on "Lane." You'll find it 24 minutes down.
Robinson misreported what Schleicher said. He just can't seem to stop.