Yesterday, Washington Post columnist and American Prospect editor Harold Meyerson, who just endorsed Obama, put up a post that caught my attention and reminded me of how dirty tricks and smears begin. The title was: “Hillary Plays the Race Card.” I still call Los Angeles home after living there for 18 years, so when I saw the post I knew the inflammatory nature of it and the intent, because race in L.A. will always be a major flash point (reader hadenough posted on it yesterday as well). When clicking on that link today, however, I found that Meyerson’s post has been scrubbed from the American Prospect website. The screen capture above proves the point, but here’s the post, which is no longer available on the web:
HILLARY PLAYS THE RACE CARD.
I was visiting a friend in Los Angeles this morning when what can only be described as a Clinton Dirty Trick intruded upon us. My friend, I should say, is a notable political figure in L.A. who lives in a very upscale neighborhood — one in which few African Americans reside — and is a Clinton supporter (he greeted me holding a Hillary lawn sign).
We were sitting in his kitchen when the phone rang. He answered it and looked startled. On the line, he said the moment he hung up, was a high-decibel gentleman with a very exaggerated, old style — Amos ‘n Andy, in fact — black pattern of speech, singing the praises of Barack Obama. When I lived in L.A., I occasionally got calls that purported to be from one campaign but were actually from another, presumably pitched to the leading ethnic group in my neighborhood (Jewish), but calculated to inflame Jews against the candidate the caller claimed to support. Looks like the same thing is happening now in selected neighborhoods as a Clinton ploy against Obama.
With the race narrowed down to two candidates, deniability is getting harder. And if this call was what it seemed to be, it looks like the Clinton campaign, or that of one of the groups campaigning on her behalf, is playing the race card discreetly — and despicably.
Meyerson makes the leap, without one single fact, that Clinton’s campaign was the one who is “playing the race card discreetly — and despicably.” The title of his post blames Hillary personally, again without any proof. The comments roundly slammed him, even demanding that he take the post down, offer a retraction, but also included a few of the usual Hillary hating suspects. Now you also can no longer see the comments that attack Meyerson.
The Clinton campaign flatly denied this action when I asked them for comment yesterday, posting this item:
False Smear Against Clinton Campaign
There are accusations on a blog attributing an offensive phone call to the Clinton campaign.
This is an outrageous and baseless allegation and is completely false.
2/1/2008 7:08:58 PM #
Late yesterday, Meyerson put up a second post. Notice the title this time: THE RACE CARD IN L.A., PART 2. Again, the first title that accompanied the post that has now been scrubbed was: “Hillary Plays the Race Card.”
And my friend is very savvy about the kinds of things that go on in Los Angeles-area elections. As am I. I was the political editor of the L.A. Weekly for 14 years. I am still the L.A. Times’ go-to guest writer when they want pieces on L.A. politics for the Sunday Opinion section. Both my friend and I know this is something that happens in L.A. politics, that the political organizations of some of the people and groups who endorse major candidates have been known to engage in these things. (And that campaigns themselves have engaged in these things, since they’re hard to trace — but not, I’m sure, presidential campaigns.)
… .. As I said, I have no reason to think the Clinton campaign itself sanctioned or had any knowledge of these calls. I cannot empirically verify that the call came from some group backing Hillary Clinton. But based on my knowledge of L.A. elections, I certainly believe it came from such a group, and the odds that it didn’t are roughly the odds that O.J. was innocent.
I know Meyerson only slightly, though we have traded emails on occasion, but I’ve always respected him. He was the political editor when I was at the LA Weekly in the lowly position of “relationship consultant,” where I used every opportunity to sneak in political opinion articles through my column until someone in editorial put his foot down. After that happened, my column appeared with the editorial disclaimer of “advertisement.” Since that time, Meyerson has risen in power and outreach that includes not only the Prospect, but also the Washington Post, as well as the LA Times.
The American Prospect is an important progressive voice. I in no way attribute Meyerson’s outrageous racial smear post against Hillary Clinton, or his subsequent covering of that smear, which is as unethical as the first post, to that magazine or website, but the fact that they would scrub his first post, then have a second post from him that reads as an unrepentant, ego covering screed, does diminish the Prospect in my eyes. They are obviously trying to cover for Meyerson, which does their other writers a real disservice, not to mention their readers and subscribers.
This event sadly brings into question Meyerson’s credibility. Because he obviously, openly and willingly used his powerful voice to spread unfounded, unsubstantiated rumors, while race baiting, on behalf of Mr. Obama whom he’s endorsed, in order to push a potentially devastating smear against Hillary Clinton and her campaign. Meyerson no doubt knows the inflammatory nature of an accusation like this in Los Angeles, as he states in “part 2,” with this one section proving Meyerson’s motives:
And my friend is very savvy about the kinds of things that go on in Los Angeles-area elections. As am I. I was the political editor of the L.A. Weekly for 14 years. I am still the L.A. Times’ go-to guest writer when they want pieces on L.A. politics for the Sunday Opinion section. … ..
… .. I’m sure it didn’t come from the Clinton campaign itself, and I have no reason to think the campaign knew about it. But I’m equally sure that the reason for these calls was to upset credulous listeners about Barack Obama, and it is highly reasonable to conclude that the only groups making such calls at this moment would be groups that wished to prevent Obama from winning the California primary next Tuesday — that is, groups that favor Clinton. … ..
As long as Meyerson is the one who initially brought speculation into the picture, it evidently never occurs to him that he’s been duped and that it’s just as plausible to believe the Obama campaign is having people make these calls because they know some gullible supporter and anti Hillary person will regurgitate them, playing the willful stenographer for the Obama campaign. After all, a Hillary hit on race is as good as it gets, right? If you can accuse Clinton personally, why is it not just as easy for this irresponsible postulating to go the other way?
It’s one thing to report the telephone call, which may be a news item if correctly offered through unbiased reporting. It’s quite another to first attribute it to Hillary Clinton, then post on it without any proof, obviously in the hopes of damaging Clinton through race baiting. Then scrub the first post, and offer a second one, without the first post being available, which is obviously not only meant to rehabilitate Meyerson, but to continue the charge by causing confusion. Meyerson then writing a follow up saying that it wasn’t Clinton or her campaign, both having nothing to do with it, but instead it’s her supporters who are all a bunch of racists. No reputable or honest Clinton supporter would ever make such a call out of L.A. or anywhere else. But anyone remotely familiar with L.A’s troubled racial history would have to know the blowback of something so despicable. It is ignorant in the extreme or perhaps malicious to float such an idea.
Harold Meyerson damaged his reputation with his first post. But scrubbing it and offering this subsequent post moving the target from Clinton to her supporters makes it even worse for him. It has also done harm to the American Prospect, which gives me no pleasure to say, and does a further disservice to the other fine writers, but also subscribers and web visitors who have come to trust their brand. As a columnist for the Washington Post and the LA Times, it puts into question Meyerson’s judgment and journalist ethics. It’s not enough to scrub the post, in my opinion. Meyerson and the American Prospect owe their readers, regardless of whom they support, a full retraction. For a man of Meyerson’s experience and reputation to dig his heels in on this, which he obviously is doing by evidence of his second post, is alarming, but extremely unprofessional.
As for that second post from Meyerson, a take off on his original scrubbed version, “Hillary Using the Race Card,” butt covering doesn’t even begin to describe it.
UPDATE II (2.3.08): Media Matters takes up this story and slams Meyerson.
UPDATE: The original post, which has been scrubbed, was replaced by the following post, which has a new URL, as well as a new title: “The Race Card,” which replaces Meyerson’s original, “Hillary Plays The Race Card.” The new post is quite edited as you can read and compare, which is also accompanied by two editor’s notes. As you can see, the last paragraph from Meyerson’s original inflammatory post has been edited out entirely, as has his editorial comments of “Clinton Dirty Trick intruded upon us” (see above screen capture for more):
I was visiting a friend in Los Angeles this morning when what I would describe as a dirty trick intruded upon us. My friend, I should say, is a notable political figure in L.A. who lives in a very upscale neighborhood — one in which few African Americans reside — and is a Clinton supporter (he greeted me holding a Hillary lawn sign).
We were sitting in his kitchen when the phone rang. He answered it and looked startled. On the line, he said the moment he hung up, was a high-decibel gentleman with a very exaggerated, old style — Amos ‘n Andy, in fact — black pattern of speech, singing the praises of Barack Obama. When I lived in L.A., I occasionally got calls that purported to be from one campaign but were actually from another, presumably pitched to the leading ethnic group in my neighborhood (Jewish), but calculated to inflame Jews against the candidate the caller claimed to support. Looks like the same thing is happening now in selected neighborhoods.
UPDATE: The Clinton campaign says the call did not come from them. –The Editors
UPDATE II: This post has been edited since it was originally posted. –The Editors