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Charlie Sykes: Sykes Writes

Anatomy of Racial Smear

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The entire attack on the voter fraud billboards and the philanthropist who paid for them boils down to the charge that they were "racist" because they were only placed in central cities. But that charge is factually false, although the readers of yesterday's dead tree version of the newspaper were not told that.  And the interesting question is  is: why?

Yesterday's story quotes Scot Ross, executive director of One Wisconsin Now, making a pointed personal attack on Stephen and Nancy Einhorn, the local philanthropists who had paid for the signs:

"Perhaps their Chicago public relations firm could answer why the Einhorns only felt it was necessary to target legal voters in minority communities, and why they didn’t feel the need to do this 'public service' throughout communities across Wisconsin where a majority of the residents are white."

But the charge is based on an easily refutable lie. Here is the map of the sign locations. You can easily see that signs were placed in Ozaukee, Washington, and Waukesha Counties, as well as Milwaukee County suburbs. These are all "communities where a majority of the residents are white."



So why wasn't this mentioned? In fact, it was mentioned, in the blog post originally written by reporter/columnist Dan Bice, but the key phrase was omitted in the print edition of the paper.

Bice emailed me:

I mentioned that in the second paragraph of the story and included a link to the WTMJ-AM (620) map of all the signs:< "Democrats and civil rights groups complained that the signs - which were taken down last week - were concentrated in minority neighborhoods and intended to suppress the election turnout, though some were posted as far out as Waukesha and Washington counties."

"I know you'll say what you are going to say...I was very much aware that the billboards were far outside the city.

My reply:

Read your paper. The phrase "though some were posted as far out as Waukesha and Washington counties." was edited out of the dead tree. Why? Who took it out???

Bice replied, saying that no one had taken it out, but rather that the print story had been taken from an earlier edition of his blog post.

He wrote: "Perhaps I should have included that clause in the original version, but I'm writing it on the fly. I made a conscious decision last night to find the link to the 620 map and double-check that the signs were in Waukesha and Washington counties and then add that clause.

"It's disingenuous to suggest that I ignored these facts when they've been in my blog post since at least 7:30 pm yesterday. 
I responded:
Here is what is disingenuous:
Your  [print edition] subhead suggests that the Einhorns are racist;
You [the print edition] include(s) a quote that accuses them of racism.
Your editors highlighted that charge of racism in the pull-quote.
And the one phrase that is exculpatory [for the Einhorns] appears nowhere in your print-edition story.

Bice later replied:

That's unfortunate. But it has been online since at least 7:30 p.m. where more than 10,000 people have viewed it. Still, I wish it were in the paper. 

OK. I agree it was not your fault.

So who's fault was it? Was this an innocent error of omission? The missing phrase goes to the very heart of the allegations trumpeted in the story.

More to the point: a prominent local couple is accused of racism based on a falsehood. Isn't it incumbent on the media to at least provide the factual counterpoint? Or does that mess with the narrative too much?















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