Apparently, the New Republic Isn't That Into Fact-Checking
I’ve already addressed the New Republic’s cartoonish attack on Scott Walker, and others have helpfully weighed in as well. The 7,300 word opus attempts to somehow link Walker to racially insensitive talk show hosts. I’m one of them and the experience has been, well, enlightening, especially when it comes to dealing with a reporter of Alec MacGillis’s alleged journalistic chops.
Here’s what I learned first hand: The New Republic just isn’t that into fact checking. They don’t even pretend to try. Here are just two examples.
As he attempts to establish the malevolence of talk radio, MacGillis passes on this accusation:
"Sykes is credited with, among other accomplishments, having blocked public funding for needle-exchange programs and having helped drive into bankruptcy an urban mall after harping on security issues there."
That latter charge is pretty heavy, so I emailed MacGillis: "Credited by whom? And what mall? Evidence please. (Spoiler alert: it is completely untrue.)"
His response – in full:
The mall reference is to your frequent mentions of Northridge Mall, cited here: http://watchdogmilwaukee.com/jim/2006/charlie-sykes-race-baiting-hides-his-own-racist-past/
So MacGillis cited a single, uncorroborated, source.
And, as it turns out, that source is a blog by a disgraced former politician, who was thrown out of office as a result of his involvement in the county pension scandal. Jim McGuigan was one of the corrupt pols who had voted himself and other county pols obscene pension payouts and was recalled by angry voters. Not coincidentally, the scandal also launched Scott Walker into the position of county executive.
Despite this, MacGillis relies on a single line in McGuigan’s blog post: "But for me and many of my neighbors the reason for Northridge malls demise has a great deal to do with talk radio show host Charlie Sykes personal harangues against security at the mall and implications that black kids at the mall were creating an unsafe environment."
And that is the New Republic’s sole source for the charge that I drove a mall into bankruptcy by "harping" on security issues.
Ironically, the rest of the blog post deals with my mini-crusade on behalf of African American kids who were being blocked from the city’s school choice program by the then Democrat Governor, Jim Doyle. MacGillis was, apparently, uninterested in this aspect of conservative talk radio in Milwaukee, since it clearly conflicted with his narrative of dog-whistle racism.
But that aside, what about McGuigan’s accusation? For MacGillis and his editors at the New Republic it was simply too good to check. If they had bothered, they would have discovered that it was a complete fabrication.