Did Tea Party Smear Spark KC Riot?
by Jack Cashill
In the original McClatchy report posted 90 minutes after the incident, “Tea Party Protesters Scream ‘Nigger’ at Congressman,” it was Cleaver who uniquely heard the slur and Cleaver who was uniquely spat upon. And so “Spittlegate” was born.
McClatchy’s Kansas City Star ran with the McClatchy story and spread the poison. The following day its normally sober editorial page columnist ratcheted up the already inflammatory reporting by insisting that "some Tea Party supporter spat on Cleaver Saturday on Capitol Hill because the U.S. congressman is black."
Not surprisingly, the message metastasized throughout Kansas City’s black media, unchecked and unchallenged. So toxic had the issue become that Cleaver’s Republican opponent, Jacob Turk, asked me to accompany him to a largely black political breakfast he routinely attends called “Eggs and Enlightenment” to help immunize him against the smear.
I spoke to about 50 people and explained the lack of any corroborating evidence of a slur, the accidental nature of the spit, and the media’s interest in scaring African Americans out of the Republican Party, let alone the Tea Party movement.
To that point, black Kansas Citians had been encouraged to think of the Tea Party as a subsidiary of the KKK, but this was an open-minded group. I received a surprising amount of support for my message.
The kids, however, just get the sound bites. On successive weekends since the Capitol Hill protest, mobs of black youths have been descending on Kansas City’s famed Country Club Plaza, among the most attractive urban shopping and dining venues in the country.
This past Saturday even the Kansas City Star had to take notice when, according to a Plaza spokesman, some 900 youths roamed the Plaza streets, “ destroying property, pushing people as they walked down the sidewalk and spitting on people.”
Spitting on people? The Star does not mention whether the people were spit on because they were white or beaten because they were white or robbed because they were white. In fact, in a 2,000-word summary article, the Star does not mention race in any which way at all.
The only way that a visitor from another planet might infer a racial angle from the article was the one-word reference to the “NAACP,” which was among the organizations consulted as to how “to find the best solution.”
In other words, race is not an issue when nearly a thousand young African Americans pillage a largely white civic showcase, but race is the dominant theme when at best one out of a thousand non-violent citizens utters a racial slur in a protest that had absolutely nothing to do with race.
Is this what Obama’s post-racial America was supposed to look like? Maybe so.
Ironies abound here. The Tea Party is a largely suburban and rural movement. Race is not much of an issue in many of the participants’ lives because so many of them live their lives outside the city.
The Country Club Plaza, however, sits in the middle of a predominantly white, heavily Democratic neighborhood. If the riots prove a regular event— “ KC police brace for return of unruly youths to Plaza”—this neighborhood could collapse. The “unruly youths” can’t tell a Tea Partier from a metrosexual.
The police, of course, are hamstrung. Here, as everywhere in urban America, the Democrats and the local media have been quick to turn every aggrieved perp into a Scottsboro Boy.
Individual police officers have caught on. Last Saturday, even the most dedicated of them knew what they were looking at was 900 potential lawsuits--if not potential suspensions, terminations, or even imprisonments for making an ambiguous move in front of 900 cellphone cameras in a racially charged environment.
And while Kansas City burns, Cleaver fiddles. Ironically, on April 10th, the day of the Plaza riot, The Star ran a curious op-ed by Cleaver in which he called for more “civility” and “decorum” in political debate.
I say “curious” because those who knew the whole story could almost read it as an apology. “What will it say about us and our time,” wrote Cleaver, “that on the heels of a monumental achievement so many were transfixed on the transgression of one yelling protester who unapologetically splattered my cheek with saliva?”
As if he had nothing to do with that transfixing, Cleaver proceeds to chide his colleagues, “Democratic members of Congress must retreat from the notion that all tea party members are crazed hooligans. To accept and push that view is not only divisive, it is diabolical.”
Diabolical or not, that is exactly what has been going on in this, Cleaver’s first seriously contested race for Congress. At the aforementioned Eggs and Enlightenment breakfast, I heard first hand accounts of how his minions were smearing the Republican Turk as a Tea Partier, you know, the people who spit on Cleaver and called him a “nigger.”
Don’t think that message doesn’t trickle down. As my rural Tea Party friends might say, the Dems and the media have been pissing in their own well, and this summer they may just pay the price.
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