A New Use for an Old Tactic

mccarthy“I have here in my hand a list of 205 that were known to the Secretary of State as being members of the Communist Party and who, nevertheless, are still working and shaping the policy in the State Department.”

With these words in 1950 – or an approximation thereof, since the words, and especially the number cited, have long been in dispute and almost certainly always will be – Senator Joseph McCarthy launched an era that would come to bear his name. Most notable about that first statement that led to one of the most shameful periods in American history, though, is that McCarthy never offered a shred of evidence to support his claim about even one of the however many names were on his list.

Something similar happened in Philadelphia recently.

In 2010, Philadelphia Daily News reporters Barbara Laker and Wendy Ruderman won a Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting for their ten-part series about how members of the Philadelphia police department’s narcotics division lied on search warrants and stole from bodega owners during raids. They also wrote that one officer committed sexual assaults during the raids.

That was five years ago, but a few weeks ago, the president of the Philadelphia Fraternal Order of Police – the police officers’ union – held a press conference at which, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer, he said that

…there were credible allegations that two of the newspaper’s reporters paid for utility bills, food, diapers, and other gifts to a woman whose story was told in their Pulitzer Prize-winning series on police misconduct.

The head of the FOP also said he had “sound evidence” to support this allegation.

What evidence? He wouldn’t say.

But he did say that “they intentionally fabricated parts of their story.”

What parts? He wouldn’t say.

Later that day, the city’s police commissioner, according to the Inquirer,

…raised similar criticisms of the reporters, saying that if the allegations were true, the reporters crossed a line.

And what evidence did the commissioner have? He wouldn’t say.

What DID they have to say? The commissioner and FOP head said the Inquirer or the Daily News should investigate the situation themselves and that maybe the Pulitzer board should look into it as well.

The police union chief and commissioner presented no evidence to support their claim – a claim that, even if true, would not necessarily taint the reporters’ findings. The Curmudgeon finds their suggestion that the newspaper investigate itself pretty funny: if it did, and if it eventually announced that it found nothing untoward, don’t you think the commish and FOP guy would accuse the paper of a whitewash?

It’s an old tactic and it’s a bad one that shows a complete lack of integrity. It’s ignorant but possibly understandable for the FOP guy to do it because he’s an advocate for his officers and the rhetoric around that kind of advocacy has a tendency to get irrational, but the police commissioner? It’s disgraceful.

But now, The Curmudgeon has a question for these two gentlemen: When did you stop beating your wife?

 

 

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