The Spectacle Blog

New York Times errors!

By on 2.3.06 | 1:23PM

Re: this ridiculous paragraph from a story by Adam Nossiter in the New York Slimes:

In the late 1980s, Mr. Landrieu was one of a handful of white state legislators who distanced themselves from the ex-Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, when Mr. Duke was elected to the state House from Metairie. Mr. Landrieu denounced Mr. Duke while other white lawmakers, particularly Republicans, embraced him. That stance solidified his support among blacks.

This is so wrong, on so many levels, that it raises the question of how incredibly skewed and biased and insular is the worldview of the NY Times editors who could let this see print without a fact check.

For background: I know what I speak of here. I was quite literally one of the founding board members of the universally acknowledged premier anti-Duke organization, the Louisiana Coalition Against Racism and Nazism. Before that, as a Republican activist, I spent many months organizing anti-Duke efforts within the party. Later, I was managing editor of Gambit magazine as Gambit won many awards and earned INTERnational recognition for its groundbreaking reports (some by me) exposing Duke skulduggery and Duke's continuing, but until then, hidden ties with neo-Nazi groups and Nazi-based proposals.

Anyway, I wrote a LOT more lengthily on this earlier this morning, but had a computer glitch that ate the whole thing. So I'll summarize this time.

1. Only three or four legislators in the whole state "embraced" Duke -- EVER.

2. Far more than a handful of white legislators, INCLUDING Republicans, denounced him, ESPECIALLY in the late 1980s when he was first running for, and barely winning by 227 votes under unique circumstances, the state House seat that (for only three years) was his only public office.

3. Many more legislators worked behind the scenes to isolate Duke.

4. If Mitch Landrieu's strong anti-Duke stance "solidified" his support among black voters (in truth, every Landrieu running since the late 1960s has enjoyed strong black support), why was it that AFTER Duke's fall, in the 1994 race for mayor of New Orleans, Mitch Landrieu finished third behind black Democrat Marc Morial and white Democrat Donald Mintz?

Now, to correct some misimpressions fed by Nossiter (without him being flat-out inaccurate on these following ones, but only that what he wrote feeds the misimpressions):

1.) Duke did badly in both of his statewide races among white New Orleanians across the board. No New Orleans politician of any note embraced him, because he just wasn't popular. Despite the media-fed myth post-Katrina that New Orleans was a hotbed of racial tension, the truth is that while such tensions clearly existed, they almost certainly were comparatively less severe than in many major American cities,South OR North, because of New Orleans' unique history of free, middle-class "Creoles of color" extending back even before the Civil War. At least among certain classes of New Orleanians, the cooperation and comfort levels across races and cultures has always been stronger in New Orleans than elsewhere -- including, for instance, in Ted Kennedy's Boston.

2.) Duke's support came more from white Democrats than from Republicans. Indeed, among Republican ACTIVISTS (admittedly a different subset from all GOP voters), Duke got clobbered. At both state conventions where he vied for support for statewide races, he received less than 10% (and once, if I remmber correcly, less than 5%) of the delegate votes. (By the way, much of that anti-Duke success owed to the organizing power of the state Christian Coalition, which worked hard against him.) And GOP officials such as former Gov. Dave Treen took particularly strong and effective stands against Duke.

I could go on (and did the first time, before the computer glitch), but the main point is that while Mitch Landrieu's stance against Duke was strong and admirable (and while I like Mitch personally), he was far from the lone white knight standing against the Duke tide that Nossiter portrays him. And his own district was far more an anti-Duke district than a pro-Duke one. Again, the point is not to belittle Mitch -- he did the right thing when it counted most -- but to say that Nossiter's reporting is just pathetic. He paints a picture that slanders many white politicians who stood against Duke, that slanders Republicans, that implicates white voters in general and GOP voters in New Orleans in a miasma of feverish racist actions that only the brave Mitch Landrieu stood against. The New York Times should be ashamed for letting such a picture be painted, especially devoid of facts.

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