Here’s your oddball political story for the weekend, and one which probably wouldn’t even rise near the surface of the pool if it wasn’t in rotation on every cable news channel and most of the big newspapers. It’s a tale of mystery concerning a photograph which dates back more than four decades. It supposedly shows socialist presidential candidate Bernie Sanders addressing a group of young people conducting a sit-in protest in Chicago. It was part of the civil rights unrest of the era and students were doing such things all over the nation. There’s one problem, though… some people are claiming that it’s not actually Sanders.
If that were true I suppose it wouldn’t be all that shocking. In a jumble of ancient photographs it’s easy to misattribute one now and again, and nobody is denying that Sanders was out there protesting during that period. But clearly it’s a bone of contention, and as people have made accusations, the Sanders campaign felt they had to answer the charges. (CNN)
Bernie Sanders’ campaign manger said Friday the campaign is “100% confident” that a well-publicized photograph showing a man leading a sit-in at the University of Chicago in 1962 was, in fact, a shot of Sanders.
Four alumni of the school told Time magazine in November that the photo does not show Sanders but rather another classmate named Bruce Rappaport. But Jeff Weaver, the Sanders aide, told CNN’s Anderson Cooper on Friday that the campaign was certain the photograph, which has been used in promotional videos and on social media, was indeed of him.
Your first response may very well be to ask… who the heck cares? It’s an ancient photo of a sit in at a Chicago protest. Maybe that one picture was of Sanders or maybe it wasn’t. Either way, he was there and getting in the mix since he was arrested for the same thing during the same period.
But apparently it’s very important to some people. One of them is the Washington Post’s Jonathan Capehart. He spent most of one afternoon and evening shooting out tweets linking to a recent column of his where he focused on nothing but the offending photo, insisting that the grainy picture shows a different protester entirely.
But that’s not Bernie Sanders in the photo. It is Bruce Rappaport.
Classmates of the two men started raising concerns about the discrepancy last year. According to Time, four University of Chicago alumni told the magazine in November that they believed the man to be Rappaport, also a student activist, who died in 2006. At the time of the story, the photo was still captioned as Bernie Sanders in the University of Chicago’s photo archive. But the picture’s caption has since been changed.
By the next day I saw Capehart tweeting that he had tracked down Rappaprt’s widow and some other expert and he was transcribing interviews with them. You’d think he’d finally found the missing frames of film pointed at the grassy knoll during the Kennedy assassination. This brings us back to the “who cares” aspect of the question. In an odd bit of irony, Capehart makes that same point himself if you read all the way down to the bottom of the article.
Sanders’s involvement in the civil rights movement and his commitment to equal justice are not in question. Another old picture that appears in campaign literature and video of student-activist Sanders with the university president is not in question. That most definitely is him. What’s at issue is Sanders’s misleading use of a photograph to burnish already solid credentials.
So after raising all this fuss over one photo which may or may not include Sanders during a period where everyone agrees he was present and working as an activist, Jonathan admirably shows some interest in telling the truth. But there’s another element of truth which is clearly not as interesting to the WaPo editorial board member. I brought up the issue of the John Lewis endorsement where he said Sanders wasn’t around, but that he met Hillary Clinton and her husband during those tumultuous years. I followed that up by asking him if he would care to weigh in on the fact that Lewis previously said he never met the Clintons until thirty years later. The response?
— Jonathan Capehart (@CapehartJ) February 12, 2016
“Nope. Not taking that bait.”
So documented history is now “bait” but an argument over a single, fifty year old photo is running news at one of the nation’s largest papers. Bernie being possibly credited for a single frame from a sit-in when he may have been at another protest event somehow tarnishes his liberal bona fides, but the fact that one of the most high profile living leaders of the civil rights movement apparently lied about the Clintons being around at all during that period is not news.
Congratulations, Secretary Clinton. You’ve got the full media press on your side now. Bernie should be knocked out of the ring in short order.
Original text edited to read fifty year old photo.